A unique religious festival takes place in Chile's rural areas the Sunday following Easter Sunday. Known as Quasimodo Sunday, on this day the parish priest takes communion to the ill and infirm parishioners who were unable to attend mass on Easter Sunday. Traditionally the priest was accompanied by huasos (Chilean cowboys) for protection, but over the years this ritual has grown into a costumed parade involving the whole community.
Photo by Sofia Carvajal
Marco Fredes’ photo exhibition of the Cuasimodo festival in the districts of Lampa, Noviciado and Colina on the outskirts of Santiago between 2003 and 2008 was on display in the Sala Joaquin Edwards Bello of Centro Cultural Estación Mapocho.
Away from the main exhibition hall, the first room of the exhibition contained about 20 photographs of the parade itself. In the background played an atmospheric soundtrack of religious chanting and the clip-clop of horses' hooves, helping to bring the black and white images to life. In these stark photos the costumed huasos perpare their horses in the early morning, riding along deserted country lanes and resting by the roadside.
Fredes’ use of black and white underlines the timelessness of the festival nicely– the shots of satin-robed men on horses carrying Chilean flags could have been taken in any decade since the colonisation of Chile, but for the asphalt roads.
The photos, although beautiful, were somewhat repetitive when it came to the images of the riders. The exhibition contained many shots of the huasos taken from a similar angle and distance. Some hard editing could have been done on this section.
"Vapor" (2004) was a favorite with steam rising from a horse’s flank, although Fredes’ frequent use of chiaroscuro obscured the foreground of this photo (and others) to almost complete blackness. The photos were also hung slightly too high and closely lit with spotlights that glared off the glass, resulting in an uncomfortable viewing experience.
A few photos depicted the priests’ duties inside the houses of his parishioners-- it is a shame there were not more like this.
The second room contained images of a more personal nature, with a few photos showing the priests’ duties inside the houses of his parishioners. Compared to these images the previous parade photos seemed flat and cold. The priest giving communion to a weeping woman in her sickbed in "Emoción" (2003) illuminated the heart at the centre of this tradition – to bring comfort to those in need.
Fredes’ choice of subject matter is compelling, but I wonder if his exhibition really warranted five years of work. Perhaps he has a personal attachment to the festival – this is easy to understand. The latter images capture a side of the festival that could not be seen by the public, and therefore possess qualities of photo journalism as well as being beautifully shot and intense.