The Aesthetics of Abandonment

How did I meet Santiago? A friend in common, the sculptor Nana de la Fuente, once told me that she met a photographer, and that if I saw his works I would really like them. Wanting to meet the photographer, one day he visited me in my studio and we quickly became good friends. He showed me his work and I found the same Lima that I work with, the “peripheral Lima” as Santiago aptly calls it. I liked that, because indeed we have and we share the pleasure of discovering something tragic in that peripheral Lima, because we do not shy away from facing Lima, that Lima that unfortunately is a forsaken city, left to itself, and which by some miracle not much of the Old city is ruined, and still remains. Coincidentally, we both work in many of those old neighborhoods, Santiago with his urban-marginal images, and I the same, but for me Lima is the scenery where things happen…

One night I went out with Santiago and his assistants, who allow him to take a picture. Yes, a shot that can last five minutes, not one less, with the only dim light of an old lamppost. There we have a coincidence, the first approach to that “peripheral Lima” that unites us. Santiago also calls it “scenario”; another interesting coincidence, to know another yet similar way of looking.

As is the case with my painting, in Santiago’s photography the chromatic is immensely important. The result is, in many cases, a hallucinated, dreamlike image. It is there, but with the use of colors it is no longer just a photo. In the back of that eye lies a dormant painter. For years I have photographed the city, of course, these are the pictures a painter takes like sketches.

Santiago, being a professional, takes well thought and well framed photographs, something almost perfect. I believe that is the attitude of our photographer when facing the city. My work is the same, but in a painterly technique… that’s the big difference between the two. We both work color in fevered hues, each with his personal vision, and both with the techniques of our respective trades. We are both admirers of chiaroscuro.

Santiago had the great American photographer Stephen Shore as professor and thesis adviser, with whom he made a trip to Cuzco and Nazca. Just imagine it. His tool—his brush—a classic analog machine, a Hasselblad with which he shows us those spaces that his trained eye discovers; surely he thinks, as I do, that “technique is at the service of the spirit.” He attended advanced photography studies such as his Master in Fine Arts at the prestigious School of Visual Arts in New York, as well as at the University of Lima and what was once the Gaudí Institute.

These few words express my admiration for the person and for the great quality of Santiago’s photo-pictorial images. Thanks, also for entering the hells of the city together.

I have a beautiful photo of his of a street in Barrios Altos, with a Biblical image in the foreground and that whitish and pale light, in chiaroscuro, which I find fascinating to observe.

Enrique Polanco
Barranco, May 12, 2017

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