Victor Cobo's photographs are at once brutal, terrifying, and humorous. They are a schizophrenic narrative of his daily encounters: dark snapshots, funny one-liners, and occasional soft pauses that have a raw energy unlike many other photographers today. In one photo, a grainy, brooding, unidentifiable female figure stands on the side of a road, her fists almost clenched and eyes glowing from an unseen light source. Another image depicts Victor wearing a Mexican wrestler’s mask, waving his arms jovially from the body of a shark. Cobo's ongoing body of work, which includes hundreds of these seemingly unrelated photos shot over the past decade or so, show no beginning and no end. They are pieces of a non-linear diary that take us through eerie woods, sex clubs and even lush inviting seascapes all in one blow.
While his work is not untrue to his life experience, he describes this discordance as an alternate reality, one that enacts every day occurrences on an open-ended stage. “I feel that making a photographic universe that's theatrical can open up so many interesting doors to the imagination and to images that can be preconceived and created. It’s like a battle between the conscious and the conscious when I create. They can be beautiful, or intrinsically dark, or both, and it's exciting to me.”
Many of the dark layers in Cobo's work are closely tied to a difficult family history. When Cobo was four, his parents divorced as a result of his father's physical abuse and multiple drug addictions. Cobo continued to visit him during summer breaks during which his father frequently photographed him, unsmiling and uncomfortable in front of the camera. Years later, after further estrangement, Victor discovered that his father had organized these photos into what Cobo describes as a “secret shrine” of their “imaginary relationship.” Victor acknowledges that his work might be a means of reconciling this dark past, his curiosity with everyday life experience, and the ultimate reality of death looming ahead.
“I am intrigued and exhilarated by dark fantasies, life's morbid curiosities and the mystery of reality decaying into the surreal. Transfixed. My father’s gifts are an ambiguous burden of vast weight. They are what I have; what has me.”
While this past has clearly impacted his work, Cobo also notes artistic influences ranging from photographers Brassaii and Man Ray, to painter Otto Dix, filmmakers David Lynch, and Jim Jarmusch, and even Tom Waits. He describes being driven to create at all costs, and admittedly makes much of his living by working late nights at homeless shelters. “Often when I making a photograph, it's as if it could be the last one. It's something inside of you that needs to come out as frequently as possible. And of course you want to have someone who believes in you encouraging you and selling your work, but really deep down a real artist makes the work for himself or herself. If you couldn't create, what would be the point of existing?”
Bio: Victor Cobo, born in 1971 is a self-taught photographer, who has been exhibited internationally. In 2007 his work was included in "Masters of American Photography" at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art with William Eggleston, Robert Frank and Lee Friedlander. In 2010 he was included in "Hauntology" at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, alongside such artists as Francisco de Goya, Francis Bacon and Diane Arbus. Cobo lives and works in San Francisco, CA. You can see more of his work on his website, or keep up with him on Instagram