Archive for February, 2011

Irina Werning – Big Hair in Argentina

February 28, 2011

Making the rounds of the blogosphere the past couple of weeks has been Argentine photogpher Irina Wering’s project Back to the Future. Browsing her site, however, I was much more struck by her project Mi Pelo Largo Querido. Let’s just say that young women in Argentina have a LOT of hair.

© Irina Werning

© Irina Werning

One of the big hair images that really stopped me in my tracks was this one, from an entirely different series, Little Schools in the Andes:

© Irina Werning

This series reminded me of a hilarious advertisement for a Brazilian beer put out last year during the World Cup. The spot was for the Brazilian market but they hired Argentine actors who are speaking Spanish in the clip. One sip of the beer and they enter into a frenzied identity crisis that has them dancing Samba, cutting off their Argentine mullets and extolling Brazilian soccer. Here it is:

I’ve shown this to foreigners who’ve lived in Argentina and they think it’s the funniest thing ever. I’ve shown it to various Argentines who have told me that it’s Not. Funny. At. All.


Pierre Verger in Peru & Bolivia

February 25, 2011

French photographer Pierre Verger (1902-1996) is better known for his work in Bahia, Brazil where he studied the African diaspora and eventually becoming a priest of the Candomble religion.

In the 1930s and 1940s he traveled the world and took photos as he went. The Fundação Pierre Verger has a very large catalog of his images, organized by region. The selection below is from Peru and Bolivia. I love his portraits, mostly taken in bright sunlight. It’s a shame the website has them at such small sizes.

© Pierre Verger

© Pierre Verger

© Pierre Verger

© Pierre Verger

© Pierre Verger

© Pierre Verger

© Pierre Verger

Via American Suburb X which recently published two articles about Verger [one, two].

Karina el Azem – Casitas Argentinas

February 23, 2011

My previous post on Pablo Adarme reminded me that I never wrote about the work of Karina el Azem and her series Casitas Argentinas. Similar to Adarme, el Azem photographed houses in the greater Buenos Aires area and then made models of them. The models shown below were photographed by Virginia del Guidice.

Karina el Azem - Casitas Argentinas

Karina el Azem - Casitas Argentinas

Karina el Azem - Casitas Argentinas

Karina el Azem - Casitas Argentinas

del Giudice’s website has an interesting description of the project that places these houses in the context of Juan Peron’s presidency and the ascendancy of the working class in Argentina in the 1950s:

Peron took office in 1947 and with him started a cult of everything that was populist. The praise for the worker’s figure and the pride on belonging to the working-class, imposed the overalls as a genuine emblem in the neighborhoods that sprang up around the new factories. The so-called five-year plan and Evita’s generous hand, brought the working-class close to the realization of their biggest dream, a house of their own, a decent home: the Peronist house.

During the postwar period, the mix of born builders, Italian immigrants, the people who moved rom the provinces to Buenos Aires, and a total lack of legistlation regarding urban architecture, allowed for a spontaneous and simple housing pattern to be repeated. Years went by and in this formerly modest and plain house, the front cladding is now announcing the arrival of well-being. You are always somebody in your neighborhood and social and economical progress is better appreciated there; those who see their present improving are loyal to their neighborhood and settle in it forever.

The fake luxury, the untimely dream of the brick facade alpine chalet with deers on the roof and concrete drawfs in the garden, take us to a world of children’s fantasies. The love for shiny things, the different materials that change as fashion changes and disproportionate ornaments such as golden lions, refer us to an idealization not free of certain native tenderness.

The seventies, marked by military dictatorship, oddly coincide with this cladding boom. The question could be: Isn’t this cladding paradoxically linked to the need to conceal, to hide this “middle-working class past” that could identify them with Peronism?

The fact of blotting out the past and showing material success as well as the fear of being different, made out of some people’s boldness everybody’s style.

For more takes on Argentine domestic architecture, check out Marino Balbuena’s series Las Casas. and Martin Rubini’s series Enanos.

Pablo Adarme – Cake Houses

February 21, 2011

Continuing with an overview of various artistic responses to the popular domestic architecture of Colombia, comes the delicious work of Pablo Adarme.

Casas Pastel by Pablo Adarme

Casas Pastel by Pablo Adarme

Casas Pastel by Pablo Adarme

Adarme first went around Venecia, a working class neighborhood in the southern part of Bogota, photographing houses. He then contracted a local baker to make cakes based on the design. In Spanish the word “pastel” can mean both the English word “pastel” as well as “cake,” so the title is a pun, based on the color of the houses.

This work was exhibited in the Venice Biennial of Bogota. Venecia = Venice, so it’s another pun, get it? According to the biennial’s official announcement, it was started in 1995 by Colombian artists frustrated at not being able to access international air fairs but has since morphed into an effort to bring art and artists to undeserved communities within Bogota.

Alvaro Herrera – Pintor de Puertas

February 18, 2011

Moving from window bars to doors, I happened upon Alvaro Herrera’s project Pintor de Puertas while Googling some art galleries in Bogota.

Alvaro Herrera - Pintor de Puertas

I actually kind of groaned when I first saw this image as it reminded me of those cheesy posters of “The Doors of [insert City Name].” Then I read about Herrera’s process and it struck me as interesting. He went around to different houses in a poor neighborhood, offered his services as a door painter in exchange for being able to photograph it and use it for this project. The design of the door was a collaboration between the artist and the inhabitants.

When I take a picture of someone, I don’t think I’m taking something from them, necessarily, but I do feel a little bit of guilt about appropriating their image for my own desires. I’m very aware that I’m dependent upon the kindness of strangers [or friends, or family] for the work that I do. Herrera’s project strikes me as a fitting exchange between photographer/painter and subject.

Luz Angela Lizarazo

February 15, 2011

Luz Angela Lizarazo is an artist active in painting, sculpture, drawing and photography. Among her many works are a series of works inspired by intricate designs of security bars found on most houses in Colombia.

Celosias 2 by Luz Angela Lizarazo

Celosias by Luz Angela Lizarazo

Luz Angela Lizarazo

Lizarazo also has a series of photographs, Antejardines, of the actual houses and their window bars.

From the series Antejardines © Luz Angela Lizarazo

From the series Antejardines © Luz Angela Lizarazo

From the series Antejardines © Luz Angela Lizarazo

I discovered Lizarazo’s work while visiting N-ce Arte, a non-profit gallery in Bogota. The show, now closed, featured very large murals, painted directly onto the gallery’s walls and meant to be temporary. Lizarazo painted two large murals in spray paint with stencils based on the designs of these window bars. Here’s a picture that I snapped of the mural during my visit:

Luz Angela Lizarazo at N-ce Arte

Be sure to visit Lizarazo’s website. It’s one of the best designed websites for an artist that I’ve come across.

Flickr Finds: Andre Dos Santos

February 13, 2011

Barrio La Castellana © Andre Dos Santos

Bus terminal in Tunja © Andre Dos Santos

Barrio La Castellana © Andre Dos Santos

I search for images a lot on flickr. Sometimes I’m scouting out locations, other times it’s simply a winograndian desire to see my world photographed. The images above are by Andre Dos Santos. I found them while doing a search on the terms “Bogota Medium Format” or perhaps it was “Bogota Formato Medio.” It’s not that I’m philosophically against digital [although my emotional biases skew towards the analogical], rather, it’s that there’s a whole lot of uninteresting crap on flickr. Delimiting the search by format and film type is a good proxy for finding photographers whose interests coincide with my own.

I liked Dos Santos’ images of the Bogota neighborhood of La Castellana. I’m basically interested in residential architecture anywhere and Bogota is no exception. The color palette, the design of the houses, the small details like the decorative window bars and other design flourishes are a source of endless fascination.

Fuji 1998

February 11, 2011

Fuji Super HGV, expired 1998

I’ve shot all the rolls of film I brought with me to Colombia. I visited five different photo stores and none had any medium format, color negative film. They all said it was on order. The gentleman at the aptly named lab, El Poder Fotografico, apparently the last serious lab in Bogota for developing film, has this bootleg supply of supremely expired Fuji Super HGV which he offered to sell me. He swears the colors haven’t shifted that much.

If this film were a person, he could be tried as an adult in Texas. It expired in July of 1998. I remember that summer well. I had an internship at a long gone internet company in Mountain View, CA. On weekends I’d drive up to the Castro the dance the night away at The Cafe. The big hit that summer was Ultra Nate’s hi-NRG anthem, “Free”. My friends joked that in 50 years we’d be in a gay retirement home dancing to this song with our walkers on bingo night.

Anyway, I bought a couple of rolls. It’s that or shoot 35mm [[shudder!!!]].

Scott Dalton – Macondo

February 9, 2011

© Scott Dalton from series 'Macondo'

Scott Dalton’s Macondo explores the Caribbean region of Colombia, taking as its inspiration the fictional town of Gabriel García-Márquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude.’

I remember this project when it made the rounds of the photo-blogosphere a couple of years ago. Since I’m in Colombia, I figured I might as well write a post it. Here’s a snippet from the project’s statement:

Macondo, with its surreal charm, has come to symbolize for Colombians everything good and special about their country– a welcome relief from the stereotypes of drug-trafficking and violence that so mark it. Eccentric and eclectic, timeless and earthy, vibrant and lush, a place where truth and fiction, myth and reality merge, Macondo is as much a state of mind as a place.

I’m writing this post in the gray drizzle of Bogotá [elevation 2600m]. In part this project underscores for me the incredible cultural diversity and geographical complexity that it is Colombia. The Caribbean coast almost might as well be another country. It’s certainly another world.

© Scott Dalton from series 'Macondo'

I cringe a little at the project’s linkage to García-Márquez. If I were a young writer in Colombia, I’d certainly want to kill the guy. The danger, which Dalton avoids, is trading one set of cultural cliches [drugs, war, violence] for another [sentimental magic realiism]. Referencing Colombia’s best-known writer is a clever hook but I worry that it sells the project short. Macondo is an insightful and fully contemporary exploration of rich and fascinating region and needs no hook.

I say that drugs and violence are a cliche in the representation of Colombia but they are also very real. Dalton, who spent 10 years documenting the country, is no stranger to this. He co-directed a documentary, La Sierra, about gang warfare in Medellín and has various galleries on Photoshelter depicting conflict in Colombia and elsewhere.