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The “Porteños

The “Porteños”: Notes for an Anecdote



Los Porteños: Notes for an Anecdote


This series has a pretentious title, I know. It is an imprecise title as well, taking into account that many of the subjects portrayed here are not porteños in the strict sense of the word: they were not born, or do not live in Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital. This port city, which Borges traversed while breathing its "incalculable labyrinth," has historically been a zone of transits and intersections. Many of the great migratory currents that centuries ago came to "Make America" flowed into the mouth of its river. At the end of the 20th century, its streets still exuded the atmosphere of a great cosmopolitan city, full of people from all over the world.


But affectively, I can't think of a better way to name this series of photographs. Los Porteños brings together a set of portraits that I did between 1998 and 2000 in Buenos Aires of passersby that I casually met on the street, and with whom I never had contact again; people who for one reason or another—often because of their authenticity—captivate, convince or lure you in at first sight. In those days, I always carried my photographer's bag, so after a brief conversation, I would ask if I could photograph them and they would happily pose for the photo. Later, with the same idea, I went out to look for more and more portraits, and this is how I assembled this collection of spontaneous models, actors who merely interpreted the script of their own lives.


I think that what ties me affectively to these people is that each one of them (each one of us), in their own way, was improvising a survival strategy. This series is beautiful to me, as it fulfilled a function that was more therapeutic than aesthetic or photographic. In fact, it is personal material, made without any intention of publication or display. The truth is that when I arrived as an immigrant to Buenos Aires in 1994, the city was complex in its dynamics. These photos helped me to relate to the people, to understand them better, and perhaps, to overcome my insularity and become, over time, one more inhabitant of the region. Seven years later, in 2001, I continued my journey, but these portraits reconstruct from a distance the itinerary of my wanders through the streets of the “Microcentro”: a map that not only contains my favorite corners, but also the memory of those people who inhabited them at a precise moment, by the pure whim of chance.




Willy Castellanos

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