2014 - Ongoing
This work has been about incarceration and the prison system in Venezuela, has been as well about the roots, causes and consequences of the cycle of violence that engulfs the country. It has been, and is still, about hip hop and youth, about education and culture, but with time and through lot of pain and smiles, fear and celebrations, and lessons learnt with hugs and hits, I have realized that this work is about hope and dreams, it is about resilience and not giving up on them, on myself, on us as a collective goal.
This work is finally about the happiness of seeing the shadow of death vanishing from their faces as they change and get closer to crossing the line of salvation after the neverending exhausting run of today's Venezuela that is at the same time a marathon, a constant sprint, and an obstacle race. The multifacetic Venezuela with endless layers of joy, fun and tragedy, of a revolution that forgot and betrayed the ones it sworn to protect and of people keeping their heads hold high while struggling for air...for money, for food, for dignity.
For more than 6 years I have been extensively documenting the story of Free Convict, a Hip Hop collective born inside the General Penitentiary of Venezuela, a prison built for 750 inmates that had at some point 10 times its capacity. Their life inside a prison under total control of the bosses of criminal bands that with their own arsenal of weapons decided on the functioning of the prison, the unwritten strict criminal code of behavior and the lives of the inmates. They were as well the organizers of the parties, the administrators of the visits, the sponsors and coaches of the sport activities, and were even on charge of the infrastructure as the government has virtually abandoned its duties towards the prison and the care of the persons under the state's responsibility.
Through photography and with documents, interventions, collages and collaborative work this project aims to interconnect the dots of childhood, adolescense, education, exclusion, family, the nocive mirage of power and aggressive masculinity and the reality of fast death or hard work for self redemption. And how these young men living in a system that sees them as a lost cause, and with all the odds against, built their own plan for reinsertion.
A long journey surviving a prison where a bad word could literally mean 70 shots but also where solidarity is vibrant and the most important tool for survival. A long journey with their families waiting for a life signal after yet another massacre at the prison but also sharing hugs and hopes. Accompanying them back to the street and its challenges, becoming adults, becoming fathers, taking responsibility and control on their actions, surviving the machine of extrajudiciary executions and the set of accounts with their past lives with music as a reason and an excuse. Loving life more than the speed of drugs and weapons, and finally and for real, contributing on the reconstruction of Venezuela by putting their experiences and talents in front of younger generations to help them avoiding the abyss, and breaking the cycle of pulling the trigger or receiving the bullets.