Weekend in Masachapa and “The politics of photographic aesthetics…”

Shortly after arriving I spent the weekend in Masachapa, a beach town about an hour away from the city. We left Friday night and throughout the bumpy and poorly lit ride to the beach my family told me about a finca we passed by on the road that was haunted. Each encounter of those who had gone in to try and live there after the owner disappeared was scarier than the previous one. I had goosebumps as they eerily told me a story about the brother who took over the finca. Supposedly once the original owner disappeared the brother was going to kill a cow one day to eat. Just as he was about to butcher it the cow spoke and said “hermano soy yo, no me mates” (brother it’s me don’t kill me). I was spooked once we got to our destination. I struggled to fall asleep in the cold air conditioned room but when I woke up I saw all of the beauty that was hidden in the darkness the night before.

The sun shone perfectly on the coconut trees and reflected the waves of the beach in the distance. As I drank my cafe con leche for breakfast I listened to the local town gossip that my grandma was catching up on. After breakfast and some swimming in the pool we went into the town to buy some fish. Marisqueria Jasmina was run by none other than Jasmina a woman who proudly said she had lifted herself into her position from her own merit after struggling through poverty when she became pregnant with her first child at 13 years old. She shared her narrative with no reservations and prompted me to take pictures. I learned the struggles of her oldest daughter as she talked openly about them with my grandma. Taking pictures I thought about my position behind the lens and although I asked the individuals who were working if I could take pictures of them I felt invasive and exploitative after each photograph. I worried about objectifying and generalizing the poor. All the while my family told me not to be shy “Toma foto! Toma foto para que vea la gente como se trabaja aca!” (take pictures so that they see how hard people work here). In opposition to Jasmina whose life story I knew the boys who worked gutting fish did not even share their names. I watched as they worked and wondered their narratives. In retrospect asking the questions that were left unanswered would have worked in demystifying their experience and given them voices of their own; somewhat leveling the hierarchy that exists between the photographer and the subject being photographed. The weekend taught me to take pictures that not only prompt the viewer to question what’s beyond the borders of the image but also to see the individual in the photograph as a dynamic participant in the production of what the image implies. Image

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