7 Jul 2017

40. Photos in El Mentidero

A few weeks ago I was surprised to see an exhibition of photographs in the square (El Mentidero) of El Pinar. Surprised because it was the last place I would expect to find an exhibition. More surprised by the superb quality of the photos. And even more surprised than that by the subject matter. Portraits of the villagers.

These were not pictures of quaint old ladies in weeds, nor of ephemeral beauties in clouds of gossamer before a spectacular sunset, or mustachioed dancers in funny hats. No, these were not the official inhabitants of the virtual Hierro promoted by the authorities. These were real people. People I know. Just their portraits against a black background. No trappings. Their personalities laid bare in the best tradition of western portraiture:  resignation and sadness in the eyes of a Renaissance figure; the disbelieving anger of Huxley’s redskin in Brave New World; the tenderness and uncertainty of a woman who has seen it all; the acceptance of injustice; a young boy’s defiance … It’s all there, the hardship and misery, but, above all, the dignity of the individuals.
The photgraphs shown here are snaps
of the originals taken in the square by
a visitor.

Perhaps I read too much into what I see but I hope that soon the photographer, Alexis W., shows us another, complementary vision of his villagers: their generosity, humour, sense of family, hope, tolerance …

His second collection of photographs exhibited in El Mentidero, also entitled NOSOTROS (“we” or, if we divide the word, “us and the others”), is superficially similar but fundamentally different in my opinion. These, too, are delicate psychological portraits, this time of ‘alternative’ couples, but they imply the complicity of the photographer while in the earlier exhibition he was apparently only the vehicle between his subjects and us, and also, especially given the timing of the show, they suggest vindication.

The photographer has an internet site well worth visiting:

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