PROFILE

Javier Cortés

A young woman wearing large false eyelashes on her lower lash line lays her head on a table alongside a cake and a cup and saucer.

A still from "A XXI Century Witch", a Vogue Halloween campaign shot by Canon Ambassador and fashion photographer/filmmaker Javier Cortés. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/125 sec, f/2.5 and ISO500. © Javier Cortés

Canon Ambassador Javier Cortés is a hybrid shooter, taking the skills and expertise required to create a beautiful still image and transferring them to striking motion pictures.

The photographer, cinematographer and director has attracted widespread praise in all of his disciplines for developing projects with an unmissable, unmistakable style. He's a regular contributor to publications such as Esquire, Vogue, El Mundo and El País, and he's also shot still and moving image projects for high-profile clients including Cartier, L'Oréal, Shiseido and Oysho.
Javier's love of photography stems from an early age – as a child he would play with his father's Canon AE-1 and he's been attached to Canon ever since. He now shoots on the Canon EOS R.

Assistant to two-times World Press Photo awardee Isabel Muñoz for a year in 2012, Javier soon developed a passion for portraits and analogue photography. Isabel suggested he use just one lens exclusively for a day as a way to get him to keep moving – he chose the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, a lens that he continues to use for his fashion and advertising work.

The natural look that this standard focal length delivers is one that suits his way of working. Honed over around a decade in the industry, Javier's 'documentary' style is one that encompasses his love for travelling, light and a 'search for naturalness'.
Canon Ambassador and fashion and portrait photographer Javier Cortés.

Location: Spain
Specialist areas: Fashion, commercial, portrait
Favourite kit:
Canon EOS R
Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM
In 2014, he attended EFTI (International Center of Photography and Film) in Spain to study cinematography and worked with Oscar-nominated American cinematographer Bradford Young. His films have won awards at festivals in La Jolla, Chicago and London. His Vogue España short, Meet the Swinton Sisters, made the Official Selection at La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival 2018 and was nominated in six categories.

Javier carried out the first video shoot with the Canon EOS R6 in Sicily, during which he used the Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM – his now go-to lens.
An image of a woman with bright orange hair, laying her head on the tattooed legs of another woman, being displayed in space.

As part of the Portrait of Humanity award, Javier's photograph, Maisie and Amy, was displayed in space.

In 2019, Javier was one of 50 winners of Portrait of Humanity, a contest conceived by 1854 Media, publisher of the British Journal of Photography, in partnership with Magnum Photos. Javier was honoured for his photograph, Maisie and Amy, part of a wider personal project focusing on shots of real women, rather than typical models. He describes the win as "something amazing for my career". Javier's work was exhibited across the world, and appeared in a book celebrating the winners.

As part of Portrait of Humanity, in October 2020, 400 photographs from the 2019 and 2020 contests including Javier's, were launched 130,000 feet into the stratosphere and exhibited in space. The exhibition aimed to celebrate humanity in its countless variations and show that there is more that unites us than sets us apart – and it coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic, when museums and galleries were closed.
Tell us about your photographic style and approach to colour.
"Colour is really important to me. I always decide which camera and which lenses I am going to use because I know how they develop the colour and which colour I will have at the end."

What would you say influences your artistic style?
"I studied painting as a teenager. I loved to paint and I wanted to be a painter, until I found my real passion – photography. I love super-realistic paintings. Painters are my inspiration and I always have some paintings in my mood boards. I've been inspired by Rubens, Goya, Rembrandt – painters that change my way of thinking. I started imitating the light in paintings with my camera. At the beginning I was just playing, but it has changed all of my work. Now I'm always working on 'narrative' ways of lighting – to tell something more, as the moving image can do, but in just one image."

What inspired your Baroque-style personal project with the Canon EOS R?
"I always wanted to do a personal project with real people. I think the painters that I love do two kinds of paintings: those with people who are paid to have their portrait painted, and those they wanted to paint because they found a subject or setup beautiful. I worked with street casting rather than model agencies to find natural subjects. I like the fashion industry, but I don't like some of the stereotypes within it, so I always try to escape from the 'perfect body'."

You shoot video as well as stills. What made you start working with video too?
"Sometimes, when I shoot just stills, I miss something. It's like, you want to tell something more. You can tell a lot of things in a photo, but sometimes you want to develop a whole concept that needs sequence, editing, sound and lighting. So, sometimes I've been in a box with photography and I need to sequence a whole story."

How do you devise your video shoots?

"I find inspiration almost everywhere but I think cinema is one of my greatest inspirations. And people that I meet, stories that people tell me… I write a lot. I write down my ideas; what I've done and what I want to do. I have an image, I save it, I write something about it, and maybe I can develop it into a whole story."

One thing I know

Javier Cortés

"There is nothing you cannot do but maybe something you need to learn to be able to do it. The best way to learn techniques and skills is to get closer to other artists and learn from them, either by assisting them for a while, collaborating on projects, or studying those artists that you really can't access. Everything you learn, even from other specialties, can be used to create your own style."

Instagram: @cortesgraphy
Twitter: @cortesgraphy
Vimeo: Javier Cortes
Website: www.javier-cortes.com

Javier Cortés's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Javier Cortés's kitbag containing cameras and lenses.

Cameras

Canon EOS R

This full-frame mirrorless camera opens up new creative opportunities for photographers and filmmakers. "In really low light, it was very impressive, always matching the focus with where I wanted it to be," says Javier.

Canon EOS 5DS

Fantastic image quality and resolution that belies its size combined with a weather-sealed body for durability – it goes anywhere.

Lenses

Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM

An RF lens that delivers a new kind of optical performance in full-frame photography, with outstanding clarity and sharpness. "I loved the quality. You feel like you are seeing something from a bigger camera, like a medium format," says Javier.

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