Arnau Blanch Vilageliu



Veneno ‘Poison’ plays inside the Colombian jungle. Its essence are moments lived, towns, roads, skies and random sites inside the jungle, captured while passing, almost stolen.

It is the terrifying story about an encounter with the environment, which looks outward, but also inward. It bears witness to a scarcely glimpsed dark connection between the omnipresent exuberance all around and its deepest resonance inside of men.

In the jungle it’s impossible to be a simple spectator, to stay safe. The depth that governs implies penetrating in from the very beginning: penetrating into its most extreme depths, into its density and into its intimate abyss.




Born in Barcelona the 26th of Februrary of 1983, he grew up in a small village near Girona.

He moved back to Barcelona at the age of 21 to study photography at IEFC (Institut d’Estudis Fotogràfics de Catalunya) and absolved the entire three-year program and specialized in photo essay and writing about photography.

At the end of 2006 he went to New York to study at the ICP (International Center of Photography), where he specialized in documentary photography: taking the ‘Passion, Purpous and Personal Vision’ and ‘You, Your Life, Your World’ courses.

While he was in NYC he interned at the International agency WPN (World Pictures News). In 2011 he was preselected for the Joop Swart Masterclass of the World Press Photo.

He currently lives and works between Barcelona and Colombia.


17 thoughts on “Arnau Blanch Vilageliu – Veneno”

  1. Woah. Ok I’ll jump first.

    Don’t know exactly what I was expecting looking at the first picture and preparing to transition to the second but what a solid hook when I did. Totally immersive and excellent all the way. Usually don’t get that into it, especially on a screen vs paper. Knife kinda pulled me out of it for a second but I think I have some weird interpretation of knives in photographs; the one in The Pond broke my immersion too for some reason.

  2. I have looked several times now. I like the pictures – they are like a long hot dream .. confusing, scaring for me are the gatling gun and the knife.
    The beginning for me was a little bit like the fairy tale “Hänsel und Gretel” by Brothers Grimm, but then the story was just beginning. Very intense pictures. I like them!

    Congrats for the publication!
    Keep it up!

  3. Amazing essay!
    Frame after frame that stops me in my tracks. #15 probably being my favorite.
    I love how Arnau created this world out of the jungle or maybe it was symbiotic…that type of environment at least how I see it seems like an acid trip. I say that not as a negative thing just for the record.
    I want to believe that this is maybe how ones mental state will be after being bitten by the jungle….as the venom travels through the veins and reaches the brain.
    Great work Arnau!

  4. It doesn’t bother me that this is about the photographer rather than a specific part of Columbia. I actually like that sort of thing. Though I guess one can argue that rather than being about the photographer, it’s about “The Jungle,” universal like, not a specific jungle. I have no problem with that approach, either.

    But what is the story here? The Jungle is dark and scary and full of dark and scary people? And it all conspires to poison? That’s hardly a new idea and is arguably racist, or at least xenophobic. Hopefully, I’m just missing it, but after repeated viewings I’m just not seeing any kind of nuanced layering that gives the story depth or self-aware distancing that might provide an interesting perspective. It seems to simply say that the jungle is dark therefore the jungle is bad. Or as David Johansen famously put it: “Ooga booga, get me out of here!”

    The photography is just right for such a story. Melodramatically dark and without nuance, depth or originality. The style darkly communicates an irrational fear of the dark in exactly the manner one would expect. On its own terms, it’s not poorly done. Unfortunately, much like classic horror movies from the thirties, its terms are dated.

    On the positive side, I really like #’s 5 and 1. And I like the fact that the photographer tries to tell a story that goes beyond documentary photography into the realm of fiction. I think what it needs is significantly more research. Research into The Jungle and its cultures, certainly. But also research into storytelling about The Jungle. How has it been done before. What are the clichés to avoid? What nuances does the author see that hasn’t been done? What’s the difference between drama and melodrama? How to communicate all that in a visually original manner?

    I’ll probably regret this, but honestly, if I thought it was just hopeless crap, I wouldn’t comment. I see a much greater potential than I see in most photo essays. Not there yet, though, imo.

  5. @ DIEGO:
    The powerful FB told me today that it is your birthday, so BUON CUMPLEANNO DIEGO!! Grazie per tutto quello incredibile che fai per Burn!

    Arriverderci P.

    PS: I don’t know if it is the right place to post under the essay…
    Too much stuff going at the same time here. But that’s burnmagazine :-D

  6. The jungle huh?
    I don’t know what this is. It makes no difference really.
    Didn’t read the statement this time, there was no need.
    It works in a primitive way. It just does.
    Thanks Arnau.

  7. Interesting how day and time and MONITORS make a difference in impression….

    when I first looked at Arnau’s essay (yesterday afternoon, on a very old PC at the local library), all the images were dark, super dark, without much detail to tonal rage (which generally i love, the rejection of tonal range that is) and the impression (enhanced by both the cold, rain washed day and my emotional stupor) was one of both sadness and loss and yes, some irrevocable pulling up-out-of-self toward wordless ecstasy. i didnt see the essay as fear-based at all, but one of capitulation, or rather, one of letting go. The sequence seemed both dream like and visceral, sexual in its self-exploration and freeing. Then again, I also didnt read the text yesterday (no time, wasnt interested in reading it at first). It was disorienting and splaying. I wasnt exactly sure what the context was, nor the locale. I jsut thought: this cat is spending time alone somewhere at night and he’s lost (in the good sense) and in search of some kind of spiritual awakening. All those strange and gorgeous collisions: peacock, river, nude woman, snake, priest/shaman, ghosts, pages, etc…i love the logic of the sequence and its internal surrender (includ9ing the knife shot, which kind of doesn’t really fit, and yet, it makes sense in that dream logic that seems to underly the story)…

    just now, when i rewatched in on the monitor at school: things are more clear and more specific and each picture is less, ummm, ‘messy’ (i love messy pictures, especially given this story). It didnt have the same impact, but I still loved much of the imagery and I still love the sequence, even if some of the images lose their power and their alchemy in the upgraded monitor….

    this is not to dismiss at all this 2nd and 3rd viewing. Its a personal journey and one that is very much about ‘surrender’…about the logic of dream and the logic of the absurd collisions of things, particularly that which is night…

    all that said, i udnerstand completely MW’s reservations. When i realized that this was a story about the Columbian jungle, i felt a bit uneasy. Much of the iconography seems repleat with all those cliches and tropes (white westerner lost in the dark sexuality and danger of the dark, primitive world, ‘the horror, the horror,’, mistah kurtz, he dead, etc)…that actually started to grade on me once i knew the context…the images that transcend that, work magic on both my head and my eyes…the peacock, the palm tree in the fog (gorgeous!), the woman at the end, the tv reflection, the priest with the ringwraith eyes, the ghost before him, the tucan half lit, half gone, etc etc etc…those images resonate with personal disorientation: a person trying to see through all the delerium and yet there is so much love and wonder in those images….the more ‘classic’ images of jungle and dark, indiginous men/women actually frustrated me…but…well, so I do understand MW’s concerns….i’m much much more interested in Arnau’s personal journey, then in the more anthropologic examination, which seems part and parcel of some of these pictures and stories….alas..*sigh…

    but, in the end, what I cherish about the essay is his willingness to surrender to both a visual logic that seems deeply personal and a sequence that makes best sense to him….in other words, an author trying to carve up a story that speaks to him and of him first, in all that beautiful sloppiness….

    there is a passionate voice here and a voice married to very strong pictorial and visual acuity…and, that is always a joy to see….

    would like to see the same madness played out with Barcelona (and avoid the drug dens and the whore houses)….

    strong work and thanks so much for sharing

  8. Hi to everybody!

    First of all I would like to apologize for not being as good as I wish with English. I’m not really good with word, at any rate. Thank you all for the comments, and thanks for the criticism. I’ll learn from them.

    I’ve been thinking a lot, searching for perfect words to explain my point of view and justify my work. But I have come to the conclusion that, right now, I’m in the Colombian jungle because I feel a deep love for this land and its people. I am sorry that my pictures do not give that impression.

    And thanks to Burn Magazine for the opportunity!

  9. Pingback: Veneno - Arnau Blanch Vilageliu | Photography - Street - Portrait |

  10. Fascinating essay and I love the sense of authorship throughout the essay. I hope to one day create an image as compelling as the woman resting on the fallen log at the beach.

  11. I see love in your pictures, Arnau. In fact, they all speak to me of love. You could not take pictures like these without feeling love.

    They are magnificent images, each and every one. Some of them make me feel love, too.

  12. Real interesting Arnau. One of the consistent weaknesses of those featured on Burn is the project statement. You do not have to justify your work, just explain it to those who do not know you. Much of the essay is very intriguing.

  13. A will to show, to exhibit something completely new seen with deep amazement and overwhelmed surprise.
    A will to show but then, almost immediately, an effort to hide, to salvage some intimacy, and the painful acknowledgment that it is too late, that something inside has already been torn apart and ripped off and exposed for everyone to see.
    Pretty much like love, sometimes.

  14. I think this is definitely one of those times where the statement took away from the images. I understand there is a language issue, but I’ve seen the same thing from native english speakers.

    With non-sensical images like these… it just seems better to give the name of the place and then leave the rest to the imagination. To me: These images are dark, poetic, and mysterious… but the text takes away from that because it suddenly I get a whiff of your intention to be dark, poetic, and mysterious.

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