The Book of Wonders of the Age
Giuseppe Cali - St. Rufina (or S. Philomena) (1852)
Peter Paul Rubens, Details from The Death of Adonis with Venus, Cupid, and the Three Graces (c. 1614)
Bellucci,Antonio,St Sebastian,c.1716-18 (detail)
Ren Hang. Photography 2012 - 2013.
Alessandra Sanguinetti was born in New York and lives in the Bay Area now, but she spent her childhood and the first part of her working life in Argentina. Growing up, she spent her holidays in the Pampas—the sprawling grassland plains that cover a vast chunk of Argentina—where she started work on her first photographic project, On the Sixth Day,a documentation of farming life and the way people interact with the animals they rear for slaughter.
Halfway through that project, she started to photograph two cousins who lived nearby named Guille and Belinda. That series became her best known work, The Adventures of Guille and Belinda, and has continued to expand as the girls have grown older, got married, and started having babies. I spoke with Alessandra about the cousins, the passage of time, and how taking photos adds a sense of order and permanence to our transient lives.
VICE: How did moving to America a decade ago affect your work?
Alessandra Sanguinetti: I lived in Argentina until I was 30, and that’s where I shot On the Sixth Day and The Adventures of Guille and Belinda. I was halfway through working on Guille and Belinda when I moved here and the first chapter of the work was done, so it affected me in a practical sense—I wasn’t there for Belinda’s wedding.
But it affected me more in an intangible way. I had underestimated how connected I was to Argentina, how much of what I was passionate about lay there. And I underestimated how circumstance and the passage of time changes you. I left with several ideas, leads I was excited to begin, and I just assumed I’d take up where I left off in the future. But it doesn’t work that way. When I returned, those little sparks were gone and I didn’t see things the same way. There’s a moment for everything, and then the moment is gone and you have to move on.
Do you feel like with the work you’re now doing in San Francisco you’ve come to terms with America and you’re happy there? Or do you think it’s a very different type of work?
I’ve worked on various projects since then, which—among others—include Palestine and, just recently, a short book on family life here in San Francisco called Sorry, Welcome. It’s published by TBW books and it’s coming out very soon.
In Guille and Belinda, there’s a the theme of family and growing up running through it. I read that you got into photography after the realization that your friends and family members will all one day die, so you started trying to maintain a record of everyone.
We all, at some point, realize that everything is transitory. And when I was a kid, taking photos was my way to make life a little more permanent. Taking pictures was my way of corroborating and synchronizing what I saw with what I felt and of connecting the dots, of finding links between arbitrary events or a pattern within the chaos. Eventually, if you pay attention, you begin building stories and making some sense of things. And after finding a pattern we can recognize, it makes it easier to get through the day.
Japanese Sailor, 1967