Choose your own adventure / Florencia Ortolani

Every time that Hugo Vázquez leaves Lima and goes back within the province to visit his family, he is excited by the thought of being reunited with the collections of photo albums that his mother has kept over the years. It was her and her passion for photography that launched him into the world of photographic cameras.

There’s a lot to discover in each visit to his home town, to his home, to that place where he was born and grew up. Imagine the stories and relationships, the moods and romances. He manages to break away from the viewpoint of certain social parameters that guide our interpretation and it would seems that everything is possible in face of strange portraits or photographs from other times.

In the majority of Vázquez’s pieces, we can make out an effort to interrogate the viewer about what they see to the detriment of seeing his work as a means to reveal reality. Since his rst series of photographs, Sociedad, the artist has used a lter between his eye the object that blurs the object while also giving it meaning. “Sociedad came about as part of a work routine that was seen more as an experiment than a body of work on display. When I arrived to Lima, I took pictures day after day, for nearly a three-year period, of the people who went to see the ocean on the Mira ores pier,” explains the artist.

“I began to record those anonymous subjects through a visual structure that wasn’t only gradually intervened by the people, but rather the passage of time. Lima is a gray city that tends to be very hostile at the beginning. Photography is an asset that helped me getting back to that place and nd myself,” comments Vázquez regarding the idea behind the lter, which is a very important resource for his work.

“At rst, I used it as if it were my own viewpoint, and over time the idea of the lter changed as my way of looking also changed. Today, despite not using a filter, I always display something in front of the lens that separates me from my objective. What is constant in my photographic work is a diffused viewpoint in general,” he comments.

The Portrait

Since its beginnings, which date back to the 5th century B.C., portraiture has played different roles, just as it did ten centuries later, upon being the tool that immortalized bourgeois images to show off the upper social classes as the aristocracy. Its various histories, forms and roles have unarguably made it into a style within the visual arts and, as such, it represents a certain horizon of expectations, a consensus between the artist and the viewer.

Vásquez’s photography misplaces and puts tension on the idea of style until it practically tears it apart. His portraits doesn’t imitate, document, or seek to reveal something. From far away, the person, as the object of his interests, is merely an excuse which allows the viewer to undo the effects of the lters; lters placed, procured or merely used there by the artist. “The human gure comes and goes in my work. At rst, it played a very important role since it addressed the issue of identity when it was a cause of con ict for me. Today, I still think the subject is the key, but I am interested in it on a different point of view. I seek to interact with it through the drive of its actions,” states the artist.

“Beyond that, there is something that never change in my work, and that is the constant search linked to contemplation or perhaps a state of uncertainty. Darkness and achromatic are unconsciously present. And, for one reason or another, my series always move away from color,” says Vázquez. The passage of time is understood as the best lter to criticize and judge us. That which blurs edges and neutralizes colors. And, at the same time, it paradoxically allows us to appease our feelings and remove the veil of biasness. In face of Vázquez’s photographs, the viewer can de nitely choose their own adventure.

Fog Project

The fog is the suspension of microscopic drops of water in the air that noticeably reduces visibility. It is no surprise that in his new project, the artist uses this atmospheric phenomenon to keep digging deeper and also open new paths of exploration. “With this series, I work with the moment in which the fog invades and it doesn’t allows you to see further. It is part of the environment, it is pointless to ght against nature, the best option is to sit and wait for the inevitable. It is hard to know what is going on around you, what happened before and what will happen next. I have been carrying out my work for almost three years in places where I am surrounded by fog. Overwhelmed, I start to work according to how I feel. I record the event and try out exercises. I use video, take notes, and I create objects and installations in a specific space. My work goes beyond photography; beyond certain stylistic elements that are common in my work, experimentation and disruptive development are mainly carried out in the exploration of new mediums. And even though photography is the foundation, I feel that my work increasingly requires me to express it in new languages,” explains the photographer.

According to Hugo Vázquez, the Niebla series has been underway for some time now and it has been extremely hard to nish. He confesses that, “sometimes I need to isolate myself or I have a lot of uncertainty. These are moods that make me very anxious and that make me want to create. It is very satisfying when your work has the need to be used, the need to crash like a wave.” Those are the emotions that have made this work into a series with many images, a series that will soon be exhibited, but that hasn’t found the correct ending yet.

Among lters, faces and trips, Hugo Vázquez takes up the ancient art of portraiture to show us the human being, who is interceded, overwhelmed and light. His work is open to interpretation from the viewer, but it requires time, willingness and a rm grasp on the multiple feelings that inspire the artist to create.