Ezeiza airport, Buenos Aires –
I included my trip back to Argentina after a 33 – year absence in this blog on photography, because I wanted a space to process how photography helps us understand and know our experiences.
La Bodega del Medio is the legendary bar/restaurant in La Havana once frequented by Ernest Hemingway that has it’s walls completely covered by the signatures of patrons.
I feel a little like this bar, halfway in between two corners – in the middle of the block –on the continuum between two destinations. I’m not from Argentina, but much of who I am today was shaped here – as an expatriate… integrated, but always with the option of leaving. And I’m not from the U.S. either; I’m missing formative experiences that shaped my peers, because I wasn’t around to have them; I play futbol, not football…there wasn’t a homecoming dance or a shopping mall to go to… I can connect with either culture, but I don’t feel complete in either.
I am not an exception, really. I’m part of a community of global migrants, all my high school friends included, who live in between cultures and are each individually a montage of values, geographies, and cultural identities. I was able to go to La Habana and organize that trip for students exactly because of my experience growing up in Argentina. We are a group of people whose multi-cultural experience gives us the skills to adapt and thrive in other places and cultures.
During this trip I made photographs of the geographical and cultural landscape that I encountered – people, nature, urban life, events, and icons.
It is hard to get past the surface of things, because the camera just seems drawn to represent the active narrative. You have to let the narrative of the event wash past you like a wave reaching the shore and look for the treasure in that brief moment before the next wave rolls in. You have to be of the moment, but not in the moment in order to glimpse and capture another reality.
Being in the role of a photographer helped me to step back and observe the circumstances; editing the images helped me to analyze my experience.
When I took the photograph of the doorway, the doorman asked me why I was photographing it. I told him it was interesting. He shrugged, he didn’t understand, because this was the entryway he secured everyday. He saw the shiny brass and floors he kept polished…and I saw that…and the adjacent wall of graffiti. I must have walked by this place a dozen times, but I didn’t “see” it until the last day.
This image is my analogy for this country: stately, historic, elegant…with the edgy chaos of democracy, the gap between the elite and the poor, the residue of violent military repression, a complicated history….but it also feels like home. This image is also about who I am – occupying the space of two worlds and trying to make sense of their differences and similarities. It was the last photograph I took in Buenos Aires.