VISURA MAGAZINE: A Conversation with Adriana Teresa and Graham Letorney
September 27, 2010
When you work with people, 40, 60, 80 hours a week you become something of a family, probably because there is no one else you see so much every day of your lives as your coworkers. This is such a strange situation in so many ways, random personalities thrown together for a period in time, eyes on the prize, with one goal in mind: success.
Such as it was to work with Adriana Teresa and Graham Letorney at powerHouse in 2007. It wasn’t that long ago, and yet, it feels like a lifetime has come and gone in just three years time. Since they first met at powerHouse, Adriana and Graham got married and started their own company, Visura Magazine, an incredible online publication dedicated to sharing photography on its own terms.
Being a husband and wife team is an intense commitment. Passions and politics and protocol and pragmatism all come into the mix. Where the professional and the personal lines lie is fluid. I have nothing but the utmost respect for couples who can release their egos in favor of something greater than themselves. Props to Adriana and Graham, cheers to a provocative magazine put forth by two beautiful souls.
Please talk about the inspiration to create Visura Magazine.
AT: Visura is a product of love and our genuine belief that art is a voice. During our daily walks, right after we got married, I persuaded Graham to develop and design an online magazine with me. The idea was to feature personal stories from photographers; each series would be accompanied by an essay in which the artist shared in his own words the experience, process, and intention while creating their project. From the beginning, the main goal was to create a channel through which the artist could speak directly to the audience, without third party interpretation.
Throughout this process, we discovered a lot of depth in this simplicity.
GL: Both Adriana and I, have a lot of respect for print publication. If we would have had the finances, we would have published a print version. Once we considered the process, outreach and accessibility of the internet, it became clear to focus on a website using the resources available to us. Once this decision was made, visually, we sought to create the clean presentation and experience found in a photography book or literary magazine. Still, we both agree and understand that the online forum will never replace the printed image or tangible book.
As a husband and wife team, you share both personal and professional aspects of your lives. How does this challenge and strengthen the bond between you?
AT: What can I say? At first, we fought it out every issue. We called it love/love, tough/love. Neither wanted to repress our ideas. I remember there was a moment while building the first issue—it was around 4am when we questioned our marriage over a red line. We kept battling over its placement, saying: ” The line goes HERE.” “No. You are depriving me of my VOICE. The line goes HERE.”
Here we are, broke and creating an online magazine on my mothers kitchen table in Puerto Rico and it’s 4am about to kill each other over a few pixels and we just got married. At the same time, I will tell you this, there are definitely many moments when we truly embrace so much love that we know that we must be on the right path because there is no other one for us. Still, there are also times when we consider that we may be a little insane and definitely blindly idealistic.
In the beginning, I remember thinking to myself—if we get through this, he is definitely my soul mate, and we did. In time, we learned that the the drop of water and white background with light grey were Graham traits, while the red line & the Visura name was an Adri trait. The compromise and understanding that each of us had something to bring into the empty space created the final piece. It’s our art.
GL: Speaking honestly, we definitely believe in the saying: what doesn’t break you, makes you stronger…and let’s just say, these last years have made us a lot stronger. The upsides of sharing a personal and professional relationship are the time and travels we spend together, as well as being able to collaborate daily. The magazine is like a sculpture that sits in the corner; we are just as likely to add to it during breakfast as we are during work hours. The downside is what we like to call “unvelcro-ing”, which is when Adri is ready to go for a walk in the afternoon and I am stuck to the computer typing furiously, and like any addiction, I cannot let go….
AT: The only downside to me is realizing that in putting both of our dreams into one pot, that line that divides the professional with the personal becomes thinner and thinner and thinner. We love what we do—but right now there is no difference between our personal and professional life. Visura and FotoVisura are reflections of our life.
GL: True and we love this.
AT: Yes, we do.
Can you speak about what each of you brings to Visura ? I would love, for this question for Adriana to speak about Graham, and for Graham to speak about Adriana.
AT: Graham constructs and designs Visura. Honestly, when I have an idea and vision, he literally brings it to life. I don’t know anything about coding or computers or formal business stuff. My life is art. Many times, my world feels untangle, and I have reached beyond realizing a dream because of Graham. He gets it, like the Petit Prince. In the first few chapters, the pilot talks about drawing a boa digesting an elephant. No one got it. Everyone saw a hat, except the Little Prince. He knew exactly what it was. To me, Graham is and will always be the one who saw the boa digesting the elephant. He can see and shape my vision into something tangible. I am a tunnel but he is the ground.
GL: As you can see, each issue of Visura is something like a sea voyage—we endure wild storms and wake up to clear morning light. On this voyage Adriana is not only the captain of the Visura ship, she is the ship itself. I say this because she sets the course but also has the strength to give the wheel to everyone who contributes, all the while Visura remains true to it’s course. This is a complex talent to bring to a team and I would say that she is definitely a complex balance of uncontainable energy and deadly focus. So, basically, Adriana delivers the dream…I try to make it happen.
You have just launched Issue 10. What is your process for creating each issue, and how do you decide who you would like to feature.
AT: The process changes for every issue. The only element that is consistent are the columns. It has been an honor and privilege to create a column for photographers and writers who are an inspiration to us. Cuban-Puerto Rican author Mayra Montero contributes short stories nearly every issue. Translated to English by Lyn Domínguez, these stories are beautiful literary works. Jeff Jacobson, represented by the Institute for Artist Management, has been with Visura from the beginning. A man whose work is a sincere reflection of his life and imagination, Jeff’s column In the USA features one image per issue of his choice. Later on, I came across the work of Richard Mosse, a young visual artist and photographer, whose work is profound, complex, brilliantly executed and unique. I look forward to seeing him grow throughout the years. For VM, he has a column titled Via, which he publishes an image or video piece from a given location. Recently, we were honored to welcome photographer Larry Fink, whose work has inspired an entire generation of young photographers, including us. For his column titled Hands On, Larry explores life through images and the spoken word with poetic intensity and sensitivity. For the coming issue we are honored to welcome Charles Harbutt, who will be featuring written essays on photography; Charles has been an inspiration to all. I also curate Serendipity, for which I feature an image, a series, a video or a poem by another artist. Finally, Lauren Schneiderman—Head Copy Editor of Visura Magazine and Editor of Visura Spotlight for Students and Emerging Artists—and I are developing a column titled In Conversation, where we interview editors, curators, photographers, visual artists, authors and other personalities within the photography realm about their projects and contributions.
The rest is very organic and there is no real formula that I can explain other than the fact that every issue is as much a reflection of many individuals as it is a reflection of universal truths or life today. I seek for work that is transparent, and speaks to me both visually and conceptually. I only hope that it will do the same for the rest of the readers. We are all interconnected, it’s just about finding the elements that bring us together. I believe that art is a voice and that photography is not only art, but it can bring awareness, tolerance and information.
Please talk about your thoughts about art and publishing in the Digital Age. What kind of opportunities and innovative ideas exist in this new medium ?
GL: Simply put, art has an undeniable ability to resonate through time and space. The internet is an ideal environment to facilitate this—if done right.
AT: Art is a voice. It should be accessible. The Digital Age has granted an accessibility that neither museums, galleries, books or public spaces could accomplish to this scale and immediacy. Through this medium one image can be seen world wide, which means that one idea can be communicated simultaneously to multiple individuals living in different places around the world, and, in the most part, for free. This has allowed artists to gain the independence from distribution channels. Not to say that distribution is bad, but if 3% of the art population transcend into mass publication, the rest of us have the right to create our own platform and find a way to communicate.
GL: Exactly. To create a dialog we built FotoVisura.com – a user created community that serves the dual purpose of helping photographers to ‘self publish online’ and connecting them with the tools of social networking. With the experience of the magazine, we decided to build for the community a platform to help individuals get their work online and share with others.
AT: There are other platforms to see. Again, all we have done, like Graham stated, is to facilitate the tools that helped us publish to a broad audience and find a voice. In addition, we seek to promote the work featured in FotoVisura.com in order to support the artists. Right now we have a Grant, but with time, I hope we can facilitate jobs through this forum. This would be a dream.
GL: All of this hinges on accessibility. Cost and knowledge of the internet are extremely limiting factors. Still, we are committed to continue supporting the dialog within the international photography community. Everything is a work in progress but we seek to further this everyday.
AT: Obviously, there are many options or solutions. Each photographer and visual artist has to find what works best for them. We are just an alternative for people to consider.
What does the future hold for Visura ?
We wish we could say that soon there will be a print version. We feel that one day, we will be able to make this happen, but not yet. It is ok. Visura is young and in the meantime, we are honored to continue collaborating and supporting artists world wide through Visura Magazine or FotoVisura.com.