Caracas: two looks

Caracas: truth and fiction

“That emptiness that serves as a place”
Michel Foucault

“I take possession of this land, in the name of God and the King,” Diego de Losada declared when he founded the city of Caracas, on July 25th, 1567, describing it as he got to know it then:

“The city of Caracas has a location with such a heavenly character that, without competition, it is the best of all that America possesses. It seems spring chose it as its permanent dwelling, for, since it remains in the same temperance all the year, neither cold bothers, nor heat annoys. Its waters are many, clear and thin, because the four rivers that sufficiently surround it offer their crystals, for, without yet recognizing any heat of the summer, in the greater intensity of the heatwave they maintain their freshness.” *

The city we photograph is so far from Diego de Losada’s description. In the abyss of such a distance it is, at the same time, a sky of that sky, water of that water, a river of that river and, every day, a mountain of the same mountain.

We stare at these appearances from the narrow hole of a pinhole camera. We are sheltered by its dark emptiness, its austere constitution —still an artifact— by the absence of optics and the demand for a lengthened time, longer than it is needed with a conventional camera. This extended time entails a greater contemplation, and then it is possible to get a halted pulse where we can truly be. The consequences of using this resource have been fundamental for our choosing it, but our commitment is not related to its technical aspect, but to the photographic fact, which returns in an image as culture, as language and as a trace. A sensitive making of where it is possible to grasp what is real of our city as a pure thought, without losing its reality as a fact, its expression, its appearance.

We do not try to catch the trace of the disappearing city, nor do we try to replace the already evaporated city with poignant images of a reality in constant combustion. We approach the urban space from our immediate time, and also from our personal and civic memory. Intermediaries, dialogical and aware of the impossibility of photography to reflect the world, but having the capacity of showing it as we perceive it in a specific time frame that, besides, is mutant.

We know that it is not possible to restore the everyday city we long for, or that city we do not know still —the city of tomorrow, the one that has not yet arrived— because our glance and those resources we use take place according to the human sense that makes up both, our need and our desire. We photograph something that exists: in its beauty, its horror, its vitality and its decline.

Sometimes, images return with a hidden thought, like that creation that follows destruction or death. We amaze at the autonomy and mystery of those sparkling and illuminating metaphors that cover of dawn, though briefly, the night that has already devoured us. That daily and atrocious violence that shares the landscape with us is not secret, but we are grateful for the redeeming possibility of the image to relieve us in its occurrence.

We find space in that disappearance, far from geographical or bonding exercises. We do not move from north to south, or from east to west. We move from mountain to darkness, from architecture to religion, from people to forest, from clouds to branches. “So heavenly”. So luminous.

 

Laura Morales Balza

 

* Carmen Clemente Travieso. Las esquinas de Caracas (2001). Caracas: Editorial CEC, SA. Los Libros de El Nacional.

In time of clouds

On November the twentieth-ninth of the year two thousand eighteen, we came across the breeze and the light of Los Caobos Park, one of the oldest parks in Caracas. This was our first destination. It was around Ernest Maragall’s group of sculptures that a journey began, which allowed us to look in all directions: sky, shadow, river, mountain, plaza, rain, frond, birds, fence, cement, noise.

A tiempo de nubes brings together a selection of thirteen pinhole photographs that are part of a group of forty-seven images presented in different products. We do not try to capture the trace of that city that is disappearing, nor to replace that already evaporated city with grieving images of a reality that is in constant combustion. We not only approach its urban space from our immediate time, but also from our personal and civic recollections.

First landscape

“It is inside us that landscapes have landscapes”

Fernando Pessoa

Book of disquiet

 

Regardless of the fact that reflecting and deciding on the use of certain tools was something fundamental for us, the core of our initial approaches to our subject —the city we inhabit— had to do with our intention of placing its representation into poetry. This was not just about an aesthetic decision, rather about a resource that could make it possible to also have space for the sparkle, the peacefulness and the concurrence inside the dimness, unrest and violence of the present time. In Caracas, our first landscape is a visual, emotional and intellectual record assembled along spaces that are essential to us, spaces that shape us, and that we needed to reconstruct. In many situations, it is inside us that such city is a city. We attend its landscape quietly, and far from any predatory, devouring visual intention. On the contrary, we go there speechless, seeking the delay, forcing time and briefness, facing a landscape that always shows itself unreservedly.

Eight hundred and thirty-one days

On October 18th, 2017, a visual dialogue began that comprised the first set of images made up in collaboration. Such correspondence took place as from the individuality —from our individual photographic process— as an exercise that would allow us to establish a silent communication, without the significance of the word. It also took place because of the need to give our everyday transit a time-spatial framework. We sought, then, some conditions that would make it possible to build recollection and memory layers, under an epistolary code through which we could not share writings, and where all questions, answers, impressions, gestures, messages, denials or statements, were always safeguarded by the image. Such selection showed that journey in chronological order, and was closed on January 27th, 2020. It is, for us, the first twosome, the first conversation, and it represents the first steps of our identity as a duo.

Mariana Mendoza

Venezuelan medical doctor and photographer. She has studied photography at Roberto Mata Taller de Fotografía, the Nelson Garrido Organization, as well as at the CIEF (Center of Photographic Studies), in Caracas, Venezuela, and at the International Center of Photography in New York City.

She has participated in renown photography workshops, including “Street Photography in New York City”, with photographer Harvey Stein in 2016. She also attended “The Art of Editing” (2018), and “Finding Your Own Vision” (2019), a documentary photography workshop, both in New York City, led by photographers Alex Webb (Magnum Agency) and Rebecca Norris Webb.

In 2016, she was awarded First Prize, category: Series, in the II National Photography Awards organized by the European Union Delegation in Venezuela (Woman, Man: Gender Equality). In 2017, she won the Second Prize, category: Series, in the III National Photography Awards organized by the European Union Delegation in Venezuela (Social Inclusion).

Her photographic series Las Cuidadoras de Caracas (Caracas Caregivers), which shows insight into the lives of individuals who care for people with disabilities, now belongs to a private collection of the Urban Photography Archive Institution. In her work, she looks to show how these individuals are often invisible in our society and lack the recognition they deserve. A selection of this series is part of the exhibition “Towards a History of the Gaze: The Portrait in the Urban Photography Archive Collection” until December 7, 2019. DUPLAONCE cofounder.

Laura Morales Balza

(Mérida, Venezuela) Editorial graphic designer and photographer. She studied photography at «Roberto Mata Taller de Fotografía», and at the NGO Nelson Garrido Organization (Caracas, Venezuela). She was a member of the Cádiz: explorando tu propia mirada (Cádiz: exploring your own look) workshop (Cádiz, Spain), with Alex Webb, photographer of the Magnum Agency, and Rebecca Norris Webb. She also has participated in the following workshops: El retrato y la edición (The portrait and the edition, Barcelona, Spain), held by Antonin Kratochvil,; Elogio de la sombra (Praising the shadow), a workshop on pinhole photography, with Luca Pagliari at the Roberto Mata Taller de Fotografía, and Terminar lo inconcluso (Finishing the unfinished), with Ricardo Armas, at Cubo 7 (Caracas, Venezuela). Her work has been awarded in different confrontations of art: 37 Aragua National Hall of Art; 66 Arturo Michelena Hall Biennial; «Asymptomatic Caracas», an individual exhibition at the William Werner Hall of the Integrated Arts Center; Los Andes University’s «International Biennial of Contemporary Art, The screen and the frame», Mérida, Venezuela; «Holding on, 5 years», at the NGO Nelson Garrido Organization, and «Caracas, a revealed city», at the Caracas Museum of Fine Arts, among others. She was awarded an honorable mention for her photograph Agua sin milagro (No Miracle Water), at the XII Alejandro Otero Hall of Arts (2008), as well as an honorable mention for her triptych Fe heredada (Inherited faith), at the contest  «Venezuelan Photography Prize Goethe Institute», in its 2nd edition, which was held at the Caracas Photography National Center. She is a teacher at the Photography Investigations Center CIEF (Metropolitan University, Caracas), as well as at the Roberto Mata Taller de Fotografía, and NGO Nelson Garrido Organization. She is DUPLAONCE co-founder.

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