09 June 2021
09 June 2021 - Written by Verónica Sanchis Bencomo
Fascinated by the mysterious realities of life, Alejandra Orosco sets off to portray the uncanny elements and beauty of everyday mundanity in a somewhat dreamy style that invites the viewer to unravel what is real and what is not.
No Room for the Weak is a personal project in progress that looks to portray the search of the wild animal world within mankind. Questioning the converging points between beast and individual and inspired by mythological beliefs, Alejandra creates scenarios that walk the line between reality from fantasy. The result is an array of images that invite us to find the uncanny and fantastic in daily life.
Your images in No Room for the Weak truly capture a sense of obscurity where a feeling of animals in their kingdom prevails. What was it like to develop this visual concept? Could you name some references you have been looking at?
I think that the visual concept came about in a very organic way, even if I tried different formats. Everything guided me back to this atmosphere. The project has been developed as a diary, where first I was following the tracks of Nahuales, people capable of transforming into animals. During this search I found a lot of fear, people began to tell me not to look for what I did not want to find, and so, I looked to portray the mystery that I was finding in their stories. I got into the role and began to feel that I was living a hunt, where I had to think like an animal to find them.
I think that is how I began to create from my most vulnerable side. That led me to play with darkness and in some cases, create a new atmosphere with red, which were actually the moments where I felt more scared. It was the tool that I found to transform those fears into something new and eventually it would become a sort of element in the project.
During this whole process, I was lucky to have amazing tutors and classmates who would inspire me and help me when I felt stuck with my ideas. This was during the photography program at El Centro de las Artes de San Agustín in Oaxaca, that was where I began this journey. Another source of inspiration during the process was Three Halves of Ino Moxo and Other Sorcerers of the Amazon written by Cesar Calvo.
Has it been challenging to create scenes that represent animal tensions and vulnerabilities as you describe them in your statement?
Yes, it has been challenging, and I think it still is. To portray this kind of violence can be difficult because of its subtlety, and also because we are used to seeing the world as good and evil, weak and strong, as if the world were so flat. But the challenge is to present this duality in everyone, both; in animals and in people.I remember in the beginning, I was photographing the obvious, such as; attacks and injuries. But then I realized that wasn’t the violence what I wanted to talk about.I’m trying to present it as an introspection, a question about our own instincts, it is about recognizing ourselves in a daily struggle to survive, to use nature as a mirror and understand how we are constantly transforming into our wildest state, just like the creatures I was looking for.The violence is not only in the animal kingdom, it’s in our daily life too. It’s a violent world, and I’m trying to talk about it with a fantastical language and this has been challenging too. Where does reality meet fiction?
I found your statement interesting, the fact that you raised this thought - 'what separates us and bonds us with the wild?' - is this how you began to work on this project? and so far into your project, what have you learned?
This project has taught me a lot. From the beginning it led me to my most vulnerable side.I started playing again, looking into what scared me and pushing my own limits to see how my mind and my body responded. It was beautiful to create from that vulnerability, it became a very liberating act and I could see many things that I could not from a more rational side.
I think it was at this point that I felt the importance of playing from a more instinctive plane: when you feel fragile your body acts on its own, in the same way that animals do when they feel threatened. They play dead or prepare to attack, it is an instinct that we ignore and that is present even in the most subtle acts of our day to day life.
In your statement, you also mentioned about representing mythological beliefs - could you mention any in particular that has inspired you to create images? Perhaps any related to Peru or Mexico, your origin countries.
I first started this project focusing on the story of a specific mythological being: the Nahuales, in México. This was the start of my research.The Nahuales are people who can take the form of an animal and then revert to their original state, this possibility was my biggest inspiration to work the project as if it were a hunt like pursuit and to focus on animal behaviour. I didn’t need to talk with metaphors, they were the subject in itself.When back in Peru, I felt that I wanted to continue the project and that there were a lot of anthropomorphic creatures that I could explore in the same way I was doing with the Nahuales. There were the Tsunki, the Tunche, the Chullachaqui, among others.There are a lot of similarities between; Latin-American cultures, so it wasn’t difficult to continue with the same subject in different areas. At this point, I already felt that the project was not limited to the story of one mythological creature or a space, but that it was a wider exploration. That was very liberating creatively.
Has the pandemic impacted the development of your project in any way?
Totally. I think the pandemic has been a real challenge for everyone, especially creatively. There was a fear that blocked me, not the same fear that I mentioned before, the one that forced me to create. No, during the pandemic I couldn’t even take pictures. I started to write and to draw a lot. And then I had the opportunity to take a workshop with Tania Bohorquez, which I think was an essential part of the process. We started to talk about this necessity of feeling vulnerable to create, and how to explore that feeling from a different perspective, considering it wasn’t the right moment to go outside and play with limitations.I started to write about how I construct my fears, where they come from, I even started to give them a face, a body. I think this was a really important exercise considering I was already photographing an abstract subject and this helped me to construct my images from a new perspective.I’m still working on this new part of the process.
All photos © Alejandra Orosco, from the series No Room for the Weak
Alejandra Orosco is a Peruvian photographer currently based in Peru. She has studied at El Centro de las Artes de San Agustín in Oaxaca, Mexico and continues to focus on her personal projects. Her style is mixes documentary and autobiographical elements. You can follow her on Instagram.
Verónica Sanchis Bencomo is a Venezuelan photographer and curator based in Hong Kong. In 2014, she founded Foto Féminas, a platform that promotes the works of female Latin American and Caribbean photographers. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
This article is part of In Focus: Latin American Female Photographers, a monthly series curated by Verónica Sanchis Bencomo focusing on the works of female visual storytellers working and living in Latin America.