A Day in the Family Life of Cristóbal Traslaviña

Looking at Cristóbal Traslaviña’s photographs is like having a sleepover at a new friend’s house and waking up in the morning to meet their slightly intimidating family.

Photo courtesy Cristóbal Traslaviña
Photo courtesy Cristóbal Traslaviña

In the pages of a typical family photo album one might find snapshots of sun dresses, toothy grins, celebration and camaraderie. Not so in in the case of Cristóbal Traslaviña. The photos in his current exhibit, Un álbum familiar chileno ("A Chilean family album") tell a different story.

Photo courtesy Cristóbal Traslaviña
Photo courtesy Cristóbal Traslaviña

A woman with her hair in curlers and a worn out nightgown, a shirtless man enjoying a six-pack of beer, and a young boy playing in the shadows below a television set are some of the images featured in this collection of photographs at Estación Mapocho. These solitary figures with ambiguous facial expressions aren’t celebrating anything or trying to look pretty. They’re just living their lives.

Traslaviña tells Revolver that this candid look at family life is what he wants to capture in his photos. He tries to maintain a "sincere" point of view while "building a personal world like an intimate diary of [his] life." The woman with her hair in curlers, for instance, appears to be caught in the corridor on her way to make breakfast. She stands facing the camera with an expression of calm and patience, without an inkling of pretense. The photos feel truthful, intimate, and almost documental in style.

In order to complement this unposed, spontaneous quality, Traslaviña has hung the photos in this show without any titles or descriptions. "I leave that to the spectator, so they can invent whatever they want in their head." Standing in front of an unmarked portrait, it is easy to imagine yourself in this family’s home, observing their quiet activities.

Photo courtesy Cristóbal Traslaviña
Photo courtesy Cristóbal Traslaviña

Although the photographer’s family members do seem to be staring back at us from their everyday surroundings, their faces stand out far more than the space and objects around them. One photo shows a little boy dressed as a cowboy, casually pointing his pistol toward the camera and looking slightly to the side. But as he fills nearly the whole frame, who he’s playing with and where the game takes place lose importance. The viewer comes away with the impression of having met this child in their own lives rather than gazing at a well-composed piece of art on the wall.

Traslaviña may focus on serious or hard-to-read faces, but he leaves playful touches in his photos as well. The shirtless man half-grimacing over his beer sits in front of a tacky, tropical backdrop that upstages the mundane patio behind him. Another picture captures the subtleties of a curtain fluttering in front of a sunny window. There are no birthday parties or anniversaries in this photo album, but behind the tough veneer the simple, endearing moments of family life still shine through.

Un álbum familiar chileno
Friday, March 18 to Sunday, April 24, 2011
Free Entry
Centro Cultural Estación Mapocho
Plaza de Cultura, across from Bandera and Av. Presidente Balmaceda
Tuesday-Sunday: 11 am to 2 pm, 3 to 8 pm
Metro Puente Cal y Canto

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