49 Ochava Solstices

November 2, 2011

I’ve recently updated my series, Ochava Solstice, to include a lot more corners. I took these pictures last summer [December] and this past winter [May – August]. For awhile now, I’ve wanted to have a large number of these “events.” I feel like it underscores obsessive quality and ultimate uselessness of this project plus it will look better when exhibited. I had been saying my goal was 50. I’m stopping at 49… I’ll explain…

But first, here’s a few new ones:

Ochava Solstice #9 - Concordia & Mariscal Francisco Solano Lopez

The majority of the photographs were shot in winter and so the trees usually don’t have any foliage. This corner, shot on December 3rd, was an exuberant exception.

Ochava Solstice #12 - Jufre & Acevedo

I had this building on my list for over a year before working up the courage to go photograph it. Located in Villa Crespo, the building was first abandoned mid-construction and then claimed by squatters who have finished the construction with rough, hollow brick. These types of buildings are known as Edificios Tomados or Ocupas, and there are a fair number scattered around the city. They are often perceived by their neighbors as centers of crime and drugs and usually there is a long history of the neighbors or the city trying to get the squatters evicted [Argentina has strong pro-squatter laws]. My fear was that I would be seen as an employee from the city, photographing the building, as part of some renewed effort to get the residents evicted. I was a little more hurried than usual but in the end nothing happened.

Ochava Solstice #19 - Lavalle & Billinghurst

This was one of the more challenging intersections because it’s such a busy area, near the Abasto shopping mall. There was a constant stream of cars and pedestrians. I took two photos; this one and one without the dog walker. I like this one better because it underscores the reality that I can only control the situation so much.

Speaking of situations I can’t control, the 2nd to last Ochava in the series is this one, which I’ve written about before.

Ochava Solstice #48 - Zapiola & Aviles

To summarize, a private security guard hired by the neighborhood didn’t want me taking pictures and so he stood in front of my camera. I waited until the moment when the shadow was in the middle, and took the picture anyway.

Also, in case you didn’t notice, the first and last ochavas are the same building, but shot on different days.

Ochava Solstice #1 - Caracas & Paez II

Ochava Solstice #49 - Caracas & Paez I

The height of the sun and hence the height of the shadow varies across the seasons. I wanted to include the same building twice but photographed on different dates to get across a sense of changing seasons. I then decided to order the shadows by their height and it just so happened that the first and last ochavas were the same building.

So why 49 buildings?

It’s got to end somewhere and it’s always a bit arbitrary as to when and why. Stopping at a square number [49] instead of a round one [50] seems as good a reason as any. This work is kind of about simple, universal shapes; the circle of the sun and its arc across the sky, the triangle, the most basic of shapes and symbol of human shelter. So why not a square?

Fifty is a round number only in a base-ten numerical system. A square number, on the other hand, is square no matter how its expressed. It’s a reflection of a physical shape in the real world and not a fluke of the particulars of Arabic numerals. I’d like to think this work has a mystical or archeological quality. I often relate it to the Aztec sundial or the Mayan pyramid of Chichen-Itza which shows a shadow in the form of a serpent on the spring equinox. Mystical is maybe the wrong word since I don’t believe in god or religion. It’s really about a fascination with the physical world and the order of the solar system. I’m not in the jungles of the Yucatan. These are ugly, boring buildings in quiet neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and yet, that quality, whatever you call it, is still there, if one is willing to stop and see it.

2 Responses to “49 Ochava Solstices”

  1. Victoria Says:

    I like it very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Olof Heinö Says:

    Gongratulations Thomas on finishing the project, the new photos above bring some interesting variation I think. I´d love to see these photos exhibited and I hope you find a good place to do it. Cheers. /Olof.


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