Classroom: Aura Lambertinez

© Aura Lambertinez, image 1

fototazo began a mentorship program in 2012, matching young Colombian photographers with mentors from across the spectrum of the photographic world - gallery owners, bloggers, academics, art directors and working photographers. The goal is to provide the young photographers with commentary and advice on their work from professionals in the field and to expand their network and knowledge of resources beyond Colombia.

The program started behind the scenes, but in an effort to create a singular conversation, share with readers work being made by the photographers, and under the belief that the advice, insight, and ways of talking about images offered by the mentors will be useful and interesting to other photographers, we are experimenting with making the process a public one.

We will be featuring a selection of images from a photographer involved in the program and comments from mentors approximately once a month. 

This post features the work of Aura Lambertinez - who was our 11th microgrant recipient - and comments from her two assigned mentors, Gwen Lafage and Charles Guice, as well as additional comments from Dawn Roe.

The image numbers in the text correspond to those below the images in the caption here.

© Aura Lambertinez, image 2

Aura sent this note to her mentors about the work.

Dear mentors:

My name is Aura Duque Lambertinez. I'm studying a degree in the visual arts at the University of Antioquia. I'm 22 and I live in Medellin, Colombia. Some time ago I worked a bit on a project on vanity. It spoke of the ephemeral and the number of gadgets that humans have invented in order to try to satisfy the emptinesses we sometimes feel imposed by a consumer society. The work emphasized the grotesque that you can become.

Now I'm starting a new project, which speaks of absence. I decided to do it after the suicide of my cousin and best friend. I would like to receive suggestions and tips about how to talk about this situation through the pictures. I do not want to verge on the literal, and would love to achieve a more emotional and subtle poetry in each image.

I greatly appreciate your input and comments!

Regards, Aura Lambertinez

© Aura Lambertinez, image 3

Response from Charles Guice:

Hola Aura,

You’ve obviously chosen a very personal subject to base your new series on. I’m so sorry for your loss. Co-workers, friends and family members often face a wave of emotions in the aftermath of a suicide, including grief, shock, anger, guilt, fear, depression and relief, and you yourself may be feeling any or all of these. A number of your images do, in fact, seem to reflect many of these emotions.

Certainly, the second image (woman in bed) appears to capture someone feeling deep depression, while several of the others, including the third (Star of David necklace), fifth (ring), seventh (box on mattress) and ninth (diary), evoke feelings of memory and loss. Initially, these five are the most effective and generating these varied emotions.

© Aura Lambertinez, image 4

Personally, I found many of the other images to be less effective in conveying any real emotion, but they may have significance to you that I simply could not impart. I also initially thought that the emotional response should be even, e.g., all evoking similar feelings of memory and loss. But I then came to the conclusion they should not because, as a close friend of a suicide victim, your own emotions would probably swing back and forth over time.

With that in mind, I would suggest varying the emotional response even more than you have, assuming you have experienced these, as I would expect you to initially feel shock, then anger, depression and eventually loss. Photographing and selecting images that evoke and represent these emotions would make your work more powerful and possibly even cathartic.

I hope this is helpful, Aura. Having also lost a friend to suicide, my response to the work is probably more an emotional one than anything else, as the work forces me to reexamine my own feelings. I would encourage you to explore the full spectrum of your own feelings even further and try and represent them as best you can.

I’m looking forward to seeing where you take this. Please do keep in touch.



© Aura Lambertinez, image 5

© Aura Lambertinez, image 6

Response from Dawn Roe:

Hello Aura,

What a great start to your project! Many strong images in this group – I’ve got quite a few comments, and I hope they are clear. I’ll start with Image 1 and 9. Although they are somewhat distinct formally, they stand out to me as being the strongest in relation to the sensibility you are in search of – there is a strong poignancy to each of these images for somewhat different reasons, for me.

Number 1 is a striking image to start off with – and I was admittedly being influenced by the knowledge that the content of this work deals with the suicide of your best friend and cousin. There is a strong sensation that comes across in that image – very much a feeling of being on that rooftop under the somewhat sickly (yet beautiful) orange glow of the city lights, coupled with the wet concrete that is made more noticeable due to the reflection that sits within the small puddle. The light illuminating its outer portion further accentuates the ledge, and there is a palpable intensity that can be felt when one considers the empty space, just beyond.

Number 9 conjures many of these same feelings, but differently. The aesthetic is somewhat simpler, less romanticized perhaps. The book is clearly (but softly) lit and there is a sense of this interior space being dimly illuminated. The book is perfectly framed and contained very precisely within the edges of the frame, allowing just enough of the bare mattress to show through from below. Here too, there is a strong sense of loss, again being influenced by the knowledge of the content, but even without that, the inclusion of this book/journal within the image suggests its importance and/or relevance to someone’s life – and it is somewhat sadly left tossed open upon the bed.

© Aura Lambertinez, image 7

I also thought 5, 7 and 13 had potential, and feel perhaps that 6 and 14 play off of one another in an interesting manner in terms of the suggestion of a wide open, yet lonely world (which could relate back to the first image as well) – although the tilted horizon in image 14 doesn’t seem to make as much sense with your others images (at least not right now) although I can see how the movement and possible urgency suggested within that type of composition might be a strategy you could employ.

Number 5 and 7 are aesthetically and conceptually similar to number 9, and I think it was smart to break these up within your sequence, as the repetition of the mattress does become noticeable. I’m not sure though that they all need to be in the series, as there is the potential that the repeated gesture of placing an item of seeming significance on top of this (potentially loaded) surface, could lose its strength if repeated too forcefully or frequently. I will say that those do have the subtle poetic quality that you are seeking with the work, and I am drawn to them visually. There is also something compelling happening in number 13. The religious symbolism coupled with the fragmentary nature of the composition speaks to absence – the emptiness of the interior of the composition accentuates this, where the disembodied hand comes out toward the middle, and the small tree seems almost as if its trying to rise up to meet the gesture.

In terms of those that aren’t working as well for me – at this point, 2 and 3 seem a bit more overt than your others, and less nuanced. As well, formally, the extreme blues and pinks don’t seem to make as much sense with the subdued, subtle palette of the majority of the work. For this reason, 10 does not work as well for me at this time either. And, although there is potential in the final image, it doesn’t contain quite enough specificity, for me, at this point, and is almost just a bit too ambiguous. The same is true for number 12 – potential, but maybe revisit that one. Numbers 11, 8 and 4 are just not as strong formally for me, as your others. The compositions don’t seem as deliberate and they don’t, at this time, feel as much a part of the series as the others.

There is enormous potential here, and I hope I get a chance to see the work as it unfolds. Thanks for allowing me the chance to see this work in progress!

Dawn Roe

© Aura Lambertinez, image 8

© Aura Lambertinez, image 9

Hi Aura,

Thanks so much for sharing your work.

I'm glad to see the first photos of this new series and at first glance I have to say that I'm impressed with how your work has evolved and is becoming much stronger than what you presented last year.

The theme you have chosen for your new series is very difficult and it is very brave to address such a personal and emotional subject. Dealing with grief and trying (I guess) to find answers through photography is very honorable and I hope that it can help you.

© Aura Lambertinez, image 10

Of course absence is hard to photograph, as you're trying to represent something which is not there anymore. The way to achieve this could be done in different ways, for example through objects reminding you of your friend that belong to her, places representing memories, old notes, tickets, etc., old photographs. It could also be done through a more direct approach, including yourself (self-portraits) or member of your/her family. Both approaches can also be complementary.

One thing which is I think important to keep in mind for every project is the consistency of your project and how each photograph can add to the story you want to tell or the feeling you want to express. In your case I think that your desire to create 'emotional and subtle poetry' is more achieved by some photos than others. Think about the colors of the photos, the textures but also how the photos work together and how they follow each other. I think your color palette here can really change your project and give it a different tone.

© Aura Lambertinez, image 11

To be more specific, I believe that some of your photos work better than others for your objective. For example photos 8 and 11 don't really seem to work that well with the rest. Photo 14 is not as strong as photo 1 or even 10. Photo 4 and 13 work for me, I like what they're telling.

Photo 3 can be interesting but I'm wondering about the color which seems to stand out from the rest. I like photo 2 but I'm wondering if it fits with the rest or if maybe you should add more photos like this one: this is the only photo featuring someone (you?) and I think that you could explore that idea but add more photos like this. Photos 5, 7 and 9 seem very personal and they make lot of sense - I'd explore more photos like these to create this very personal feeling (there is something very sad about those photos) and emphasize the absence by presence of objects.

I did a quick search of projects dealing with similar situations, and here are a few projects which might be inspiring (even if the circumstances and contexts are quite different):


http://www.henrikmalmstrom.com : ON BORROWED TIME




I hope this helps!

I look forward to see how your project evolves.



© Aura Lambertinez, image 12

© Aura Lambertinez, image 13

© Aura Lambertinez, image 14

© Aura Lambertinez, image 15