Archive for September, 2010

Felipe Russo – Security Guard Posts in Sao Paulo

September 29, 2010

Via Conscientious I found the website of Brazilian photographer Felipe Russo and was interested in his series tipologias da insegurança. It shows private security guard booths, at night in Sao Paulo. After my last post on Sebastian Friedman’s Segurisimos, I seem to be on a security kick and so I thought I’d post his work.

© Felipe Russo

© Felipe Russo

While I respect the dangers of shooting at night in Sao Paulo, I think security guard booths are a little too easy. They are kind of the perfect subject matter for the typology approach, which is precisely the danger. They end up becoming the modern equivalent rustic barns. In fairness, I would make the same criticism of my Chalet series. I prefer his series on the periphery of Sao Paulo. If you read Portuguese, he has an interesting blog, modobulb, that he runs with his wife.

Sebastian Friedman – Segurismos

September 26, 2010

Despite being one of the safer cities in Latin America, the rate of crime in Buenos Aires is going the wrong way and it has people getting a little paranoid. Sebastian Friedman’s series Segurísimos shows people behind bars.

© Sebastian Friedman

© Sebastian Friedman

© Sebastian Friedman

There is a comic element to the photos. I get the sense that the subjects themselves recognize the slight ridiculousness of their self-imposed imprisonment. Also, for anyone familiar with security measures in more dangerous cities like São Paulo or Bogotá, these bars and gates will seem like a bit of a joke.

Friedman has more interesting work on his website, which is cute but annoying [amusing design, lotsa flash].

Comodoro Rivadavia

September 23, 2010

Pintada for 2011 Chubutense Peronist gubenatorial candidate Martin Buzzi

I recently went to Comodoro Rivadavia in Patagonia. It’s a booming oil town on the coast. Imagine the plains of Montana, crossed with northern Mexico, with oil and ocean. I passed through the city about ten years ago on my way to southern Chile and the place kind of stuck in my mind.

Since the beginning of this year I’ve been frustrated by the flatness of Buenos Aires. I’ve wanted vistas and perspectives. In my series Lungs I sought views by going up in buildings. I wanted to go somewhere in Argentina but outside of Buenos Aires, far from the flatness of the Pampa. Maybe I’ve been looking at too many Robert Adams photographs but I felt this desire to go to Comodoro and take pictures. So I went. And I took pictures.

Oil well service roads

Eastern Patagonia is a dry, broad, flat plain, punctuated by occasional mesas and broad valleys. The landscape is austere and hypnotizing. The town, which sits in one of these valleys, on the Atlantic coast, was founded in the early 20th century following the discovery of oil. Long a company town of YPF, the state oil company, it languished in the 1990s with the layoffs that accompanied the privitazation of YPF and low oil prices. Starting first in 2001 with the devaluation [which quadrupled the peso-price of dollar-denominated oil] and the subsequent rise in world commodity prices the city has boomed, doubling in size in just ten years. New construction is everywhere. Relative to the rest of Argentina, wages are high and work is plentiful.

New apartment tower west of downtown

Unpaved street in Barrio Km. 5

The city sprawls over 30 km, with small original settlements located near the orignal oil wells. Subsequent urbanizations are filling in the gaps.

Prefab log cabin, hollow brick wall and newly poured foundation

Prefab log cabin

A cheap and popular option for new housing are these prefabricated “log cabins”. Really only the siding is of wood. They are kind of looked down upon as wood construction is very unusual in Argentina. The Alpine aesthetic struck me as bizarre situated on the harsh, windblown plain. The Andes are a good 500km to the west.

Plan de vivienda

There are also a decent number cookie-cutter style developments. Seeing these I was reminded of Alejandro Cartagena’s series of suburban developments in Monterrey, Mexico. Unlike Mexico, in Argentina there is no mortgage industry or consumer credit. That was one of the casualties of the 2001 crisis. Most of these developments are funded by the government or various workers’ unions. Most houses in the city are owner built and occupied, lending the city a very haphazard feel.

Neighborhood in western Comodoro

I also tried something new for this trip; I stayed with a family I met on CouchSurfing. The Rough Guide introduces their brief coverage of Comodoro thusly, “austere Comodoro Rivadavia is not a place you’re likely to want to stay for longer than the time it takes to make your bus connection.” There are no cheap backpacker hostels. Being an oil-town, everything in ridiculously expensive. Staying with a local family saved me a lot of money and also gave me access to neighborhoods and people I never would have met. It strikes me that CouchSurfing is an incredible resource for photographers.

The family lived in this recently constructed complex of green houses on a mesa top in Km. 4 [in reference to its distance from downtown]

Neighborhood in Km 4

The story of how this neighborhood got built is emblematic of Argentina’s recent history. It was started in 1999 by a cooperative of professors from the nearby university. The mesa was leveled and foundations were poured. Then the crisis of 2001 hit. Their savings were frozen and then covered into devalued pesos. The project sat idle for years. In the last few years they were able to restart construction with loans and assistance from the current government. In return they were asked to paint the houses apple green, which is the visual branding of the current governor Mario Das Neves. The neighborhood sits on a prominent hill, clearly visible from the main highway leading into town. Das Neves is trying to position himself as a candidate in next year’s presidential election, so the advertising was surely important.

Patagonian trash

Perhaps the most visually striking and distressing element of the landscape was the ubiquitous plastic trash which littered the landscape, blown by the strong and unceasing wind and tangled up in the thorny shrubs. The Chubutenses [as they are called] are aware of this problem and have banned plastic bags at supermarkets. A lot of the trash seemed to be tarp and wrapping for construction materials. I have to admit that when backlit by the sun, the brilliance of the white plastic was visually seductive. I took a lot of pictures of trash.

The "Texas Leica" in action (Fuji GSW 670 II)

A brief note on equipment: I took just my Fuji GSW 670 II, a medium format, range finder camera known as the “Texas Leica” due to its comically large size.  It’s built like a tank but also incredibly simple, with few moving parts and zero electronics. It was the right tool for Comodoro. The wind is strong and constant. The dust is ubiquitous. My delicate view cameras would have been ripped to shreds.

Capped oil well with plastic bottle at sunrise

With a range finder you can’t do precise compositions since you aren’t looking through the lens as with an SLR or view camera. I remembered this detail as I was composing this shot, trying to line up the bottle cap with the horizon. I took three pictures at varying heights and this was the closest I got. The perfect camera doesn’t exist.

I took a lot of pictures at dawn and dusk. They look good. Too good. Comodoro, honestly, is not a nice place. It’s a testament to what people will put up with to achieve a house, a car and a stable job. Gorgeous, twilight landscapes don’t really convey this.

I’m not sure what to do with these photos, which is partly why I’m writing such a long post here. In the end, this was just a four day trip. I felt I had to get out of Buenos Aires and go somewhere within Argentina to get, literally, another perspective on the country.

Cyrille Weiner – Brasilia

September 20, 2010

© Cyrille Weiner

© Cyrille Weiner

© Cyrille Weiner

Images from French photographer Cyrille Weiner’s series on Brasilia. I remember going to Brasilia in 2001 and being struck by how vibrant it was. I was expecting a failed utopia, a dead-planned city. Instead I found it booming with all kinds of new construction going up everywhere. Of course, the new construction; shopping malls, apartment towers, favela expansions, makes Brasilia more like any other Brazilian city and less the unique place that Lucio Costa imagined. [via Shooting Wide Open]

Melina Rodriguez Giles – Women in their Bathrooms

September 20, 2010

© Melina Rodriguez Giles

Currently on view at the FotoGaleria in Centro Cultural San Martin is the show Mujeres en Sus Baños by  Melina Rodriguez Giles.

The title sums up the show pretty well. Its an interesting tour of porteño bathroom tiles and feminine bathroom fashion. While not all of the women shown are rail thin, I couldn’t help thinking about the eating disorders that are so prevalent in Argentina and all the times I’ve heard women ordering salad and diet coke at restaurants. The show is on view until October 3, 2010.

Marcos Lopez – Urban Landscapes

September 20, 2010

© Marcos Lopez

© Marcos Lopez

© Marcos Lopez

© Marcos Lopez

© Marcos Lopez

Marcos Lopez is one of the best known and most successful contemporary photographers in Argentina. The style of his best known works reminds me of David LaChapelle; big, colorful, over-the-top tableaux of iconic imagery in Latin America. I recently rediscovered his Urban Landscapes series. For this he simply went out into the suburbs of Buenos Aires and his native Santa Fe province and photographed stuff he found. Nuestra Mirada has a good interview with Lopez [in English].  My thanks to Sergio Miranda for reminding me of this series.

Espacio Formosa

September 14, 2010

Espacio Formosa is a small, store-front gallery in Villa Urquiza run by Guillermo Ueno and Lola Goldstein. About once a month they have gatherings featuring home-cooked food and music on the sidewalk. Here’s a few snapshots from an event this past Saturday:

The event was to celebrate the recent publication of several small photo books including Circulacion, which I wrote about yesterday. Pages from the various editions were cut out and pasted on the walls.

Ueno and Goldsteing run a blog called Tosto. I’d recommend adding it to your feed. They use it to announce events at the gallery and to feature photographs by students that attend their workshops.


September 13, 2010

I recently picked up a small pamphlet titled “Circulación“.

The publication features photos by Paula Barbetti, Leandro Ibarra, Leticia Lahitte, Martina Maffini, Soledad Manrique, Victoria Onassis, and Tomas Ruiz. I bought it for 20 pesos at Espacio Formosa, a small gallery in Villa Urquiza.

Juanele Interviews Eduardo Gil

September 13, 2010

A nine minute interview of Argentine photographer Eduardo Gil [in Spanish with English subtitles]. Mostly he discusses his recent color work, including his series Aporias depicting abandoned structures in Patagonia. [Full disclosure: I study in Gil’s workshop]

© Eduardo Gil

© Eduardo Gil

Juanele is a recently launched blog that covers the art scene in Buenos Aires, posting mostly in English. I recommend it.

Diego Levy – Accidents & Punches

September 9, 2010

Diego Levy is an Argentine photojournalist with a long history of covering the city’s violent underside. His series Choques depicts car accidents in a whimsical way that belies the violence contained in these incidents. Argentina has one of the world’s highest accident fatality rates.

© Diego Levy

© Diego Levy

© Diego Levy

Just as a personal note, the way people drive in Argentina is insane. I ascribe it to the tedium for the flat landscape.

Another series on Levy’s website that I really like is Golpes, portraits of retired boxers. Captioned below each photo is the number of fights each boxer fought.

Jose Menno / 135 flights © Diego Levy

If you are in Buenos Aires I would recommend you check out FotoDoc’s open night this Monday, September 13, 2010. Diego Levy will be presenting along with Catalina Bartolome. It’s at 8pm at Espacio Eclectico on Humberto Primo 730 in San Telmo.

As another personal note, I really like Levy’s site with big images and straightforward text written in first person. I’m heartened that more and more sites here are being built with indexhibit. Up until recently most photographers’ site here were un desastre.