Iconic Images of Sara Facio

Anyone who has sat on the rocks at Isla Negra and watched the crashing waves rolling over the desolate vastness of the Pacific will appreciate the inspiration that Pablo Neruda took from this beautiful stretch of battered coastline. There is a deep sense of the wild earth here that lends itself to the flourishing creative spirit, providing a semi-mystical environment in which virtuoso talent thrives. It is this essence of Isla Negra that is one of the many themes captured in Inspiración: Sara Facio en Chile, a new photography exhibition at the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM) that places a heavy focus on the poet.

 Pablo Neruda and his wife Matilde at home in Isla Negra (photo courtesy of GAM)
Pablo Neruda and his wife Matilde at home in Isla Negra (photo courtesy of GAM)

From a Chilean perspective, this is undoubtedly the main draw of a presentation which features many other renowned 20th century Latin American figures of stage, music and literature. Sara Facio (born in 1932) was a close friend of Neruda and his wife Matilde and through this friendship she gained intimate access into their lives. The images of the couple at their Isla Negra home retain a peaceful quality, depicting the daily goings-on of visiting friends or Neruda composing, while still emphasizing his humility and devotion, perhaps as a response to the charges of ‘champagne socialism’ that dogged him. The impression is of a man dedicated to three things: his wife, his land and his art.

 (photo courtesy of GAM)
(photo courtesy of GAM)

Facio’s trademark style dominates all her subjects, whether literary great or common man, as nearly all are photographed in simple surroundings with which the observer can identify: Gabriel Garcia Marquez lights a cigarette, seemingly oblivious to the camera’s presence. Jose Luis Borges rummages around a library. The simple black and white tones of the photographs, laced with the bohemian chic of their inhabitants, perfectly encapsulate the offbeat auras of the sixties and seventies, the period in which much of Facio’s work occurs.

 Julio Cortázar (photo courtesy of GAM)
Julio Cortázar (photo courtesy of GAM)

A clear rapport of confidence and trust infuses the images of Inspiración. Icons of South American culture exist totally at ease while their personalities burn though Facio’s lens. Her style brings them closer to their audience and, by photographing them in their homes or other natural settings, the viewer falls into the worlds of such great writers as Neruda, Marquez, Cortázar or Vargas Llosa.

Through her work, Sara Facio not only provides absorbing insight into the lives of so many distinguished figures and produces photographs of stunning quality which envelop their subjects, but she also captures the essence of a remarkable cultural period in history. Whether in Isla Negra or Santiago, on European travels, or in the backstreets of her native Buenos Aires, there is an unaffected beauty that permeates her work and provides a compelling chronicle of the artistic heritage of the continent.

Centro Gabriela Mistral (GAM)
Av. Libertador Bernado O'Higgins 227
Metro: Universidad Catolica
Until 31st July
Free Admission

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