After Andover: Hugo Solomon ’19 Captures Vulnerability and Intimacy with Photography

Self-portrait in Somerville: “This self-portrait was one of the many I took while living on my own in Boston over the summer, wrapping up an internship at a bioinformatics company in the city. I sought to capture the interplay between my queerness and my masculinity, painting a more accurate picture of the person I know I am.”

Portrait of Mary crying: “I took this portrait of Mary in the middle of a shoot we’d scheduled with a couple of her friends helping me out with lighting. Out of nowhere, Mary offered to cry for one of the images, explaining that she was just unnaturally good at crying on command. I gave her a couple of moments, and when I came back, I saw that she was looking at her phone with tears streaming down her face. Afterward, I asked her what she had been looking at, and she told me it was the Instagram page of one of her friends that had recently passed away. It was an incredible moment to be a part of and capture.”

Self-portrait with Sophie: “This was one of the first self-portraits I ever took, aided by my friends Jackson and Sophie at home in Seattle during winter break of my Senior year. In the image, I try to show the effect of the female gaze on my self-image, while also demonstrating the difficulty I’ve encountered while trying to understand my own sexuality.”

Portrait of Eamon in his dorm: “I took this portrait of Eamon right after he’d been unsuccessful in winning one of his final national wrestling tournaments of his high school career, capturing the internal drive and determination that had gotten him to that point, as well as the grief that had consumed him following the loss.”

Ever since developing his interest in photography, Hugo Solomon ’19 has examined the raw authenticity within others and himself. His goal of storytelling has kindled his creativity and allowed him to instill his visions upon each of his photographs.

“I’ve always loved being able to share my vision with people, and I love how tactile photography is. It’s very hands-on, and I like how technical [it] is. There’s so much creativity throughout all of it that I really thrive off of, and it’s just a never-ending place of possibilities,” said Solomon.

At Andover, his mentor, Hector Membreno-Canales, Instructor in Art, introduced Solomon to a contemporary perspective of photography. Membreno-Canales advised Solomon to incorporate more individuality into his work. Later on, this piece of advice shaped the purpose of his photography and directed it toward capturing the stories beneath the surface.

“I think of [my photography] as a push back [against] the somewhat commercialized way that bodies appear both on social media or just in our society today, where [they] determine a person’s self-worth. I’ve just been wholeheartedly against that notion and by showing the truth about people, by being able to push through that veneer and that surface layer of vanity, there is so much waiting to be shared,” said Solomon.

In return, photography has guided Solomon in navigating the aspects of his own identity. Identifying as a queer artist, Solomon finds common ground with and takes inspiration from New York-based artist Robert Mapplethorpe.

“[Mapplethorpe] used art to figure out who he was. Through photographing men and taking images from explicit male magazines, he discovered more about his sexuality than he had through other parts of his life and it gave him a sense of freedom in the process. Finding that kind of ownership in the work I do is maybe my favorite part of photography, and it shows me so much about who I am,” said Solomon.

Depicting themes ranging from love to pain, victory to loss, Solomon’s photographs revolve around the notions of intimacy and vulnerability. When he delves into others’ experiences, he seeks to create hospitable environments where people feel comfortable staying true to themselves in the photographs.

“Some people are really comfortable being photographed, while others are anxious. You have to create a place where they feel comfortable to let down whatever performances of masculinity or femininity they put on, and just break through to get them to be the most vulnerable, which a lot of photographers can relate to,” said Solomon.

Solomon’s perspective on photography and its impact on him changed while at Andover. Membreno-Canales noted that he has observed Solomon’s growth as a photographer.

“[Solomon] is a camera with its lens open. Since working with him as a student at Andover, I’ve seen his work evolve from universal to the personal. [He] is using his camera to interrogate the world and his role within it,” wrote Membreno-Canales in an email to The Phillipian.

Currently, Solomon shares his works on online platforms and blogs. In the future, he aims to keep photography as an important presence in his life and advises aspiring photographers not to be discouraged by small set-backs.

“Share your stories with the world through photography. Don’t be afraid of being honest with yourself, and don’t be afraid to be honest with the pictures that you take, because the reward is unimaginable. [Photography] will bring you so much growth, and it can be such a tremendous outlet for the things that you have gone through,” said Solomon.