by Manu SharmaAug 11, 2021
The direct gaze of the subjects towards the camera in the photographs saturated with contrasting colour could be touted as a widely practiced technique to reveal an identity. But it is the ubiquitous presence of the window or a door between the subject and photographer, in the images created by Macidiano Céspedes, that creates the interplay of insider and outsider. The architectural troupe could be dubbed as the omnipresence of border and boundaries, carved either on the map or in the society, to determine the policies of exclusion and inclusions. It is an extension of this exchange between the two – the protagonist of the portrait and the image-maker – that articulates a celebration that is yet to be shared with the world, until then it remains a solitary occasion. Céspedes affirms, “Most of my projects are born from the personal experiences that touch me very closely”. Caught in the dialect manner, Céspedes’ personal life and his photography aesthetic have given shape to a significant body of work. His work has won several awards, including Peruvian National Awards, Sony World Photography Awards, Pride Photo Award, besides much more recognition.
1. Please talk about your general practice.
After completing a degree in communication sciences in the year 2005, it took me 10 years to find my passion as a photographer, which later led me to study creative photography. Since 2015, I have been keen to tell personal stories, in a way to immortalise people, with a documentary approach.
2. What are the key concerns that you aspire to address through your work? What prompted you to make this your area of focus?
I work with a lot of freedom, but I am interested in making invisible histories visible. For me, they are my personal stories that I do not dare to narrate in words, but only through the art of photography. I would say I am still learning and exploring this art. I might be new at it, yet I am quite determined to follow it with a structural approach.
3. How does art intervention aid the process to voice anxieties of the subaltern and question the normative order? Do you think art helps its audience to think and experience about matters that are otherwise considered of a lesser-importance?
I think art history has been a powerful and an inspirational tool for communicating the need to raise awareness on the sensitive matters of life. An emotive connection is built through art. Personally, I think I am very subtle at narrating the stories, but I do make it a point to visually represent them, lest losing them to the cloud of forgetting. Interestingly, the protagonists of my works are also keen to talk about their journey and experiences through my work. So, it is a collaborative exchange of thoughts and inspirations.
4. What kind of artistic liberties do you take to reflect the reality of the community?
Freedom is the key to my work. I like to do things at my own pace, I analyse the colours, the light, the costumes. Before I meet with the boys, I am always keen to have a conversation with them, about a variety of things – taste, colour, hobbies - only to build a relationship of trust between us. It always makes things easier for me: making photographs based on their preferences. The photographs invariably carry a hint of my inspiration, be it a painting or a movie.
5. How do you involve artistic sensitivity to capture the fragility of the people often misunderstood, stereotyped or unheard? How do you balance the aspects of sensitivity and solidarity?
It is said that the facial expression is the state of mind. On my part, I try to use the element of light and setting of the location to complement their expression. I tend to identify with them as if the protagonist and I are one at that moment. Often, I am told that many of my photographs are nostalgic. I do feel that the photographs are an extension of me. They are kind of confessional.
I might not be an activist who advocates the rights of equality in its strictest format. But my photographs speak for themselves and causes that I empathise with. Moreover, it has led communities to take a special interest in the work that I do and cause that I inadvertently choose to highlight with my photographic practice.
6. Lastly, how far have things changed in the past years and what do you aspire as an outcome in the medium to long term through your work?
Well, since this project started, these stories have been made displayed, across South America and Europe, and it is still an ongoing process and will continue for the next few more years. I must admit, I am a mediator who is keen to speak out on the issues that are otherwise brushed under the carpet. I like to use my freedom, while living in Buenos Aires, to advance the causes that are close to my heart, only to envision a more tolerant future. Let people understand that under the sun we are all equal and need to be respected despite our differences.
Art & Voices Matter
Co-curated by Rahul Kumar and Dilpreet Bhullar, Art & Voices Matter is a STIR original series of interviews with global creative practitioners who bring to the core the issues of communities that may be seen at the periphery.