Poems and Photos: País de la Ausencia

"In some ways color is another character in photography." - Raúl Charlín. Whether in large quantities or small, all of Charlín’s photos contain at least a touch of color that draw the viewer’s eye and interest, proving his claim.

Photo courtesy Raúl Charlín
Photo courtesy Raúl Charlín

País de la Ausencia (Country of Absence) is a beautiful and thought provoking exhibit that invites the viewer to reflect and linger. Each photo is accompanied by a fragment of Gabriel Mistral’s poetry written in white paint on the black walls, mimicking the look and feel of chalk on a chalkboard. Constana Mutis and Charlín didn’t leave anything to chance, from flute music playing in the background to empty desks and heavy textbooks placed around the exhibit emphasizing a lack of students.

Photo courtesy Raúl Charlín
Photo courtesy Raúl Charlín

Absence is apparent in all of Charlín’s photos, often in the same manner as the empty desks. Whether it’s a doll lying on a windowsill, a horse standing in the forest or a small shrine in a village, signs of human presence only serve to emphasize the absence of humans themselves. A photograph of a man in front of a metro station – his face hidden as strangers pass him by - stirs a strange sense of loneliness.

Perhaps one of the most incredible aspects of the exhibit is that Charlín only intervened in a single photograph, by asking a girl to place the doll she was carrying on a windowsill. The remaining photos were captured true to life during Charlín’s travels through Chile. “I like to travel and I go with my camera,” he says, “I had the photos then I searched for the poems.” He settled on Gabriela Mistral for the exhibit because so many of her poems have to do with absence and he asked Fernardo Pérez to help select the specific poems to be used with each photograph.

Photo courtesy Raúl Charlín
Photo courtesy Raúl Charlín

Although Charlín claims the photos represent his own intimate perspective, the exhibit interacts with the viewer in powerful ways and includes a chalk board and notepad waiting to be filled with visitors’ comments. Filled pages of the notepad have been torn off and inserted into Charlín’s upcoming photography book, also titled “Pais de la Ausencia,” inviting the viewer to flip through and see what it has to offer.

In addition to being a largely self-taught photographer, Charlín is a doctor. He says that he has no trouble finding time to do both, since photography and medicine represent two sides of his life: an artistic and a more scientific one. This is not his first photography collection and several other ones are available to view on his website, including Rio from his three year stay in Brasil and Columbia from a visit to Medellín and Bogotá in 2008.

Charlín claims he is interested in the exhibition being nomadic, and it will later travel to Vicuña and Rio de Janaiero, Brasil. He has already started coming up with ideas for future exhibitions among which are included nudes, everyday life and immigrants.

País de la Ausencia
September 8 to October 29, 2010
Monday through Friday 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm CP$1,000 (US$) for general audience, CP$500 (US$) for students and seniors
Instituto Cultural de Providencia
Avenida 11 de Septiembre 1995
Metro Pedro de Valdivia

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