Portfolio: Guillermo Srodek-Hart, Short Stories III

Guillermo Srodek-Hart has a show at the Dina Mitrani Gallery in Miami from February 9 to March 30 called "Short Stories." The exhibition includes images taken during the artist's travels to photograph interiors in remote rural towns outside of Buenos Aires. These interiors - frequently crowded with highly organized objects - tell as much about the lives lived there as about the spaces themselves. Accompanying the photographs in the show are texts that further explore the lives of the people that the artist encounters in these isolated towns.

This is the third of three posts in which we will present a selection of these images and their complete accompanying texts. The first two posts can be found here and here.

Srodek-Hart (b. 1977) studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University, Boston, and received his MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. He was awarded the Klemm Prize in 2005 and the Petrobrás Award 2006, both in Argentina. In 2008, he was among the 30 artists chosen to be part of the book Contemporary Argentine Art, Artista X Artista. His work is included in the North Dakota Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts in Japan.

© Zorro, courtesy of the artist and Dina Mitrani Gallery

The instant a rodeo horse is released from the post, he feels the whip of the crop punish his body as his ribs get punctured by the spurs. Blinded by light and terrified by the howls of the crowds, the animal becomes pure instinct. He must, at all costs, rid himself from the man on his back.

Pasarotti, the Zorro’s keeper, explained: ‘Animals don’t murder people. That is something we do to each other. I never liked it when Zorro got called ‘The Murderous Horse’. What happened that evening was that on the second jump the rider lost his reigns and was left with nothing to hold on to except his legs arched around the animal. At that point he should have jumped, but for some reason his boots got stuck in the stirrups. In one buck, the rider’s body was thrown forward right as the horse’s head came back. He landed on Zorro’s nape and his chest got crushed. There is a photo on the wall that captured that instant. It burst right there.’ (Points to the small photo that hangs above a bronze plate on the wall).

‘People were saying that he had killed the rider by repeatedly kicking him, but that’s not true. I talked to the guy who did the autopsy and he confirmed that the cause of death came from a broken thorax. It was the first blow that did it. The gaucho was dead while on the horse, and because his boots got stuck, the animal went one way and the rider went the other, and that’s when he got kicked all over. I think his leg got fractured too, but he was already dead by then.

© Tala General Store, courtesy of the artist and Dina Mitrani Gallery
Tala General Store

I remember my mentor from college explaining why he did not photograph people. He said he felt like an undertaker, turning humans into zombies each time he tried to shoot one. It didn’t matter whom he pointed his lens at; the result always resembled something close to a mortuary portrait. As he said this, he would make an ass of himself, rolling his eyes backwards and half-opening his mouth looking like a cadaver. Thus he explained why in his long photographic practice people would barely appear in the compositions.

I think about being an undertaker. The places I photograph look alive in the print, but in reality, they have been sentenced to death. Death by progress, by cultural changes, by the economies.

Many of the locations I have gone back to, years later, have been demolished, closed, or their owners passed away. Others are still there, looking more decrepit.

Leaving people out of the compositions does not make me less of an undertaker. I am like the reaper, walking into these old stores and silently presaging their death to come as I take their photo.