The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
The author, Natalia Majluf, states that these works, created using the techniques of the “minutemen” photographers that work in provincial city plazas, could initially be thought as ethnographic or touristic photography. Nevertheless, when observing them closely, one discovers both the presence of a red tint that produces unusual diagonal framings, masks, and shadows, as well as the fact that one is viewing a negative (as opposed to a positive) image. This testifies to the homage being offered to the photographers of Cuzco, but also to Milagros de la Torre’s critical eye, who, in addition to using the technique employed by these artisans, also alludes to the complex themes of identity and representation in her work. Majluf points out that the technical process that results (in a copy of the positive image) and the blanching of the person being photographed is also transformed into “a powerful metaphor for the construction of personal and collective identities in a country dominated by racism.” The same thing occurs with the format for the “ID picture” that functions in everyday life as a means of self-representation; that is, “it directly involves the issue of photography as a basis for identity.” But at the same time, by use of that technique, the light that emanates from the faces of the photographed is not a reference “to an internal world, nor the evident surface through which we recognize races, peoples, and cultures.” In other words, its transparency only evokes the thin layer of paper or plastic that is able to be reproduced ad infinitum.
This is a text by Natalia Majluf, art historian, on the series of photographs Bajo el sol negro del Cuzco, a project completed in 1991 by photographer Milagros de la Torre in the city of Cuzco. The text was written in 1994 (for the eponymous exhibition in Lima) and presented at its showing in Buenos Aires (one year later). It was reproduced in Fotomundo magazine, issue no. 328, Buenos Aires, 1995. Majluf specializes in Peruvian art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and serves as director for the Museo de Arte de Lima. Photographer Milagros de la Torre is based in New York. Bajo el sol negro del Cuzco, her first individual show, was curated by the French editor, curator, film producer, and photographer Robert Delpire (1926–2017) and was shown at the Palais de Tokyo (1993) and the Centre National de la Photographie (both in Paris), in Peru at the Centro Cultural de la Municipalidad de Miraflores (1994), and in 1995 at the Fotogalería San Martín (Buenos Aires). The pieces in this collection were part of the photographer’s work in the city of Cuzco at the beginning of the 1990s, for which she conducted research at the archives at the Escuela de Fotografía Cusqueña (beginning of the twentieth century) to educate herself on the techniques used by street photographers. According to the review written by French art critic Natasha Wolinski for the exhibition in Paris, “they have largely explained how to re-photograph the negatives and obtain photos in a minute. These ‘minutemen’ have shown her how to force contrasts and ‘aristocratically’ blanch Peruvian skin using traces of red tone. But she did not heed the lesson through to the end, instead deciding to stop the process in the middle, before the red-veiled negative becomes a print” because, she adds, “the young photographer believes that prints are a deceptive seduction” (“Les miracles de Maria,” Beaux-Arts Magazine Nº 114, Paris, 1993). Afterward, the Peruvian photographer undertook projects such as Los pasos perdidos (1996), Punzocortante (2000) and Antibalas (2008), which are characterized by a visual seductiveness that precedes one’s discovery of the complex and reflexive proposal behind the collection, leading her to be regarded as one of the most prominent conceptual photographers working today. Her work is dominated by an interest in the darkest side of humanity, registered through the signs and evidence of actions, since “physical discomfort or psychological trauma are obscured underneath layers of physical concealment and metaphorical insinuation” (Edward J. Sullivan, 2011). Her work also does not seek to associate the represented with particular events, “the inertia and stillness that surround the photographed objects disengages them from time and place” (idem). Her work is also linked to themes of memory and the socio-political construction of identity. An essential component of her work is the subtle questioning of the medium and of the photographic process used to produce an image.