‍I know of no other way  halt time. Only photographs can  bring life to a standstill and place it in front of me for my  contemplation. It is an exercise that should be repeated  daily as it makes life easier and allows me to understand  a little better the origin and sense of what I mean by  reality. For what reason? I often ask myself that question,  in the hopes of one day finding an answer.

But this system (which is also a stratagem) is not the  prerogative of the visual arts; using words we could just  as well curb the brute force of time, sealing it in texts that  aspire to eternity.

I irrevocably set out on the path of photography when I  was still a youngster. I used to accompany my father, an  architect, who worked on social housing projects in the run-down suburbs of Bogotá. He was a member of a  team of dauntless enthusiasts trying to improve the living  conditions of destitute families, waging quixotic battles  against the windmills of injustice and despair. My job was  to carry the bag of photographic equipment and change  the lens when required. My young eyes were thus present  when my father recorded with his Pentax everything that  interested him, which is to say a great deal. These were  long years of exploration and photo shoots: ramshackle  housing, streets on steep inclines, families packed into  tiny spaces—and faces, lots of faces. I also remember  the smell of these dwellings: smoke, bad food, bare dirt  floors.

When life led me to live in Milan, I brought with me a  good many of the slides that I had kept since my father’s  death, crammed in differently colored boxes, which I  occasionally look at with nostalgia. Those eyes, the eyes  of the nameless people who looked into the camera  back then, continue to stare into mine, into yours, and  into those of anyone else who looks at them. With their  gaze, which remains fixed on us, they have unwittingly  thrown up a barrier in front of time, as if to tell it: “You  won’t enter here because you have no place here; we are  eternal.” And it’s true: photography, whether consciously  or not, gambles on eternity. I suppose that’s what made me understand, very early  in my life, the importance of the documentary nature  of photography, which allows us to carry with us small  fragments of the world so we can possess it, recreate it at  a distance, and thus be able to transform it at will. In other  words, we can use reality to adapt it to our perspective.  And thus I came to understand that seeing is not the  same thing as observing, and that the skill of observation  is learned by practicing, patiently, like breaking in a  mettlesome horse.

For my tenth birthday I was given a 120 mm Diana. Its  smell of celluloid is still with me, just like the feeling of  the “red” hours spent in the darkroom, where negatives  turn positive through the combined action of liquids,  darkness, and faint light. The day that magical world was  opened before me, a fascination was born in me that has  never left me.

For five long years I studied at the School of Architecture,  knowing that I would never practice this noble profession,  and when they ended, I was given a diploma written in  gothic-style letters that satisfied and, above all, reassured  my family. What I wanted was to paint, photograph, write,  and play music, though without neglecting to study the  theories of the great architects, including the Catalan  modernists, which I was able to examine with particular  interest at the Cátedra Gaudí documentation center in Barcelona.

By working at it each day, I was able to build up a personal  photographic vocabulary, a way of proceeding that gave a  valid response to all the themes that interested me at the  time. I came to realize that a fraction is also a whole, that  each part is also an inexhaustible universe that contains  a vast amount of information. And that this is also true  of all the arts. A portrait can therefore be considered  a unique record of an identity, but also as the sum of  many other elements. Like an image that also has to be  broken into segments, sewn up, or folded without losing  its essence. Folding and unfolding, opening and closing,  gluing and tearing, removing and adding . . . The quest for  the substance underlying the skin of things and beings.

"if you go beneath my surface, you’ll find me waiting for  you,” a voice seems to suggest.

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