September’s featured photographer is Luján Agusti
Luján Agusti was born in 1986, in Puerto Madryn, Chubut, Argentina. She currently lives and works between Mexico City and Buenos Aires as a freelance photographer. Through her work she explores themes around the construction of identity in relation to the territories and places in which we live. She uses photography as her principle language, which helps her to use other disciplines to analyze the environment. Her work has been published in international media such as The New York Times, Lens Blog, Vice México, LAT Photo Magazine, Emaho Magazine, MUD Magazine, among others. In addition to her photographic work, she produces the international festival, San Jose Foto.
“No man is an island/ Entire of itself/ Every man is a piece of the continent/ A part of the main/ If a clod be washed away by the sea/ Europe (America) is the less/ As well as if a promontory were/ As well as if a manor of thy friend’s/ Or of thine own were/ Any man’s death diminishes me/ Because I am involved in mankind/And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls/ It tolls for thee.” John Donne.
54°48´26´´S 68°18´16´´O are the coordinates for the city of Ushuaia, the capital of the Tierra del Fuego province. Its name derives from the Yámana language. The “sh” means “end” and “waia” means “bay”: “the bay at the end”. It was founded on the 12th of October, in 1884 by Augusto Laserre. It has a surface area of 23km2 and the last census recorded a population of 56,593 inhabitants. It is considered to be “the most southerly city in the world” and is the only Argentinian municipality, which can be accessed by crossing the Andes. It is surrounded by nature: on one side is the sea and the other side is enclosed by mountains. It is always windy there so Ushuaia is a dual place. In addition to its already recognized facet of tourism, it hides another side. It is one of the most important industrial areas in the country, where locals, professionals working in tourism, and seasonal workers come together to make a transient, diverse and independent social dynamic.
Interview with Luján Agusti
Foto Féminas: To start, tell us about the title of your work?
Luján Agusti: The name of the work derives from the coordinates that locate the city of Ushuaia, which is pronounced as if the H isn’t there. Ushuaia comes from the Yámana language, which was spoken by the indigenous community who lived in Tierra del Fuego, the last province in Argentina. Ushuaia is also considered the most southerly city in the world and means “The Bay at the End”. Ushu means bay and aia means end.
FF: How did you get into photography?
LA: Well, I first discovered it when I was in college when I took a workshop learning to develop black and white photographs. Later on I started to dedicate more time to painting and other practices. I later studied History of Art at university but I began to feel a little bit of a need to throw myself into applying my knowledge to something practical. I grabbed a camera and began taking photos and in the end I began to find myself connecting more with this practical discipline than History of Art and started going to a school here in Buenos Aires, and from there pursued it.
FF: Do you still study photography in Mexico?
LA: Yes, I did my degree in 2007 and last year I took a seminar at the Centro de la Imagen (Image Centre) in Mexico, which lasted a year so I went to live over there. The idea behind the seminar was to present a project. The project I made was based on the Mexican religion ciclitismo, which is a fusion of Catholicism and pre-Hispanic culture. Aside from this I have my Ushuaia project that I’ve been continuing to work on for several years. This year I went back to Argentina and I now live between here and Mexico. Recently I’ve spent more time here and over in Ushuaia continuing my project. After a couple of years of working on it, I had to put it on hold while I was living in Mexico, which helped to change my perspective. Afterwards I came back with new ideas about how to work on it from another angle, so it’s great to be able to show some of my work in Foto Féminas.
FF: What’s your first memory of Patagonia?
LA: I was born in Patagonia in a city called Puerto Madryn, which is known for its whale sightings. One of my first memories of Puerto Madryn is its coast, which is located in a really arid and cold area with a lot of wind and is very desolate. As time goes on it changes because more people go there but one of my first memories is the image of the sea and the wind. The same thing happens when I go to Ushuaia, which I had visited since I was little. I also have memories of pure natural landscapes, untouched by man.
FF: Yes, unlike Hong Kong
LA: I notice this when I visit other places in the world or here in Argentina, that it remains one of the few places untouched by humans and this is what makes it beautiful.
FF: Why did you decide to return to your native region to make a project?
LA: I had actually gone back to Patagonia many times before. I visited when I was six and after that I returned both with my family and on my own. Before I began my project, my sister was living there and still does. She went back more or less five years ago and I was in the mood for exploring so I went backpacking around Patagonia. The idea was to return to my city, Puerto Madryn, to see what had changed. This was relevant to exploring identity, in the sense that some people are born in a place but leave at a young age, which is something I’ve always felt; yes I was from Buenos Aires or Puerto Madryn or from one place or another. I did a little work on this and then later arrived in Ushuaia where my family was. It interests me to explore the way in which Patagonia is strongly associated with tourism, which is really big there. However most people know that Ushuaia is at the end of the world, like other people know Bariloche for its mountains, where one can ski. In the same way Puerto Madryn is known for its whales and living there you realize that outside the tourist season it’s a very isolated region. It’s very cold most of the time and that is something that remains part of the untold story, which is true for any place. During this search I also wanted to explore my own identity and wanted to acknowledge it in relation to this side of Patagonia, more specifically with Ushuaia, a place where I think one feels even more and which is where I started the project that we are discussing.
FF: At the end of your projects have you worked on themes of identity in a direct or indirect way? What inspires you to continue working on this theme?
LA: Well, on the one hand what happens for me when I explore identity and in general, when we create art, we are being self-referential. I think that to approach this theme one has to do one’s own searching, so I am searching for my own identity. I decided to go back to Madryn as I had not seen the place for almost ten years, the place where I was supposedly born, yet of which I have very few memories. Each time I returned, I went back as a tourist, which is a different thing altogether. Therefore this time was special, as I was analyzing it and trying to understand my experience whilst I was there, which is something that occurred to me regarding the region in general. I think what interests me about this theme is how we inhabit the spaces we live in, which in general, defines our identity. This also happened particularly for me in Ushuaia. It is a city that is made up of immigrants, of people who travel there for work. From the beginning it had a prison, and from there, the city developed. It is an industrial zone, therefore a lot of people go there to work. This is a place where people gather then leave. They arrive to a space and a city, which is highly complex and this, in particular, interests me.
FF: Or maybe in some way or another, Ushuaia is a city one passes through…
FF: I imagine that historically it was also an entrance for the colonizers of America and in some ways this attitude has persisted until today; this is what I understand…
LA: Yes, in reality it’s crazy because people always go there with the idea that they will leave soon after. In fact, it has a complex climate, so the wages are high. But at the same time, the cost of living there is also very expensive. Therefore there are people there who work in factories who have the highest wages in the country. Many people are confident that they will go there to work for a few months, save and then later, return home. But later on they realize they can become trapped because the cost of living is so high, therefore they prolong their stay. This is a city where people go thinking they will stay for a short while but end up staying there for twenty years or for all of their life. This is also interesting because it influences the identity of the city.
FF: Do you know the percentage of locals who leave Ushuaia; is it low?
LA: There are few, because in general many people emigrate to Ushuaia from the North, but yes, there are a lot of native people. However, a lot of young people who were born there, later go on to study in Buenos Aires or Córdoba, and don’t return, as they choose to stay in Argentina’s big cities.
FF: Tell us about your recent book and where we can find it
LA: The book is a project that I made about my mother who passed away ten years ago. I based some of this work on the objects that she left behind, mostly clothes. She was a really pretty woman and loved clothes. As she had a lot of clothes I explored our ties to her through her garments. I have two sisters and when they were little they tried on her clothes, which annoyed her, therefore I’m going down this route a little. It was printed in Mexico, at the beginning of the year and now you can buy it in Mexico, Madrid, Barcelona and just recently in Buenos Aires where, this Thursday, I’m going to launch it.
FF: To finish. How are you going to continue your work? I saw that you won a grant from EFTI. Will you stay in Argentina for a while?
LA: Well, first I’m pregnant and I’m going to have my baby in September.
FF: The same time as you’ll be featured in Foto Féminas!
LA: Yes, they will be both be coming in September.
FF: How wonderful
LA: Yes, in fact I was pregnant when I travelled around Ushuaia for work. I also wanted make portraits and the records of the city. I wanted to throw myself into this before it becomes overpopulated and spoiled by people in the spaces that are currently untouched, like Tierra del Fuego. Therefore I was trying to investigate it in this manner, immortalizing it. I’m now in the editing process, trying to get it ready for September. I also start the Masters at EFTI that month.
FF: So September in your month in 2016!
LA: Yes. The Masters lasts a year, so lets see what happens. I should be developing a project. The most important is I have to see how things go with being a mum and I’ll go from there… Also the work in Mexico needs to be revisited a little so when I’m able to return to Mexico, I will finish it.
La fotógrafa del mes de Septiembre es Luján Agusti
Nace en 1986 en Puerto Madryn, Chubut. Argentina. Actualmente vive y trabaja entre Ciudad de México y Buenos Aires. Es fotógrafa freelance. A través de su trabajo explora temas de construcción identidad en relación a los territorios y lugares que habitamos. Utiliza la fotografía como principal lenguaje apoyándose en otras disciplinas para analizar el medio. Su trabajo ha sido publicado en medios internacionales como The New York Times – Lens, Vice México, LAT Photo Magazine, Emaho Magazine, MUD Magazine, entre otros. Además de su trabajo como fotógrafa, produce el festival internacional SAN JOSE FOTO.
“Nadie es una isla, completo en sí mismo; cada hombre es un pedazo del continente, una parte de la tierra; si el mar se lleva una porción de tierra, toda -América queda disminuida, como si fuera un promontorio, o la casa de uno de tus amigos, o la tuya propia; la muerte de cualquier hombre me disminuye, porque estoy ligado a la humanidad” John Donne.
54°48´26´´S 68°18´16´´O son las coordenadas que encuentran a la ciudad de Ushuaia, capital de la Pcia. de Tierra del Fuego. Su nombre proviene de la lengua Yámana y significa sh (al fondo) y waia (bahía): “Bahía al Fondo”. Fue fundada el 12 de Octubre de 1884 por Augusto Laserre. Tiene una superficie total de 23 km2
y el último censo registró una población de 56.593 habitantes.
Considerada “la ciudad más austral del mundo”, es el único municipio argentino al que se debe acceder atravesando la Cordillera de los Andes. Limitada y contenida por la naturaleza: de un lado la presiona el mar, y del otro, la encierran las montañas. El viento hace presencia, siempre. Ushuaia es dual. Además de su ya conocida faceta turística, esconde otro lado: es uno de los focos industriales más importantes del país; donde locales, profesionales del turismo y trabajadores “golondrina” se fusionan en una dinámica social inestable, solitaria y diversa.
Entrevista con Luján Agusti