Text and photos by Roberta Marroquín Doria.
During my teen years I did my first trip to Europe. I was absolutely mesmerized by the beauty all around, especially in Florence, Italy. In the years that came, I discovered my passion for art and photography throughout travelling, exploring and learning languages. Many years have passed now, and I have come to understand how big the influence of Renaissance, has been to my work.
Perhaps one of the most inspiring experiences of my life was a trip to Israel, in the late 90’s. There, after having taken a diligent look throughout my surroundings, I understood more about the human condition and the cultural differences that exist around us. The trip was eye opening for me and I realized that I needed photography as a tool for communication. It was in the year 2000, while living in Paris, where I started developing an artistic eye. Photography became for me a language that communicates something about the universe, the humans and their mysteries, the origins and the legacy of the artist itself.
One of my first photographic projects, which I started in 2001, was to capture human form in its sculpted representation, in other words, details of statues. The project was initially conceived as a play on mistaken identity, the notion of confusing the viewer by photographing marble at the hands of an old master and rendering a life-like effect. In the year that followed, an opportunity came to my way and I didn’t realized at that moment, it was about to change my life for good in ways that even today, continues to amazed me; The Circus. I was granted permission to follow the students of Centre National des Art du Cirque, in Chalons-on-Champagne, France. To what I felt for over that year I worked with these performances, the circus is energy and magic; the ring becomes a powerful place where life and death converges.
Years passed and I started working on a project about the popular art, the origins and the identity of my native country, Mexico. “Roots” it’s a series of photographs that represents a language full of nostalgia and memories of my past, which emerged as a result of my own vision of my country and my immediate reality. As a Mexican that has lived in Paris for many years, I recognized the profound respect I have toward my country and how crucial all these years in France have been for my personal and professional development.
After eight years living in Paris, I moved to New York City in the summer of 2008 to pursue a One-Year Certificate Program at the International Center of Photography. Through my photography I open a door, which leads to a world where I can create and imagine. In my search of the uncanny, I use photography as a support of the imaginary and light is my tool. My domains of predilection became spaces filled with darkness and with light I unveil a new universe where the spectator can start imagining.
In 2009 I started working in a series of photographs called “Underneath light”. I have always being fascinated by my country’s ancestral beliefs in spirits that still commingle with Christianity. In my photos, I like to play with this idea. I become the Shaman, the seer, the healer, and the magician, divining spirits and revealing what remains unseen under ordinary light. Wielding a flashlight and using a large format or a digital camera, I create my own narrative of the night. The images result in an attempt to capture a desire to enter into a world of magic, those that exist in the space between the odd and the ordinary.
By creating pockets of darkness and using a flashlight to reveal the sparsely illuminated details, I can generate ephemeral moments of profound meaning. I explore the mysterious, the sublime, the unexpected, the often obscure and unnoticed; some of those hidden meanings that lie on the edge of the consciousness.
Dreams, death, and dread are a recurring topic in my work. Some images evoke otherworldly feelings and often have a haunted effect; some others, convey a disembodied quality effect. As well there are allusions to primitive and Christian rituals that portray a ceremonial quality atmosphere.
The large format camera allows for long exposures and results in a slower and often more contemplative quality; with a light source, I pierce into the mysterious of the night and the otherworldly: With multiple exposures I can depict the same figure in different poses. Superimposing images and overexposing specific areas of the picture, I can create transparent translucent feelings and ghostly blurry effects. The flashlight allows highlighting certain areas, obscuring others and crossing out selected details. The photographs become polymorphic entities.
In Mexico, the belief in spirits is so pervasive and the paranormal become normal, and the normal does indeed become, paranormal. I find an uncanny beauty in this everyday dual existence, where the gloom visually heals the rifts between the two parallel worlds of dark and light and makes them whole.
After having completed the “Underneath Light” series, this new body of work “Dans le Noir” (In the Dark) is more complex and strident. The photographs derive from a similar worldview, the two disparate cultures that coexist in my native Mexico: modern Christianity and the still-pervasive ancient Indian beliefs. The images reflect dreams, wishes and wants – panoply of memories, emotions and intents; they become more profound that what they appear to be and transmit an eerie poetic effect.
These black and white, and color photographs are taken in different locations: the wild of Yucatan, the cold night of Central Park, and in private homes. The darkness becomes as important as the subject matter and leaves the viewer wondering what lies unrevealed. The seemingly normal scenarios and characters undergo an eerie metamorphosis during the process of shooting in the dark.
Modern Christianity, as practiced in my country, with its punitive view of man, becomes a frightening theme. Macabre Aztec and Mayan beliefs that lie in the collective memory of Mexico suddenly emerge. The Christian and ancient Indian beliefs intertwine. Also intertwined is a view of nature as predatory. In addition, intertwined are allusions to ancient Greek and Roman myths and children’s stories.
In my culture, I have experienced, a bombarding of images about suffering, fear, loneliness, despair, struggle, and moral duality. This sophisticated images arises some important issues about the existence of good and evil in the world and where the real and the unreal coexist in Mexican culture.
This project represents a further venture into the realm of Magical Realism, where fantastic elements blend with the ordinary to show a deeper understanding of the world. Much like the well-known expressionist painting of Edvard Munch, “The Scream,” this body of work expresses an existential angst. These provocative photographs become my own primal outcry about the tragedy of the human condition.
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