I’ve always believed that photography was one of the most relatable and accessible art forms — a kind of self-expression that anyone can appreciate. After all, a photograph can be abstract, but in the end it is something real – something that is or was physically there, and there is a chance you have seen that object or person before, but from a different perspective. Art, in general, is wonderful because you don’t have to know what it means to the artist for it to mean something for you – but photographs capture real and tangible things while also maintaining that quality of being interpretable in thousands of ways.
The Buenos Aires Photo exhibit at the Palais de Glace is photography for all kinds of art-lovers, both the Art History majors and the Gretchens of the world. I accidentally wandered into this exhibit on Tuesday night with my boyfriend, thinking it was open, but they were actually inaugurating it Wednesday night and the curators were putting the finishing touches on their respective corners and galleries. Nobody said anything when we walked in, and everyone was too busy setting up his or her own work to care who we were. We felt special though. Like we had gotten a sneak peak at something, and I could tell it was really going to be great.
We bonded with one of the artists (alright, ¨bonded¨ is a strong word, but it was a nice conversation), Aldo Sessa, and left feeling like we had made a new friend. It was a good night. We went back Thursday night to see the finished product, and great it was. There are so many photographs, so many artists, so many genres of photography, and they are almost all the kinds of photographs that cause your jaw to drop. It is almost wrong to mention individual artists by name, seeing that there are so many being exhibited and almost all of them have something worth mentioning.
There are sweeping, gorgeous Argentinean landscapes like those of Eliseo Miciu, Diego Ortiz Mugica and Marcos Furer, whose styles are almost an homage to Ansel Adams (and feature a lot of lonely trees), but who gets tired of Ansel Adams?
- Palermo Simple, Diego Ortiz Mugica
Aldo Sessa, a well-known porteño and our ¨new friend¨ who has photographed Buenos Aires since the late 50s, was there in his corner of the palais on Tuesday night, answering my annoying questions and recalling his early photojournalist years working for La Nacion, photographing the days when people actually went swimming in the Riochuelo river. The Riachuelo is now the last place you would want to take a dip, but some classic scenes from the city show us that in some ways, little has changed.
- La Boca, Aldo Sessa
He also astutely pointed out that his oldest photographs were, according to your Art History textbook, are actually his most modern. This photograph from 1959 is a beautiful example of this.
There are simpler, more abstract pieces, like Alonso Salazar´s untitled piece that forms a part of a series on circus tents.
The thing about these simple, abstract pieces is that they may be simple, but I find something amazing about the fact that the artist could turn something so simple into something so aesthetically pleasing, or in this case, haunting. As someone who has put a fair amount of effort into taking good pictures, I can say that those simpler photographs are the most impressive to me, because of how much work goes into creating that haunting, dramatic effect through the many variables that exist not only within the camera but in the light, the wind, the positioning of the subject. So many little decisions are made when one takes a picture, and one of those little decisions can change everything.
Perhaps that is what I love about photography – and yes, I am going to keep using the word simple as if it were a good thing – the simple photographs, as opposed to a simple painting, really take some work if they are to be appreciated. Nobody will appreciate a photograph of a black dot on a sidewalk unless there is something really beautiful about the light, the composition, something aside from the black dot, because black dots are not inherently beautiful. I suppose circus tents are beautiful in a way, but have you ever looked at one this way before? And there’s something about somebody that can see something where others don’t, and capture that for everyone else to appreciate, forever.
I’m not implying that years and years of torturous studying and perfection of craft are necessary to please art lovers like me. A crowd favorite, Ph15, is exhibiting in La Nacion’s section, and their photographs highlight the fact that artistic talent comes from something more than professional formation. These children have basically no formation, yet they are exhibiting in the same space as Cartier Bresson (yes, his work is featured as well). This is more than a social statement – this is art that people are buying because it is beautiful, and I love that the Palais de Glace recognizes that both Bresson and a kid from the villa are equally worthy.
At this exhibit, you will see the photographic tool being implemented in almost every way imaginable – as social commentary, a bit of eye candy, or to convey an emotion or emphasize the beauty of a particular architectural form, human expression, or texture. You will see a passing moment made beautiful by a flickering ray of light and perfectly posed compositions whose balance pleases the part of your brain that looks for aesthetic symmetry and harmony in everything it sees. This exhibit is like a giant database that displays the best ways to use a camera, and I wouldn´t miss it.