7.28.2014

Mexico Notebook: Interview with Diego Berruecos

From the series "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos

Hannah FrieserJaime Permuth and I are collaborating to explore contemporary photography in Mexico. We're looking at trends and how they relate to traditions; events, institutions and venues; as well as pursuing conversations with curators, academics, gallerists and photographers on what's happening currently. This collaborative project will feature a variety of types of posts including interviews, book reviews, published letters, portfolios of images and more.

Hannah Frieser is a curator, photographer and book artist and former Executive Director of Light Work. Jaime Permuth is a Guatemalan photographer living and working in New York City and a Faculty Member at the School of Visual Arts.

Today we continue this series with an interview of Diego Berruecos by Mark Alor Powell.

Diego Berruecos was born in Mexico City. He studied photography in the Escuela Activa de Fotografía and also studied in the London College of Printing. He was a grant winner of the Jóvenes Creadores program of FONCA (2007-08) and in the Programa de Arte Actual of Bancomer and of Carrillo Gil (2009-2010). He has taken part in various group exhibitions including "Espectografías: Paradojas de la Historia," MUAC; "Shattered Glass" at The Americas Society, New York; "and "Resisting the Present," Museo Amparo/ARC/MAMVP, Paris. His individual exhibitions include "Ebb" at Proyectos Monclova and "PRI: genealogíaa de un Partido, El uso político del fenómeno solar" in Gaga.

Mark Alor Powell was born in Decatur, Illinois in 1968 and is originally from Detroit, Michigan. He currently lives and works in Mexico City.

Powell has exhibited in museums and galleries throughout Latin America, The United States, Asia and Europe, including The New Museum in New York, The Museum of Photography Archive in Mexico City, Ten Haaf Gallery in Amsterdam, PHotoEspaña, Tokyo Photo and the Urbis Museum in Manchester, England. In 2007, Mark was invited to photograph his hometown for the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD).

Powell published his first book Very Important Person (Diamantina, Mexico City) in 2006 and was included in the book Street Photography Now (Thames and Hudson, London, 2010). In 2013, he won the 4th Editorial RM Fotolibro prize for his forthcoming book Open at Noon to be published and formally presented at Paris Photo in November, 2014.

Other posts in this series include:
Interview with Mariela Sancari
Q&A with Eduardo Jiménez Román
Q&A with Claudia Arechiga
Q&A with Nahatan Navarro
Contemporary Photography in Oaxaca
Q&A with Aglae Cortés
Q&A with Maria José Sesma
Interview with César Rodríguez
Q&A with Nora Gómez
Q&A with Melba Arellano
Q&A with Jorge Taboada
______________________________

From the series "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos

En español abajo

Mark Powell: To begin, I would like to ask you to tell me about your background as a photographer: how you got started and what inspired you to start taking pictures and what you like most about the medium?

Diego Berruecos: I am the son of a father who was a painter. Since I was young, I have seen and been surrounded by lots of painting, but I never had the urge to draw or paint. When I began exploring photography, I loved the possibility of reproducing pictorial scenes without painting them myself. I studied in the Escuela Activa de Fotografía in Mexico a couple of years, and from there I went to London to the LCP [now the London College of Communication]. I think it was there where I began to find my path in photography.

MP: In Mexico City, you are the editor of the magazine Gatopardo. Does your job as an editor influence your work as a photographer?

DB: I started as a photo editor for Travesías, a travel magazine. I think subconsciously you begin to compose in different ways as a photographer when you are around editorial work as an editor. Now I look at a photo I used to think was a travel photo and it is another thing entirely. The type of photo reportage in Gatopardo is a type of work I've explored little myself. I think that the investigative journalism in the articles has influenced me more, the way writers do all their research. But there is a whole part of my personal work that I do not think mixes at all with my editorial work, for example all of the archival research of the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) I think ends up having a very specific photographic aesthetic that I control very little.

From the series "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos

MP
: Your project "PRI: Genealogía de un Partido. La Solución Somos Todos" ("PRI: Genealogy of a Party. We Are All the Solution") is a selection from an archive in Mexico City. Can you tell me a little about the collection and how you discovered it, and the how the idea of this project developed?

DB: I found this collection of photographs in the Archivo General de la Nación (The General Archive of the Nation); they are part of the private collection of Porfirio Muñoz Ledo who at the time was president of the PRI. Over time he abandoned the PRI and became one of the most critical political figures in Mexico. These photos are from an album of the 1976 presidential campaign that [José] López Portillo won with 96.4 percent of the vote. The opposition was so discouraged by PRI fraud that they didn't compete. For me, it is a key year in the history of Mexico, because it demonstrates the PRI structure at its peak. The machine of the totalitarian state was completely oiled.

MP: I really like when photographers do something outside of taking pictures and dive into something like you have done with this archive. It offers a unique vision and voice from many possibilities - plus, the action of adding another layer to the photographic act creates this whole new fresh platform. Please describe your motivation and desire as a photographer and how it inspired your selection.

DB: I think you're quite right, photography is a medium in which references are constantly sought, the eye is recording on our personal hard drive images that stick with us, and when you check archive material, you're running into things that catch your attention and maybe you've already seen them somewhere else, there between this other layer that you mention. To me, it was very natural to select this material using the framework of reference that I sought (the party in power not wanting to leave office). Everything that fit into this broad framework fit into my selection.

From the series "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos

MP: I love this quote attributed to the PRI: "No somos ni derecha ni izquierda sino todo al contrario" ("We are not right nor left, but completely the opposite").  Can you give the reader a brief synopsis and meaning of the PRI in Mexico?

DB: Haha, the quote is great. For me it has to do with how the PRI has managed to bend in all directions under different circumstances, and with how it costs them all the effort in the world to define themselves. It even reminds me of Cantinflas [ed: a Mexican comic actor sometimes referred to as the "Charlie Chaplin of Mexico"] - it's like the PRI turned into Cantinflas.

MP: Have you identified any of the photographers who originally took the pictures? Are these independent photojournalist or contracted political photographers? What were the original purpose of these pictures?

DB: I have not been able to contact these photographers. I guess that they were hired to document the campaign and if they did well, they were hired to stay and photograph the administration. Each administration has their photographer. I greatly respect the work of these photographers. But I am also interested in the question of whether these images belong to the nation. Do they belong to everyone? Do they belong to the current government? Can we use them? Alter them? And most of all, the question of if we can take them out of the archive so that more people can see/use them.

From the series "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos

MP: Looking at the photographs, it shows a rich and amazing photographic skill set in Mexico and a certain Mexican style. Some of the pictures remind me of stills from movies of the golden era of Mexican Cinema. What do you think of the relationship between Mexican image makers and the idealized visions of government?

DB: Great question, and an entire topic in itself. I think it is very difficult to separate these points. How are they creating the image of Mexico that power wants to create? Is there a clear and defined line around this? It is changing and is it consolidating? I think there's something in the faces of these pictures that show a depression with no way out, reflected in the Gaze of several of the Mexicans in these pictures. Especially when they do not know they are being seen by the camera and we do not know if their mood is created on purpose, or if it is there only to be registered.

It is very difficult to answer this question. Very interesting.

From the series "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos

MP: López Portillo, in a midst of a campaign, appears in the photographs as this big figure, dripping in propaganda, yet on the periphery there are a lot of revealing signs of the time - society, people and street life, etc. According to these pictures, what was life like in the 1970's in Mexico?

DB
: That's difficult, Mark, I was born in 1979! I think that throughout the campaign López Portillo is presented as the next King, and that's the purpose of the campaign: that people can meet their King.

In his term everything happened, there was a super oil bonanza and a mega crisis. Somehow everything happened to us in those six years, it was quite a roller coaster. All thanks to the bad management of the government in those years.

MP: What are your eventual plans for this project?

DB
: I have always seen this whole project ending with being publishing in a book composed of many smaller books. But I've always liked the opportunity to play with the exhibition format. I always change the way I display this work and I love that freedom and possibility.

From the series "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos
_______________________________

Mark Powell: Para empezar, me gustaría pedirte que nos cuentes de tu experiencia como fotógrafo, ¿Cómo empezaste y qué te inspiró para empezar a tomar fotos?  ¿Qué es que más te gusta del medio?

Diego Berruecos: Soy hijo de un padre pintor, desde chico vi y estuve rodeado de mucha pintura pero nunca se me dio dibujar o pintar, cuando empecé a explorar la fotografía me encantó la posibilidad de reproducir escenas pictóricas sin pintarlas yo. Estudié en la Escuela Activa de Fotografía en México un par de años, y de ahí me fui a Londres al LCP. Creo que fui ahí en donde empecé a encontrar mi camino fotográfico.

From the series "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos

MP: En la Ciudad de México, eres el director de la revista Gatopardo. ¿Tú trabajo como editor influye tú trabajo como fotógrafo?

DB: Empecé como editor de foto de Travesías, una revista de viajes, creo que inconscientemente uno empieza a componer de otra maneras cuando tiene de cerca el trabajo editorial. Ahora yo revisé la foto que yo creía de viaje antes y sí es otra cosa completamente. El foto reportaje de Gatopardo es un tipo de trabajo que he explorado poco, creo que me ha influenciado más la parte de la investigación periodística de los artículos, la forma en la que los escritores hacen toda su investigación. Pero hay toda una parte de mi trabajo en donde no creo que mi trabajo editorial se mescle, toda la investigación de archivo del PRI por ejemplo creo que termina teniendo una estética fotográfica muy especifica y que controlo poco.

From the series "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos

MP: Tú proyecto "PRI: Genealogía de un Partido. La Solución Somos Todos" es una selección de fotos de un archivo en la Ciudad de México. ¿Nos podrías contar un poco acerca de la colección, cómo la descubriste, y la manera en que la idea de este proyecto desarrolló?

DB: Este colección de fotografías las encontré en el Archivo General de la Nación, forman parte de la colección particular de Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, que en su momento fue el presidente del PRI. Con los años abandono al PRI y se convirtió en uno de los mas críticos personajes de la política. Estas fotos vienen de un álbum de la campaña presidencial de 1976, que gano López Portillo con el 96.4 por ciento de los votos. La oposición estaba tan desanimada con los fraudes priístas que no compitió. Para mi es una campaña clave en la historia de México, por que demuestra la estructura priísta en su apogeo. La maquina del estado totalitario estaba completamente aceitada.

From the series "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos

MP: Me gusta mucho que los fotógrafos hagan algo fuera de tomar fotografías y que se sumergan en algo así como lo que has hecho con este archivo. Como fotógrafo nos ofreces una visión y voz única de las muchas posibilidades de como interpretar el archivo, y además, la acción de añadir otra capa al acto fotográfico crea una nueva plataforma fresca. Por favor, cuentanos de tú motivación y tus deseos como fotógrafo y como te ha inspirado esta selección de fotos del archivo.

DB: Creo que tienes mucha razón, la fotografía es un medio en donde constantemente se buscan referencias, el ojo va grabando en nuestro disco duro personal muchísimas imagines que se nos van quedando, y cuando revisas material del archive, te vas topando con cosas que te llaman la atención y que quizás ya habías visto por otro lado. Ahí entre este otro layer que mencionas. Para mi era muy natural ir seleccionado este material con el marco de referencia que buscaba (el partido en poder no queriendo dejar el poder) todo lo que entrara en ese marco amplio cabía en mi selección.

MP: Me encanta esta cita atribuida al PRI: "No somos ni derecha ni izquierda sino todo al contrario." ¿Nos podrías dar a una breve sinopsis del PRI y contarnos sobre su significado en México?

DB: Je je je, es muy buena la frase. Para mi tiene que ver con que el PRI ha sabido inclinarse según las circunstancias para todos lados, y le cuesta todo el trabajo del mundo definirse a si mismos. Incluso me recuerda también a Cantinflas, es como el PRI Cantinfleando.

From the series "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos

MP: ¿Has identificado alguno de los fotógrafos que tomaron las fotos? Son fotoperiodistas independientes o fotógrafos contratados para registrar hechos políticos? ¿Cuál fue el propósito original de estas imágenes?

DB: No he podido contactar a estos fotógrafos, supongo que son contratados para documentar la campaña y si les va bien chance se quedan en el sexenio. Cada sexenio tiene a su fotógrafo. Yo respeto muchísimo el trabajo de estos fotógrafos. Pero también me interesa la cuestión de si estas imagines son de la nación? Son de todos? Son del gobierno en turno? Si las podemos usar? Alterar? Y sobretodo sacarlas del archive para que mas gente las pueda ver/usar.

MP: En cuanto a las fotografías, estas muestran la gran habilidad fotográfica que está presente en México y sugiere un estilo mexicano. Algunas de las imágenes me recuerdan fotogramas de películas de la época de oro del cine mexicano. ¿Qué piensas de la relación entre los creadores mexicanos de imágenes y las visiones idealizadas del gobierno?

DB: Gran pregunta, y todo un tema. Creo que es muy difícil separar estos puntos. Como se va creando la imagen de México que el poder quiere crear? Hay una línea clara y definida de esto? Va cambiando y se va consolidando? Creo que hay algo en los rostros de estas fotos, que muestran una depresión sin salida, reflejada en la Mirada de varios mexicanos en estas fotos. Sobre todo cuando no se saben vistos por la cámara y no sé si este mood es creado a propósito, o si esta ahí solo para ser registrado.

Esta muy difícil responder esta pregunta. Muy interesante.

From the series "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos

MP: López Portillo, en medio de una campaña, aparece en las fotografías como esta gran figura, rodeado de propaganda, pero en la periférica de las fotos hay una cantidad de signos reveladores de los tiempos, la sociedad, la gente y la vida de la calle, etc. De acuerdo con estas imágenes, ¿como era la vida en la década de los setentas en México?

DB: Está difícil, Mark, yo nací en el 1979, je. Creo que durante toda la campaña López Portillo, él es presentado como el próximo Rey, de eso va la campaña de que la gente pueda conocer a su Rey.

En su sexenio paso de todo, hubo una súper bonanza petrolera, y una mega crisis. De alguna manera nos paso todo en esos 6 años, fue toda una montaña rusa. Todo gracias al pésimo manejo del gobierno en esos años.

MP: ¿Cuáles son tus planes eventuales para este proyecto?

DB: Siempre he visto todo este proyecto con una salida editorial, un libro, compuesto de muchos libros mas pequeños. Pero también siempre me ha gustado la posibilidad de jugar con el formato de expo, creo que siempre cambio la forma en la que exhibo esta trabajo y me encanta esa libertad y posibilidad.

Installation view "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos


Installation view "PRI genealogía de un partido" © Diego Berruecos



7.25.2014

Photographers on Photographers: Evaluating the Sense of Personal Precariousness in Rineke Dijkstra’s "Beach Portraits"

© Rineke Dijkstra

Post by Lin VanderVliet

Rineke Dijkstra's Beach Portraits will always hold a fond place in my heart. It is a series which, inevitably, takes me back to the time during which I wore boys' clothes and would sport T-shirts and surf shirts over my bathing suits, appearing nothing short of pants-less but comfortably secure in avoiding any of the (unwelcomed) changes my body was met with from ages 10-13.  Though I never physically changed a whole lot, I greeted puberty's arrival with a stubborn defiance, refusing to comply with its demands in any way that I could.

In digging up sentiments of budding teenage discomfort, Beach Portraits issues churning feelings of self-consciousness by way of a lingering uncertainty regarding the placement of limbs and containment of pose. Depicted against a backdrop of sceneries—coursing waves, horizons of varying heights, smooth sands and gravelly shores, teens and preteens hover before the camera's lens with a range of expressions. Some pose formidably, while others in an exaggerated contrapposto so severe it might as well be mimicking Botticelli's Birth of Venus. However, these are not the portraits of mythical gods and goddesses. They are youths in the throes of adolescence. Whether desperate to advance beyond their years or still clinging determinedly to the threshold of innocence, Dijkstra's images serve as reminders of a growing up long forgotten yet surprisingly vivid in recollection.

Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli

Displaying figures head-to-toe in a vertically composed frame, the photographs which comprise Beach Portraits depict a visual unity of sorts. Held together by way of a cohesive and consistent visual presentation, the images are technically adept if not banal seeming at first. While they initially tempt us to "finish quickly" in the way that portraits often do—photographs of people displayed without context—the images give way to a residual scrutiny as well. In an article I once read, Dijkstra's style was described as being akin to "ethnographic photography of colonized peoples," however notably absent of criticism as subjects "are not, at least apparently, strongly differentiated from their viewers."1 No overt attempts have been made to objectify or exoticize the bathers, and the artist's efforts have been described as being favorably void of any irony.2

But nonetheless, there is a vulnerability which permeates Dijkstra's images. Wind blowing and sand sticking to nearly every crevice of your skin, I might venture to dispute the myth that beach usually connotes "sexy" (or carefree exuberance to say the least). The contraption of bathing suits—with their elastic bits, ties, colors, and prints, are an assortment to comprehend, and posing in one as a teen inevitably sports a challenge in itself. In an interview, Dijkstra comments on the bathers' nationalities - comparing and contrasting differences in their attire and pose. For example, in Poland she states, many of the subjects wore old or outdated bathing suits ("some even just wore underpants"), comparing this to the Americans who, by extension, were far more self-conscious in their presentation. 3
Others have commented on a "blurring of national identities," though I'm not sure that distinction isn't (in at least some of the photos) quite easy to discern.4

Take, for example, the blonde teen in the orange bikini—posed defensively with one hand on her thigh and the other holding back her hair, her stomach sucked in with poised apprehension. She wears eye make-up and a small assortment of jewelry, all of which appear to suggest the miniature embodiment of a quintessentially American ideal of beauty. In my introduction to Dijkstra's work, I recall once having heard from a classmate that the orange-bikini-wearer (upon being approached by the artist) was so fraught in knowing she would have her picture taken that she went home to prepare herself for the photo. Now, I can't reinforce the validity of that statement, and I know tons of people would never stoop to such lengths; as such, I'm not sure if it's that effort alone which distinguishes the girl as being so unmistakably American, however I can certainly think of a time in my life where I might've once been tempted to do the same—averaging an hour and thirty minutes just to get ready each morning. And while in the case of other subjects, their assumed preparation (or lack thereof) is seemingly discernible through accessories, attire, and pose, each figure appears strangely deliberate in presentation - grounded by the stability of the horizon and accurately centered within the frame.

© Rineke Dijkstra

But I do think that Dijkstra's approach could perhaps have benefitted from a wider spectrum of body types, skin tones, etc. While I appreciate the vastness between subjects' socio-economic statuses and presumed cultural upbringings—a more encompassing collection of figures apart from gangly pre-pubescent girls and Speedo-clad boys with hairless bodies and pruned white skin would be nice. Like the artist, I tend to view these images as being loosely biographical—if not solely representative of Dijkstra's own personal experiences, then additionally of mine as a viewer.5 I don't (necessarily) read these photos as meditations on shyness per se, in spite of all the bare limbs and bathing suits—poses that might have you doubly evaluating yourself the next time you step into a bikini or catch yourself naked before the mirror—but rather in the precarious sense of the subjects' age and how I presume their place in the world. I think of the histories I invent to go with them and how they reflect upon my own.

© Rineke Dijkstra


© Rineke Dijkstra

______________________________

Lin VanderVliet recently graduated with Honors in Studio Art from Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. Her work seeks to promote a sense of  underlying anxiety by combining photographs with typed text. Reoccurring themes include: a fascination with performance, absurdity, the uncanny, and expressions of personal catharsis. Currently, she lives in New Jersey.
______________________________

1 Julian Stallabrass, "What’s in a Face? Blankness and Significance in Contemporary Art Photography," October 122 (2007): 71, accessed April 14, 2014, doi: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40368490.
2 Rineke Dijkstra, Rineke Dijkstra: Portraits, (Boston: Institute of Contemporary Art, 2001), 76.
3 Ibid., 80.
"But the poses of the Americans are really different. I think that in Poland it reminded me of the '60s…I was very sympathetic to this attitude. They were very easygoing. The Americans had very fancy bathing costumes and the poses were more self-conscious. One girl was really holding her belly in and her mother was behind her yelling 'You’re too fat.'"
4 Ibid., 80.
5 Ibid., 79. 
"With the bathers it was very clear to me that they were more or less a self-portrait. They showed what we don't want to show anymore but still feel."


7.23.2014

Mexico Notebook: Interview with Mariela Sancari

From Moisés © Mariela Sancari

Hannah FrieserJaime Permuth and I are collaborating to explore contemporary photography in Mexico. We're looking at trends and how they relate to traditions; events, institutions and venues; as well as pursuing conversations with curators, academics, gallerists and photographers on what's happening currently. This collaborative project will feature a variety of types of posts including interviews, book reviews, published letters, portfolios of images and more.

Hannah Frieser is a curator, photographer and book artist and former Executive Director of Light Work. Jaime Permuth is a Guatemalan photographer living and working in New York City and a Faculty Member at the School of Visual Arts.

Today we continue this series with an interview with Mariela Sancari.

Other posts in this series include:
Q&A with Eduardo Jiménez Román
Q&A with Claudia Arechiga
Q&A with Nahatan Navarro
Contemporary Photography in Oaxaca
Q&A with Aglae Cortés
Q&A with Maria José Sesma
Interview with César Rodríguez
Q&A with Nora Gómez
Q&A with Melba Arellano
Q&A with Jorge Taboada

Mariela Sancari was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1976. She has lived and worked in Mexico City since 1997. Her work revolves around identity and memory and the way both are mingled and affected by each other, as well as by time and space. She examines personal relations related to memory and the thin and elusive line dividing memories and fiction.

She has received numerous awards for her work: she was named one of the Discoveries of the Meeting Place of FotoFest 2014 Biennal, was winner of the VI Bienal Nacional de Artes Visuales Yucatan 2013 and the PHotoEspaña Descubrimientos Prize 2014, and her work was selected for the XVI Bienal de Fotograía from Centro de la Imagen and XI Bienal Monterrey FEMSA. She was recipient of the Artist in Residency Program FONCA-CONACYT for a project in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2013.

She has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Mexico City, Madrid, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Guatemala City, New York, Sao Paulo, Caracas, Fort Collins, Houston and Cork, Ireland.

She is represented in Mexico by Patricia Conde Galeria.
______________________________

From Moisés © Mariela Sancari

fototazo: Tell us a little bit about where you are based, what you do for a living and how you began with photography?

Mariela Sancari: I am Argentinian but I have lived in Mexico City for 16 years now. Actually, I studied photography and began working as a photographer here many years ago. I began studying after I saw the images of a friend of mine in Buenos Aires and got so fascinated by them that I wanted to learn and do images myself.

For a living, I work as a freelance photographer in magazines doing assignments on life and style, portraiture and travel.

From Moisés © Mariela Sancari

f: Your projects The two headed horse and Moisés are intensely personal bodies of images. First, tell us just a little bit about them.

MS: As you mentioned, both my series are self-related. In the first, The two headed horse, I tried to explore notions of identity and memory through the relationship with my twin sister and the strong bond between us. It was the first time I've ever made self-portraits, which was also a very interesting and challenging way of dealing with the subject.

In Moisés, which I consider to be a continuation of the first series with a different approach, I focused on the father figure. I started with a syndrome that my sister and I felt (from not seeing his dead body) that made us doubt his death and believe we would suddenly meet him in the street, I "searched" for him in different men with similar physical characteristics. This project has a performative side to it: I placed ads in the newspaper asking for men the age my father would be if were still alive today (around 70 years old). I photographed them in the same way, in a street studio I set in my childhood neighborhood. This typology's intention is a double standard between the anonymity of being part of a typological study and the explicit intention of looking for someone in particular in the crowd.

From Moisés © Mariela Sancari

f: Have you always, since your start in photography, worked with personal themes?  What have been the challenges and rewards of working with such intimate themes personally? Has working with photography on these projects changed your relationships with your sister and father?

MS: Until 2011 I worked as a staff photographer in a newspaper in Mexico City, doing mostly documentary and life and style photography. Although I had been, shyly, trying to approach personal themes, it was only when I was selected to participate at Seminario de Fotografía Contemporánea at Centro de la Imagen (and resigned my job at the newspaper) that I began working only on projects addressing personal issues under the guidance of Ana Casas Broda and Alejandro Castellanos among many other tutors.

Initially, it was very difficult and messy to work with personal themes. For me, it was complicated not to try to "explain" my story and emotions in the images and just let the viewer fill in the blanks. I think that when an artist works on personal issues there is a high level of self-consciousness that compels us to try to explain or clarify our work. I find this to be an obstacle to overcome in the artistic practice. At least it was for me.

From Moisés © Mariela Sancari

On a personal level, working with my twin sister doing self-portraits was an intense experience. First of all, photographers are usually solitary artists and working in collaboration with my sister (being her own life as well the theme in the images) demanded patience and understanding from both of us. The rewarding part of working with her was the surprisingly good communication on a creative level that contributed a lot to the project to the extent of her becoming co-author of the images.

And although I don't really like the word "catharsis" (because of its possible derogatory interpretation) I have to say that working on personal themes did change something in my own understanding and experience of my past. Having always had an attitude of denial towards my personal story, the possibility of relating it to my creative process felt liberating to me.

From The two headed horse © Mariela Sancari

f: You mention that working with your sister was a collaboration. Talk with us a little bit about your process working with the models from Moisés. How do you engage with them before taking pictures? What is your way to get these men, who are initially strangers, to take on the role and relationship of your father and facilitate the tone of the project you are looking to establish?

MS: I began working on the Moisés project last year during an Artist in Residence program in Buenos Aires. I spent 3 months there, working in the neighborhood I used to live in when I was a child. As I mentioned earlier, I placed ads in the local newspaper looking for men with specific physical characteristics. I received many calls. I would talk to them for a few minutes, explaining the project a little bit so that they'd know what we were going to do. I would also ask them to bring their regular daily clothes and set an appointment to meet in my street studio.

I met with some of them many times, depending on their availability and also how well we got along to work.

Once we'd met, I would tell them about the project and what I need them to do but, oddly enough, many of them did not really care what the whole thing was about. They just wanted to talk and tell me their own stories. This was a big surprise, something I never expected when planning the project: facing these men's needs, loneliness and aging processes. At this point, the project changed my way of thinking about it: it gained a profundity I did not foresee and made me confront directly against my own idealization of my father.

This is when I decided to include myself in the pictures, with them.

From The two headed horse © Mariela Sancari

f: Can you expand on that? Why exactly did you make the decision to include yourself?

MS: I made the decision of including myself in the pictures because I needed to have a "real" experience with them. I understood their indifference as the confrontation with the real, as oppose to my idealization. It was a clash, a collision against the structure of what I thought and it paralyzed me. I had to stop, rethink it and approach it from the truthfulness of my interaction with them.

My initial proposal was to create a typology of portraits of men, which as the project evolved seemed a little too detached. It was a thought through decision to expand the typology and include self-portraits created from exploring specific actions that included these men.

From The two headed horse © Mariela Sancari

f: How do these projects overlap and interact? Are they part of one spectrum or idea, united in autobiography and in collaborative portraiture? Or are they very separate for you? How does The two headed horse and the experience of making it first inform Moisés, the project you created second, if at all?

MS: I consider them completely united and autobiographical. I think both addresses the same issues in different forms and believe that Moisés was, in a way, the result of The two headed horse in the sense of the insistence and necessity of trying to understand and finding other ways/approaches to do it.

f: Talk us through your post-production process. How do you make your selections from the various images from a shoot? What criteria do you use?

MS: While shooting in Buenos Aires I decided to set some simple rules to work: I would photograph all men in the same positions, with the same background, each of them with their own clothes and also with my father's wool jacket, first looking at the camera, then turning, etc. So, I would take front, profile, back, 3/4 portraits of all of them and then, after doing this and breaking the ice a little, I would let my intuition decide which other posture or gesture I would ask each one of them to do for the camera. As I mentioned earlier, through the process I also decided to include myself in the pictures and that triggered other images, different from the ones I started with.

Then, once I got into editing, I did what many portrait photographers do: look for the portraits that stood out from the rest because of some intangible quality. I work with diptychs and triptychs a lot because I feel, many times, that one image is not enough to say what I need to say. Also because I think it is a way to insist and emphasize on an idea and the repetition of an image (or similar ones) is an interesting visual tool to do it.

From The two headed horse © Mariela Sancari

f: And talk with us about how you edit and sequence the selections into a body of images that form a unified project. Is it a virtual process on the computer? Do you print out and work with the images?

MS: For this project, just like with The two headed horse, Ana Casas Broda helped me do the editing. I would print all the images (4x size), scatter them on the table and discuss, arrange and move them for hours (days and months in my head). After having the final set of images, I enjoy making small changes in the sequence  whenever I present them in portfolio reviews and festivals. I think it is a very interesting exercise for the artist to experiment with their own images and seeing how it affects (if it does) the narrative. In my website, for instance, I included some images from my journal (the one I kept while working in Buenos Aires) and also the poster I pasted in my neighborhood looking for these men to photograph.

I am planning my next solo show, it will be the first time I will exhibit the Moisés series and I am very excited thinking and exploring different ways of showing it in the gallery space (at least new for me considering my previous experiences exhibiting my work).

From The two headed horse © Mariela Sancari

f: You've been very successful getting this work into festivals and reviews, and have recently won the PHotoEspaña Descubrimientos Pize, 2014 and were selected in the XI Bienal Monterrey FEMSA and XVI Bienal de Fototgrafía del Centro de la Imagen 2014. What is it about the work the people are responding to?

Regarding the recognition the Moisés series has been achieving lately, I would like to think it is because, somehow, it goes deeper into the very same subjects I am interested in and care about in my work. Many of the reviewers and curators who saw the work, an specially the ones who know The two headed horse very well from previous meetings, mentioned that they find Moisés to be more mature and abstract but still haunting. I can share a quotation from Greg Hobson, one of the juries from Descubrimientos PHotoEspaña Prize: "The photographs unfolded around their central subject in an unsentimental yet deeply emotional form of storytelling that was consistently involving and intriguing."

From The two headed horse © Mariela Sancari