Taste of Uruguay: Portrait of a Place

You ever hear a motion picture director talk about how a location became one of the characters in a film? “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” is very much about location. “The Motorcycle Diaries,” and even films like “Seven” where you don’t ever know where you are but it’s so foreboding and dark, not to mention rainy, that you can just FEEL how horrible things are about to get based only on the depressing cityscape. Still photography works the same, at least when you are trying to tell a story. These images were made in Uruguay while we were working on our project. These images were made in the same place as the last post, the exact same place, but these images have a different feel, and if they had to could live on their own as a mini-snapshot of place.

I described before how we move from small shoot to small shoot while compiling a story. You imagine the puzzle in your head and you slowly begin to link the edges and then dive in deep to fill up the center. So when we arrived on this scene my goal was to make the images I made in the last post, but while I was there I realized that this little room, in this one little building, was also something I needed to have a little feel for. Looking back on this I realized I am missing ONE very important image which was the bar at the opposite side of the room. It was, well, the perfect neighborhood bar. Why didn’t I shoot it? I don’t know. I can see the bar in infinite detail, in my mind, but I didn’t shoot it. Oh well, just another mistake in a LONG LINE of mistakes I’ve made with camera in hand.

These images become important for a variety of reasons. First, for your memory. Regardless of whether or not you ever use these images it’s nice to look back on them and say, “Oh ya, I remember that place.” These type images also come into play when you make books. Sometimes the reader needs a transitional type image to set the stage for your best work. A book of nothing but your best work might be a portfolio more than a book. Books ebb and flow, so informational photographs can be as important as anything. You might use these images near a chapter head to ease into this place, space or community. We also walked through this room to get to the performers out back, so it was a link to the subsequent images.

These images are also very important to the people in them. They are proud of this place and it shows in how they behave. If you promise to send images you sure as Hell better do it. I’ve heard photographers say “Ya, I always promise and then never send anything.” On one hand I appreciate their honesty because A lot of other people claim to do this but don’t. I know for a fact because I once did a project several years after another photographer did it and it was SO BAD it was like scorched Earth. “The other guy promised us everything and gave us nothing.” It made my life Hell. In the case of these images, they didn’t ask. Or maybe they did but my Spanish was so bad I didn’t understand them? “Soy amable!” “Yo quiero leche y queso!”

The first two images here were made by myself, but after seeing me make these images the guys in the third image asked me to photograph them. In turn other people are watching while I’m making this portrait which in turn gets them, indirectly, involved in the shoot. It breaks the ice and gets the photographic ball rolling. The people you photograph are your conduit into the far reaches of your work, without them you are going nowhere. They do not see photography the same way you do, and this is something you must keep in mind the entire time you are working or showcasing your work.

8 responses to “Taste of Uruguay: Portrait of a Place”

  1. LionelB says:

    After the one hundredth fly has become stuck you would think the one hundred and first would take the hint. The image is a perfect intro for any project concerning humans …

  2. Bambi says:

    I completely agree regarding conveying a ‘feel’ to a photograph. Like you also mentioned in films. The desaturation of colour or changing colour. Teal blue/grey tones in the film Antichrist for example. It can instantly change how the viewer perceives and feels when observing, drawing them into a deeper attachmnet and unerstanding of the journey they are ecountering.
    I love your technique of photography and how you describe in detail things to keep in mind when you are working or showcasing your work.

    • Smogranch says:


      Wow, very interesting take on all this. Thanks for sharing that with me. I’ve been spending more time lately focusing on process, so how other folks do what they do is very interesting to me.

    • Alison says:

      Your absolutely right Bambi ! I noticed the muted teal /grey in the Antichrist. It connected the scenes and gave a feeling of desolation and depression in a subtle way.( A touch of yellow here and there but otherwise it was all shades of blue.)

      location was important too most of the film being set in an isolated shack in an eerie forest . It gave the whole thing a totally ominous feel.

      it must be the same in a photography .

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