Through Their Eyes


THROUGH THEIR EYES

The fact that mass migration is the gloomy reality of my home country has overshadowed the struggles of the young Venezuelans who have refused to leave their homeland. This series attempts to reconstruct the loose narratives of the stories these young Venezuelans have told me to give an image of the country ‘Through Their Eyes’. These protagonists have chosen to stay and are actively trying to rebuild a new society in their own image. The resulting images are a response to their stories, feelings, and world-views.

Capturing the images on a Hasselblad medium format analog camera added fragility to the photographs and this approach seemed appropriate because going back to Venezuela felt like traveling back through time; given the current socio-economic crisis.

My work is influenced by nature’s delicate relationship to human beings which elucidates that, what we see and experience in the physical world is merely a manifestation of our emotional wounds. To a certain degree, these images are like a web of thoughts and feelings that reveals the contradictions young Venezuelans are trying to reconcile.

It is hard to imagine a sadder spectacle than seeing the hopes and dreams being stripped away from someone whose life is just beginning. That’s why, the resulting body of work illustrates how the financial crisis and social depression harms the young men and women I photographed. By alternating between portraits and the places that play important roles in the lives of Venezuelan youth, I aim to offers an insight into the challenges they face, as well as their choices, hopes, and dreams. Each image is framed individually, but it is displayed with other images that constitute this series so that they can be read together as a message and experienced separately at the same time. I think that the voices of these young people must be heard before it is too late to do anything to change their future.

Pessimism pollutes the atmosphere and the air stagnates with frustration but not in this project because it is told by its protagonists; the young people who, like the Phoenix are reborn from the ashes.

Projects

A way of escaping is trying to be invisible, not drawing attention but also to be creative, an innovator and problem solving. Luz, 23, is a recent pharmacy graduate from Central University of Venezuela, she does not want to leave Venezuela be- cause she is a part of it; despite this she looks for ways to escape and to plan the day to day. It is not that she wants to evade reality; it’s that she wants to transform and improve it.

Nature is the nascent character of life and trees symbolises eternity. Those dazzling landscapes and the generous nature that Venezuela gives us, among other things are what makes these youngsters think it’s worth staying and working for. I associate the generous and beautiful nature with the youngster’s spirits; as humans have a symbiotic relationship with the environment.

Maria Gabriela, 21, student of engineering. She would like the reality to be different, less opprobrious and mediocre, but it is the reality that makes her su er and that she tries to transform or improve it whenever possible.

Streets impassable by abandonment, degradation and voids which have progressively taken the cities. The country is sunk in the swamp of impoverishment, insecurity and a military regime that imprisons them.

Passion is what marks destiny. It is the passion for making typical Venezuelan desserts and to preserve those traditional flavours of the country which has motivated Juan, 29, to continue with his project and cooking business.

Respect is the value that young Venezuelans claim and want to cultivate in their fractured country. In a country sunk in the swamp of a military satrapy that constantly and permanently violates the constitution, and the right to dissent.

Jesus, 21, Medical student at University of the Andes - is affected by diaspora. Some days he wakes up full of hope with a strong desire to continue studying while other days he’s over whelmed and feels like a prisoner not only because of the political and economic situation but also for being gay. Not that this stops his projects or dreams, quite the opposite, it stimulates him and makes him even more creative. Now he is part of a musical “Gitanos” that somehow resembles the reality of many Venezuelan that are forced to leave the country. The musical as well as all artistic expressions give him freedom and offers the subversive possibility of breaking the conventional.

“Art will allow us to overcome the grey existence without mysteries that drag in the passage of our days the stubbornness of being equal and uniform. The arts can make us free because it impels us to conquer freedom through the unusual and the wonderful ...” Rodolfo Izaguirre.

Wilfredo, 20, student of Electronic Engineering at Simon Bolivar University. Pessimism seems to be embraced in this photo. There seems to be no way out for the country that is broken. Frustration invades, but it touches a sore and therefore transcends time. The broken door pane where Wilfredo studies but also teaches can be associated - with the macro problems that stalk the country – with the holes in the streets and with holes in society. He said this is one of the broken things that has not been repaired at the University because it is not as important as other problems such as the number of professors that are leaving due to low salaries and lack of opportunities. But this does not stop him; he keeps preparing himself and studying hard.

“... and the countries are dying; some of sadness, wound- ed by the nostalgia of having been glorious and dominant in ancient times; but others like mine, vanish in hunger and abuse; in the genocide that decimates, in the diaspora that disperses and fans and in the dissolution of our human Ge- ography “Rodolfo Izaguirre. It is this diaspora that has dis- membered families and also the classrooms, Venezuela is running out of students and professors due to the crisis.

The love for their country, always still intact. The sadness of the possibility of having to leave his country, it is what makes Frank wonder whether he should stay or leave.

The tree means the nascent character of life. Their dreams, projects and their desire are the nascent character of a country that is waiting to be liberated in order to grow.

Those sunrises, those sunsets, the people and the landscape; it is what makes Anibal, 26, to continue working in Venezuela to achieve the country with which he dreams. “Un Par por un Sueño” is the foundation he volunteers for. It’s the rst foundation in Venezuela responsible for collecting soccer or sports shoes for low-income children to achieve their dreams of becoming soccer players. Now due to the crisis the volunteers bring food to make sure that these children have at least one meal a day.

The country is not dead its under construction. For these youngsters, the benefit of staying in this country is simple; it is the opportunity to do it all over again from zero and make it better.

Luis, 27, an architect, entrepreneur and founder of the project “Between ns and wheels” and “Bubis helados”. Reflected in him, in his projects, ideas and attitude, is how the break of the country is not an obstacle; on the contrary it is an opportunity for us to meet. The e ort is tremendous, yes, to resolve our differences and focus on the common offers a great opportunity to start from scratch and recreate what we want. It is the need to experience, feel and enjoy the Venezuelan landscapes that made him undertake this project to transfer to childhood and to provoke fullness, happiness and pride.

How enterprising and creative these young people have become, some through art, or social projects while others like Luis who has undertaken a project where architecture and nature come together to create a new space for meeting. The blue post-its summarizes his dreams and part of what his project does, each representing a small universe of activities that support day by day.

Oscar, 22, visual artist from Venezuela; his passion, inner strength and motivation guide him. Most of his work is inspired by the beautiful Venezuelan landscape. Art offers him the subversive possibility to destabilize the conventional, allowing him to overcome and put colours to the grey atmosphere that is overtaking the country. The emotional inner strength is what moves him and leads him to do extraordinary things. He feels that when darkness surrounds us it’s necessary for people of light to create hope.

Chaos defines life and it is in chaos where creativity arises. Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise is what is happening in Venezuela right now. Yes, it has crossed their mind, whether to go or stay, it is a question that everyone has in their head, but it is their conviction, purpose in life, emotional energy and inner strength what motivates them and makes stay in Venezuela.

Sue and Estela, 15, high school students. The sadness of feeling drowned in the country that saw them born and that they love with all their strength forces them to emerge. Through the school dance; they hope to send a message of hope to all Venezuelans “Venezuela is still alive”. They use art to shake the foundations of the Venezuelan Society to establish freedom and hope.

Like the lotus flower the young Venezuelans are growing up in a country sunk in the swamp of a military satrapy that constantly violates their rights, imprisons them for expressing their right to dissent, pushing them to leave the country. But their resilience and their attempt to bring order to chaos makes them rises above the surface to bloom with remarkable strength.

Luz Marina Quiroz, 35, self-employed. Resilience is the word that embraces this picture and her spirit. It is her resilience and emotional energy that led her to look for different options, to overcome obstacles and to have varied jobs to build a future for herself, her family and especially her son; who will be the Venezuelan of the future

This is a representation of what Venezuela is nowadays, a country full of contradictions and contrasts. The relationship between light and dark, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, happiness and sadness, nature and infrastructure. What elucidates is that the physical is a manifestation of a deeper wound, feelings and contradictions. For me this picture is the representation of the extraordinary resilience of young Venezuelans; who are the light that break through the dark cloud – which tries to wrap up the city - illuminating with their great projects, ideas and their will to live in it and build a better country. They are trying to put order to a chaos and reconcile the contractions which are multiple and many; every attempt they make for me are ashes of light.