Staging the Surreal with Miguel Vallinas Prieto

Posted by Aimee Morris on 21st August 2018

Meet Miguel Vallinas Prieto, the Spanish artist using surreal photography to explore themes of identity and human nature. Miguel discovered photography in his teens and began developing prints in a homemade laboratory built by his father. Now his photographs are held in private collections around the world and his images are featured in the likes of Vogue, Vanity Fair and the Guardian.


Miguel with a work from his new 'You Are' series.


Miguel’s experience at an advertising photography studio laid the foundations for the process he would follow in his future work: staging scenes that tell a story. In Miguel’s most recent series, entitled ‘You Are’, that story is a tale of female empowerment. Discover more about the Miguel’s new work and find out which artists have inspired his surreal style.


You are the one who writes your own story by Miguel Vallinas Prieto.


When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I didn’t know I wanted to be an artist, but I've always known that I wanted to tell stories. Since I was little I liked photography, painting, illustration and cinema. I've always liked music too. I had my own band but that didn’t work out. My painting classes didn't work out either - I didn’t have the patience to see my paintings finished.


A work from Miguel's 'Second Skins' series being packaged.


The only thing I was able to see through was photography, so my father built a laboratory at home for me. When I was 17 I decided that I wanted to be a photographer and that's how I found my way of telling stories to others.


Ceci n'est pas un fishbowl by Miguel Vallinas Prieto.


I studied Photography, but my best lessons were during the time I worked for an advertising photography studio. We produced photos for furniture catalogues and every photograph was composed from scratch. I did everything - from designing the space and building it, to mounting the entire room on the set.


Miguel's works have been featured in publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair and the Guardian.


What is the concept behind your new 'You Are' series?

You are the one who resists the storm… You are a refreshing breeze… You are the one who shines a light... You are…

The theme of this new work is the incredible role of women. I capture different roles and attitudes that women embody. Although the photographs show static moments, they represent scenes that play out over and over. "Carrying the house on its back", "sustaining the world" or "being the branches of the tree" are qualities intrinsic to women. And they’re continuous over time.


You are the one who resists the storms by Miguel Vallinas Prieto.


Tell us a bit about your studio.

I live in a small town of 20,000 inhabitants in central Spain. By definition it’s quiet. I’m finally building a home studio there - it’s bright and overlooks a huge patio where I’ll plant fruit trees. My wife and her sister have an architecture studio in the town. They are my stylists and often the models for my photographs.


Miguel in his office with a work from his 'Raiz' series.


How do you achieve the surreal effects in your photographs?

The most important thing is the idea. Once the idea is in my head, the possibility of taking the photo exists. What’s left is to carry it out. When I really believe in what I am going to photograph, when it’s lodged in my mind, it’s easy for me to take it to the scene, photograph it and work on it. My photography exists previously, it already has shape - even if only in my head.


You are the sugar by Miguel Vallinas Prieto.


Which artists have inspired you?

Many artists have inspired me throughout my life. With regards to my current work, magical surrealism is obviously a big influence. Dalí, Miró… And I don’t know how many times I've read 'Cien años de Soledad' by Garcia Marquez.


A work from Miguel's 'Raiz' series, framed and ready to go.


Everything around you can be inspiring, you just have to want to look. When it comes to photographers, for me Humberto Rivas is the most magical. I thank him for awakening in me my interest in photography.


Browse Miguel's Works >>