Esteban Pastern Diaz, Salamone
Alejandro Chaskielberg, The High Tide
A number of the exhibitions at the 2010 Brighton Photo Biennial deal with darkness, from Dhruv Malhotra’s nocturnal journeys through Mumbai’s cluttered streets to Mohamed Bourouissa’s glimpses at youth on the fringes of Paris. But none present as stark a vision of the night as Esteban Pastorino Diaz’s Salamone, a striking portrayal of the ‘30s architecture of Francisco Salamone.
Focusing exclusively upon the cemeteries, slaughterhouses and city halls of provincial Argentina, Diaz’s work grants new life to places largely left to ruin and history. From nondescript urban landscapes these structures rise, bizarre and utterly alien, their harsh lines and twisted curves etched into the blackness. By daylight the buildings look absurd and almost sad, overblown relics of a former time; by night they’re terrifying, dystopic and captivating.
One image shows Christ’s head looming from the centre of a cross trapped within a spoked wheel, in another an illuminated clockface bears down from the tower of a city hall rendered entirely in windowless white brick, like the Ministry of Truth. Diaz’s photographs juxtapose religion and modernity, death and control, the stark tonal contrasts lending the structures a power and eminence that, like a nightmare, they lose come dawn.
By contrast Alejandro Chaskielberg’s oversaturated vignettes teem with life, the harsh lines of Diaz’s work replaced with blur and movement, the darkness exchanged for lurid, dreamlike palettes. Shooting at full moon, Chaskielberg’s cast reprise their daytime roles – pumping gas, hunting otters, shifting lumber – the rituals of rural existence rendered strange and unfamiliar yet utterly beautiful. These aren’t documents so much as fantasies, hyperactive visions more fairy-tale than realist: stunning, vibrant images that don’t demand attention so much as completely steal it away.