Questioning the Quiet Streets of Veracruz
Capturing hints of Mexico's complicated realities, Koral Carballo focuses on Veracruz - her native state - where drugs and violence keep the place under unofficial curfew.
Veracruz, in southern Mexico, has witnessed astonishing violence due to the war declared on drugs back in 2006. From 2011 to 2016, the state had alarming numbers in relation to increasing insecurity, second to only Guerrero. As a result, its citizens post distressing messages on social media, urging people to avoid the streets during night hours, almost suggesting a curfew that institutionally does not exist.
Today the streets of Veracruz have become a sordid territory, one that has been evolving for the last 10 years. Local photographer, Koral Carballo set out to explore these desolate public spaces in the hope of finding evidence of violence. “The signs and clues I find in the streets are truly subjective, which come from a personal interpretation from within the historical context that Veracruz is currently living. My response is fully related to its daily insecurity that citizens face every day”, Carballo says.
In her work, At The Bad Time, Carballo photographically unfolds locations that were previously secure, but that today might have been shut in order to warranty safety and control. Carballo is not looking to undertake her photojournalistic practice, on the contrary, she is looking to focus on intangible moments: the aftermath of a conflict, the exposure towards all these murders that Mexico has had to witness.
During the night, Carballo doesn’t seek out pre-fit ideas or pre-designated routes. She is interested in photographing an atmosphere - the vulnerability found within a space and those particularly discovered on the peripheries or in the urban context. “For instance, that space that witnessed all that evilness that a human being was exposed to, until it reached the irrational act of death”, Carballo explains. In addition, she has assigned herself a time-frame to shoot from 22:45 to 4am, acting in contrast to the social media messages that suggest evading the streets during those night hours. Through the photographs, Carballo looks to represent the solitude of the streets in Veracruz affected by the violence.
Carballo sets off in her car driving around with her camera, light metre and tripod, and so when a location piques her interest - fully based on her intuition - she sets up and photographs. Her main motivation remains at the relationship between space and territory and how it can reveal violence. She looks to raise questions beyond accurate answers, so through photography she is looking to question and understand what happened to her town and motherland.
She relates to the project with honesty, gathering empathy in the urban confines of Veracruz, and challenged by her own fears of her city, constantly questioning whether the warnings were true or not - “To face the fear and use my freedom to continue with the next photograph. Here is where I found the biggest challenge, to face nostalgia, to witness that those cities that I visited as a child or teenager were not the same. I learned to accept that we have changed” she concludes.
Verónica Sanchis Bencomo is a Venezuelan photographer and curator based in Hong Kong. In 2014, she founded Foto Féminas, a platform that promotes the work of female Latin American and Caribbean photographers. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.