My Story

by Rainer Torrado Amo,
founder of the virtual gallery 2020 Year Zero

I was born in Madrid, Spain, the only child of a teacher and a public servant that stayed married to this day. My childhood was lonely and uneventful, school years punctuated by summers spent in the Northwest coast of Spain

Early on I found company in books. I spent countless hours reading stories. Some were complex and unfit for my age. My grades were impeccable. But I wasn't always the best pupil: at school the teacher asked to pick a topic of our interest and give a talk about it. I was 12 and I spoke of the Ebola virus to my schoolmates. I apologize to fellow students that I might have shocked. My curiosity knows no boundaries and bleeding to death through every orifice of your body (men’s nipples have holes too) is not an easy image for anyone to handle, no matter the age

It was the summer of 2001, I was 18 and I was in class, History of Architecture 101, when I was told the Twin Towers had been destroyed by planes. The teacher had tears in his eyes as he spoke to us. I was a freshman at the Superior Technical School of Architecture of Madrid and we, the students, felt the reason for his tears was no other than the vision of destruction of an architectural feat. This proves that architects have feelings too. (Later I learned that Minoru Yamasaki, the architect of the original Twin Towers, suffered from vertigo. His fear of heights took him to double the exterior steel structure in his design, saving lives as the structure of the towers resisted precious extra minutes before collapsing. Valuable lesson here)

Delft Faculty of Architecture was among the favorite destinations for good students to apply for a scholarship and spend one year studying abroad. I made my request, passed a couple interviews and changed my mind at the last minute. To hell with Delft, I would apply for Paris too, and learn French. Learning a new language would improve my future résumé in ways appealing not only to architects. French is now my third language, and I treasure it, as I have used it to communicate with fellow human beings and two life partners. I often struggle understanding other people. Knowing languages has proven to be a balm against alienation  

I was in Paris, I was 21, I fell in love for the first time. I made loyal friends. And I took the first steps to become a photographer. Self teaching was key. Most of my year abroad was spent taking pictures with my first, modest digital camera. I started losing track of time while editing. Money was spent into printing photo albums in a time were printed memoirs were already a symbol of a fading past

My year abroad ended and I had to come back to Madrid to finish my studies. That, I did. And following my heart, I moved back to Paris. Getting my Architecture Degree and being hired by a Firm happened almost at the same time, but I could not commit to the dull, long hours spent in front of a black screen drawing computer assisted designs. This is the only time in my life where I consciously decided to not commit to a job

Instead, I committed to the life I wanted

I became a Photographer at 27. The fashion house of Jean Paul Gaultier was my first client. Soon I’d be working for other fashion designers (famous and not), I would be having portraits by me (or of me) printed in glossy pages of magazines. And I started traveling, for paid commissions, clients covering the expenses

I was 30 when I first fell in love with a city: there is no other place on Earth quite like Hong Kong. It was 2013 and since then I have visited Home Kong repeatedly on invitation. There I worked with an agency producing campaigns of stark minimalism for international brands and local institutions. Hong Kong became for me dim sum for breakfast and friendships for life. And it  inspired an extra special photo project: documenting the disappearance of the neon signs of Hong Kong from a brand new perspective. This accomplishment was only possible with the help of good friends and the guidance of one mentor: thank you, Wing

It is uncommon for an established photographer to cover events or shoot party photography. Which is exactly what I started doing at 34. I was not in my 20s anymore, I had portrayed the most diverse personalities of the fashion, art and entertainment industries (the editors-in-chief, the movie superstars, the fashion designers, the musicians,  the artists and their muses, the new faces and the top models…)

… and there I was, taking pictures at queer parties with a six months verbal contract for a very modest fee. I was in love again and the party promoters I was working for liked my pictures. Taking pictures in such evenings felt liberating. Working again like an amateur photographer, free from the usual deadlines, productions and post-productions demands of commercial photography. It was then when heartbreak and Tragedy (a new party) happened. Struggling with sorrow, I found my voice as a night time photographer. That voice was soon to become an instagram account, @generationXXY, followed by growing business, press features and three exhibitions just last year, 2019: two group shows (one in Paris, one in Hong Kong) and one solo show in Madrid. But none of these achievements made my life any easier

Today as I write this I find myself in a much happier place. Meditation helps. And I’m learning my fourth language: Italian. Or should I say fifth, if we count emoji - everybody speaks emoji, right? I also know how to read traffic signs

2020 started for me and for many millions with job cancellations, followed by government mandated lockups (in France, from 17 March to 11 May) The first French confinement in the 21st century has barely ended and hopefully there won’t be the need for a second one. It’s more than three months since my last paid commission but selling my prints is keeping me afloat. Generous souls are now collecting my prints, supporting my art while helping others, thanks to my solidarity sale of signed prints that was born out of confinement

Reflecting on death, loss, ecological and social collapse, has always been a big part of my inner life. The current pandemic has made these worries seem even more real. But I understand that they are part of the human condition and I accept it. Now, in the moment of this writing, I feel that I own the 37 years of my life in this planet

Have I learned anything so far?

Trained as an architect, I still work with intellectual rigor. Photography added passion. When I work with a camera, I connect with others in yet another language, in ways words cannot provide. A camera is also a window to me. I finally understand that the best validation comes from within

I rarely feel lonely. Instead, sometimes I feel I’m still 12, reading with joy about Sapiens, about Socrates or about germs. I find comfort in knowing that the full plot of the evolution of life on Earth is in a book. It’s called DNA and our bodies store many copies. It’s the oldest book known to men. Written with four letters, a story old of 3.5 billion years

I know I will die. Not tonight, eventually. Everyone I know will die, too. Even those I don't know will die. And that includes you, anonymous reader. But there is no need to live in fear. This too shall pass


Rainer Torrado Amo is an artist. He works in Rome, Italy, his new home city which he has relocated to recently