Inside Cristobal Ascencio’s enigmatic images

Cristobal Ascencio uses photography and VR to explore his family life and wider ideas of memory and truth, resulting in striking and unexpected images

“Due to the taboo around suicide, society ignores it,” says Cristobal Ascencio. “I realised if I worked with this subject, I could create a conversation around suicide from my perspective. I knew it would be tough, but it felt important to try.”

The Mexican-born, Madrid-based artist lost his father not once but twice. At 15, his father Margarito, a gardener whose name in Spanish means daisy, died from a heart attack. Margarito’s story remained that way until two years ago, when Ascencio found out his father in fact died by suicide.

“With this new information, I started looking at everything differently,” he explains. “I began to feel like everything I knew about our relationship was somehow shifting and being rearranged. My dad’s death has always been something I held very sacred – it was a traumatic event that shaped me. When the circumstances around this changed, I questioned everything, trying to make sense of my memories.”

Top and above: From the series Las Flores Mueren Dos Veces

Growing up in a large, tight-knit family in ­Guadalajara, Ascencio always understood family photographs to be precious objects. Hoarded in chests and albums, picture-making was a love language, a way to hold people close and feel together even when they were apart. From a young age, he remembers taking images from the family collections to make his own. “I always felt nostalgic about the past, and I wanted to be close to those moments, so I kept those pictures near me.” For Ascencio, photography became a vessel for emotions, and this formative relationship with pictures laid the blueprint for his career.