The Wayúu, an indigenous community in the La Guajira Desert peninsula between Colombia and Venezuela. They are organized in matrilineal clans, making the Wayuu women not only the center of the family but cultural leaders as well.
Destiny at her home on an afternoon. Her aunt at the sewing machine. Destiny checks her phone. One look. On look directed to a portrait on the table. It is a portrait that has been always there, it is part of the routine. She looks at the portrait briefly and something inside her gets open, something breaks: it is her, her sister, and her family.
In destiny’s eyes there is something we can only imagine: her sister’s presence, the constant absence.
I imagine one day in the past. Maybe a call on an afternoon just like this one? Maybe somebody knock at the door? The bad news, the violence that will forever mark her, the constant pain despite of time, just with one look or a smell or a song.
What do you want to convey? I asked
I don’t know. She said.
Text by Luis Henao.
Part of a work in progress about domestic violence. 2017
This day, the Women's March, now feels so long ago, with everything that has been going on in just in one week. Women's rights, the Dakota pipelines, The wall, media attacks, The Muslim ban. So many infuriating and heartbreaking news. It is just too much it is overwhelming. I also think of all the people protesting in the airports and it is amazing, pure admiration!. Then I think of the Women's March and I think of all the marches and protests that I have been in my life, people screaming, singing together, joining hands and it is very powerful. when you protest for what you believe in, something occurs on the outside as a movement, and something very deeply also occurs on the inside of a person, it changes you. Have we changed government policies? not always, but at least we have not chosen the side of the oppressor.
Here are some images from the installation of Letters from my Exile at Staten Island Arts.
Letters from my Exile is an art project that uses portraits and letters to talk about forced family separation, the concept of distance and absences present on the immigrant experience.
People migrate for memory needs, in search for better lives and opportunities, to provide to their families, yet this discussion comes many times with the sacrifice of separation. When a person becomes undocumented, he or she is not allowed to leave or re enter the country, having to stay separated for an indefinite amount of time.
I am interested in exploring the stories of migrations through personal letters written to family members, as a testimony of the distance and absences and how to maintain strong relationships.
The project is supported by a grant from Staten Island Arts and in collaboration with Make the Road NY.
Some portraits that I took while working at Make The Road NY on a project denouncing discrimination against the LGBTQ latin community in New York. 2014
The daily offerings to God in Bali are an integral part of balinese spiritual life and culture. As a visitor to the island I was immediately drawn visually to the arrangements of flowers, incense, rice on banana leaves that are placed everywhere, in home entrances, on temples, God statues, but also on the beach and in the middle of the street. The offerings are left alone and untouched, therefore to be vanish by natural means.
When I visited Pura Petitenget, a Hindu Temple in Denpasar, I witnessed a ceremony of blessings and offerings. I am not particularly religious myself, but it is hard not to connect on a spiritual way to the act. The time and craft making spent making this blessing is so beautiful and one can't help, but feel a sort of serenity and peace inside.
Here are some of the photos:
As about Hindu beliefs on Bali, I read on streetdirectory.com that the offerings are an act of giving back what has ben given to you by the Gods.
"In reality, Balinese Hinduism is strongly influenced by animism and naturalism, where the power of spirits houses in all objects and elements of life. All elements of nature are manifestations of the supreme spirit, in the same way that sun, moon and stars are all different manifestations of planets.
Good spirits are believed to reside in the mountains, whereas the seas are home to demons and ogres. Then there are the spirits of the deceased. Balinese believe in reincarnation of the spirit, the partition of the spirit from the body is a process that is not an end in itself, but merely a continuation of cycles. All basic principles in Balinese Hinduism revolve around obtaining balance and harmony between the different elements in life and afterlife, the dasar asasi. The key to balance in life is obtained through a harmonious relationship between the spirits other human beings, and the nature that surrounds us"
Many women dream since they are little girls about their wedding day. They dream about the white long dresses and the most important day of their lives. On September 26th many women woke up and dressed up with white wedding dresses. Only, the were not going to get married, but they were going to march against domestic violence.
The Bride's March, as it is known, started on 2001, to remember Gladys Ricart, a woman that was murdered on September 26th, 1999 by her former boyfriend the day of her wedding. It was created to denounce all victims of domestic violence. This years was its fifteenth anniversary.
Women that participate in the Bride's March wear white wedding dresses and men wear black as a symbol of mourning.
Since January I have been doing a graduate certificate program on Photo-Narratives and New Media at Fundación Pedro Meyer in Mexico. This week was my final project presentation and I was super excited to show the multimedia video " Nosotros Somos Aves" - "We Are Birds".
Here are some pictures from the presentation.
Last weekend was a magical weekend at Umbrella House, Thanks to everyone that came and that was interested in learning about the Wayúu community and their way of feeling the world. And thank you so much for those of you who wanted to buy prints!! you guys are beautiful!
Today in Colombia, there are more than 65 languages that are spoken besides spanish. It is not only a language, but an ancestral knowledge and it is our heritage to respect it, and give it the place that it deserves and the dignity.
Lapü removes the soul from the person who dies, in a way I feel that if we don't help to preserve this knowledge, we will be removing part of our souls as well.
Thanks for coming to Umbrella and showing your love!!
On February 2015, I visited La Tuna, an indigenous community in Manaure, La Guajira, at the northern part of Colombia. The Wayuu people have a strong bond to their land, which they inherited from family clans. I stayed with a family of strong women; they have a very important role because, as a matrilineal society, they are the ones in charge of preserving the Wayuu culture.
Wayuu women, as givers of life, not only assure the continuity of their lineage but also the permanence of Wayuu existence. They are in charge of teaching and transmitting the spiritual and traditional aspects of the Wayuu life and culture. It is believed that Wayuu women have a special connection with the spirits and that they have the power to interpret the dreams for future predictions.
Outtakes from the project Mi Madre Sustituta
I started this project as a mere interest in portraiture. As an exercise I told myself I would go to the street, set up a white background and ask people if they wanted to be photographed, sort of Avedon style. There is something very challenging, intriguing and beautiful about photographing people, that we call “strangers”, in the street, it forces you to really look at people that passes by, to wonder about who they are, their stories.
I decided to go to Elmhurst/ Jackson Heights, commonly known as a Latin neighborhood, which I feel very connected to, and I love. Yet, I can't say I know it well. I wonder what identify us, what makes this community, and how this neighborhood has been represented.
I was nervous at first and as I approached people I was very intrigue by their reactions as I wonder about the social aspects of photographing people. What are you going to use this for? Where is this going to appear? I think it is great that people ask about the uses of the images and question the act of photographing, people in history have been misrepresented in the media many times and it is important to become conscious of it. I ask myself why some people don't want to be represented? The act of photographing can sometimes be very violent, always looking what to take, don’t giving anything back. Many communities are look upon a term I hate “the other”, so who is looking?
I wonder about how the social implications of photography and how its relation with subjects has changed, having a portrait taken used to be a symbol of status, and I guess is some aspect it still is, as it gives a space for recognition, for saying “here I am, this is what I have to say” but people don’t want to be seen as poor, exotic, strange, miserable and so on…
A lot of people distrust photography, and I did not want to be photographed, and I totally understand the reasons. Yet a lot of people did accept to having their portrait taken, they became interested by the act, they stopped their walk and we started a conversation beyond photography and we shared a moment, which is something I once believed photography could do.
I hope to continue doing this project. These are some of the portraits taken so far.
As many Latin American cities, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, is a place of aggressive social contrasts. The exclusive neighborhood of Vitoria is home of modern residential buildings and hotels with majestic views of the bay; it has the most expensive real estate in the city with many luxury stores and yacht clubs. Right in the middle of it all, there is a small low income community: Vila Brandão. Without any legal status since its foundation in the 1940s, the residents of Vila Brandão carry on with a very different way of life than that of its neighbors. Many times, they have faced threats of eviction; yet, they have constantly resisted and have a vibrant community. In spite of all the economic and social setbacks, they actively put in motion many initiatives to improve the quality of life of the underprivileged sectors of Salvador’s society. Vila Brandão stands as a symbol of resistance and it’s an example of how to empower individuals and communities.
I had the opportunity of staying at Vila Brandão for two weeks during the summer of 2014. I was amazed by the beautiful view of the bay, but even more by the welcoming attitude of the people. I had the chance to play “futebol” with the small kids, and to share some of their struggles and accomplishments. People was willing to open their doors and to share what they have, and that’s what makes Vila Brandão, with its humble houses, strong enough to resist the weight of the opulent skyscrapers.
Happy to share my work through the Social Documentary Network platform, it is a great space for documentary photographers and photojournalists.
To see more of the work go to http://socialdocumentary.net/exhibit.php?exhibit_id=2861
During the summer I had a beautiful experience of teaching a couple of experimental photography workshops in New York City. I love seeing people's faces when they discover the magic of photography. Our generation is a consumer of images and yet sometimes we become numb and midless to the act of creating images and we forget about the time and processes people used to do just to be able to record one image. I think about Ann Atkins, she was a botanist that used the cyanotype process to create photographs of plants in 1843. today, we can still use the same cyanotype process of drawing with the sun light.
Here are some of the pictures from the workshops where I taught the cyanotype process and polaroid lift transfer techniques at Make the Road NY in collaboration with the Youth Power Project and at Centro Cultural Barco de Papel in Queens, NY.