­Friday 10th August 2001



In Salta,

the camera writes new memories of provincial life


Te northern city present in Buenos Aires through photography and films. Florencia Blanco exhibits photographs of her hometown at the San Martín theatre. Lucrecia Martel, Rodrigo Moscoso and Martín Mainoli, filmmakers, also come back home.

For the last couple of years, Salta frequently turns up in the universe of images that surrounds us. Not as natural landscape, or folklore; more like urban and colloquial, in subtle or evident decadence, seen through its social codes, ways of saying, of understanding, of building a common way of being.

The last images have come to us through the films; but now photography adds its share, especially by the hand of the talented Florencia Blanco. She, like the other artists, Lucrecia Martel, Rodrigo Moscoso or Martín Mainoli, spent her adolescence in the capital city of the province, came to Buenos Aires to study, and with the distance that a new place of residence gives, she has now recovered her origin by means of the camera.

The four met a long time ago, at Buenos Aires film schools, and some of them have worked together. Florencia - who studied Image and Sound at FADU - did the casting of La ciénaga (The swamp), the film directed by Martel, did the research of locations for La niña santa (The holy girl), the next movie of her friend and colleague, and will be the camerawoman and director of photography of the film.

At present, more than thirty pictures of hers are exhibited at the Photo Gallery of the San Martín Theatre. This collection reveals the peculiar look of the artist, which Martel, sharply, defines as "a stray girl watching something she should not".

It is the poking around of a middle class girl, blue eyed, very white skinned in a foreign but close world, in which many, say “hello” (in English) when they greet her. It is the world of the poor changos who swim in the river, not in the swimming pools of the country estates in San Lorenzo, or who organize ostentatious weddings in military uniforms and very expensive borrowed car.

It is the world of the houses of the old aristocracy soon to die, either because they are waiting for the final blow, or because their owners are no longer there to take care of them. It is also the world of men who, regardless of their age, pump their muscles to the camera when you want to take their picture, because that is almost the only way to pose, in northern language.

"There are many prejudices there. Such as being fair haired, being a man, strong, rich: people see through one of these masks. It is like a terror regime, in which you do as father says, the boss says, o the priest says", states Blanco.

Her cutting, however, does not stress criticism, rather, it is an observation somehow amazed and in a way lively, of these phenomena. Or, as she prefers to say, "to speak of the state of affairs", characteristic that she shares, except for some details, with her fellow film makers who are from the same area.

"The main theme is the way the salteños (people from Salta province) build their relationships, their ways of dwelling, the different aspects of their lives, everything in a rather witty way", she sums up. That is why in the photos, what prevails is the rejoicing of imagination. This imagination is in fact lined with kitsch, because of the imitation of models of elegance that survive only in small social circles in extinction.

Although she has lived in Buenos Aires since 1989, last year Blanco settled for approximately nine months in Salta to do a good deal of this work. "When I am there, I cannot detach myself from what goes on. The city forces me to face certain things", she says.

That look from everyday life can be noticed, besides, in the moment when Blanco defines the shot. She usually uses a tripod, and places it level with her eyes, so as to record on the photo the angle of register she has in daily life. She does not usually use the flash indoors; so, not even this small device interferes with the picking up of the details in the scene.

Bearing witness of the time gone by is, definitely, the other axis around which these images revolve. Something like the change from original purity to a provocative impurity that today covers everything, and promotes nostalgia. The present, according to Blanco, is governed by the ways in which we interpret the past; some of these ways have consolidated through time, and others are renewed without parody but, to foreign eyes, they look like a naïve though effective ridicule.

"In Salta, people have opportunities and they do not take them", concludes Blanco, but instead of emphasis, what can be seen in her is a natural tendency to see without fear.

Santiago García Navarro