Thursday, December 3, 2009

About Me

The fact that I was born in "the last century"  really impresses me... But it is so. I was born half a century ago and spent the last 30+ years in a balancing act between architecture and photography. 
It is not easy to keep this two fields of interest together, but inside myself they mix and coexist in peace. I hope this coexistence reflects here. As time goes by, the architect in me penetrates my images, and it is very difficult keeping the two spaces separate. It is only one mind.

I think that what blends them is my romantic vision of the world, where things are far more attractive the way they could be or were sometime, (or maybe just could have been),  rather than the way they are everyday and today.
This possibility of creating images, flat or threedimensional, obviously allows me to speak through them about myself. I do what I can. A certain type of  images comes naturally and effortless, but I can't produce some other stuff even when I try hard to. I simply can't see it. Frequently I am amazed checking the output of others whom, with the same media, display inner worlds so diverse: brilliant, miserable, dreamy, dark, sensual….
And it is difficult for me to specify how I got to see in this specific way. It is probably related to my formal education:

My first two years in university, while studying Architecture in UBA, where mixed with sleepy afternoons in the Fine Arts School. But it came that I was not so good for oil painting, and clay turned to be too sticky and cold in winter.
Very fittinglly I got a Canon FT Reflex as a gift from my father at 20 and very quickly  pastels and fine coal were replaced by cheap BW film, and during the next 3 or 4 years I spent long hours in the small darkroom I put together in my parents’s attic.
After much trial and miss and pestering everyone around, very slowly I learned about developers, grade papers and such. And some very few pictures turned out to be presentable.
But I never did it really seriously, and very soon my architect diploma came by,  and with it many years teaching Design in the university, a partner, responsibilities, clients, a family and children.
And for many years my faithful Canon FT rested asleep, awaiting, and seeing the light occasionally to document every step in the growing process of my children. (And, yes.. I have an endless provision of children pics).
The years went by. I put together an architectural practice, of whose production are witness the buildings you can see in the "My Architecture" link , where my role was, simply, doing it all: developing, designing, building, managing and marketing…

But this cycle, as always happens, began to fold. In 2007, thirty years after I got my professional degree, I finished my last building. Now I am partner in a self-storage business in that building ( and that leaves me half my time free…
Seven years before, almost by chance, as the first time, I reentered photography. Some things had changed: mainly  the scope of my interests. Now I got attracted by portraiture and complex, rich spaces.
Every year after that and for the last 10 years I traveled for some time, carrying a bicycle and a backpack full of cameras, lenses, flashes and a round screen. In 2007 I built a motor home in Germany inside a Renault Master Van and now I am using it to do photo work in Europe with the backing of many European Embassies. And every year I come home with close to 10.000 images to deal with, the difficult part.
But instead of tumbling in the darkroom as 30 years ago, now I can process the photos on my loved Mac, close to my family and peeking through the window. Thanks God for digital photo.
I do not join photo contests anymore, but when I did, in Argentina and abroad, I won the National AFA Photo Ranking, a Gold medal fron the FIAP and I ve done various exhibitions in Buenos Aires and abroad. Yet my biggest satisfaction lies in having been invited by Agfa International as Professional of the month for their world page (
Well, here I am. This is what has been, and to whoever might be interested, what follows are some ideas and things I’ve been learning.

What I've learned

-Build for the others, not for yourself.-The people you build for have memories, feelings and dreams;  respect them.  
-Class carries a building quite farther than wit.  
-Use materiales that´ll outlive you.  
-Brick for weight, steel for strenght.  
-If what you are building doesn´t improve the city blending friendly with what´s already there, spare it; there are enough showoffs in town already.  
-Clients are whimsical and will change their minds often; count on it . 
-God is really in details and light is the theme (thanks Louis)  
-Anything that goes with the fashion should remain mercifully kept in a blueprint for ever.  Fashion and good architecture don´t get along well.
-You see as how you are. If you are slow,  fast, obsessive, organized, thrill seeker, idealist or  any other personality trait, this will display greatly in your images. More and more I use a tripod, take my time, and let the the architect in me take control: I do not battle this any more, after 10 years I relish on it.
-A camera is like a bird that has to be frozen in mid-air. To decide from where does this bird see the space (and with what eyes) is our job. Sometimes at floor level, others up in the air, from above that chandelier 15 feet in the air. Getting the wings is our problem.
-It´s all a struggle to catch an elusive “essence” that needs to be accented by a sometimes unfriendly light, to compress in two dimensions and an instant a full person and/or an environment with three and lasting... And to translate in just one chance all this for the benefit of an observer that, casually and disinformedly should, in an ideal situation, receive this data, decompress it, and feel something.
-At 70 or 80, you’ll only regret what you didn’t dare do: the doors you didn’t dare go through, the planes you didn’t dare board, the relations you didn’t stop to take care of.
-It is not the “What” that matters. It is the “How”.
-When in any human argument there are 2 points of view that generete conflict is very seldom one is right and the other wrong. Points of view reflect and inner structure of thought that is far more different from person to the next than what most people wants to accept, and, deep there and into their own optics, everyone is right. Arguments and legal issues wouldn’t last so long if guilt or reason were on only one side.
-When one follows one’s own rules, it is very difficult not to fall in fundamentalism and to understand that two apparently contradictory truths could coexist, that a truth doesn’t eliminate the contrary; along our constant inner struggle, we are always risking a fall into one of two poles: Impotence and Omnipotence.
-To make a choice is to renounce something else. You can’t have it all.
-Nothing is more important than the relationship we build with our children. Every minute we spend together is our best investment. They look at and imitate us far more than what we acknowlegde, and repeat word by word what we sometimes shouldn’t have said.
We must deliver to them, basically, two things: Roots and wings. And, they don’t belong to us, but to theirselves.  Oh, and they spell “love” in a special manner” T-I-M-E.
-Nothing should be taken for granted.
-Some things are replaceable. For many others you don’t get spare parts.
-Life can be fun and long if you give it a good try, but it is fundamentally  unfair. The idea of “Justice” is not born out of nature, and does not exist in the order of things.
-Women are very complex and charming beings, that look very much alike us men from the outside (mouth, ears, arms..) but from the inside have some parts called the same way but very different indeed (heart, guts, sex). These creatures are to be taken with their own rules, and not to be understood, just felt. One has to enjoy the effects, without reserching into the causes.
-The choice for the woman with whom we’ll share our life will define 90% of our future happiness or lack of it. When the skin is over, conversation will be the main activity between you both, and it better be good. Remember that, some day, one of you may end up changing the other’s diapers.
-Never ever argue with your wife in the darkness.
-If have a good lawyer, a good doctor, good accountant and three true friends, you are a lucky guy.
-The best way to work and get things done consists in writing every morning a list of the 5 things one has planned to do in the day, and do them one at a time, beginning with the first. Don’t begin the second till you finish the first, and so on.
-About time management: set the big stones first, then the smaller ones around them. Then the sand and the water at the end..
-A secret is that while only one person knows it. If you do not want it known, don´t do it.
-Our inclinations have the amazing ability to disguise themselves into ideology.
-Badly used, power corrupts, technology stuns, and TV hypnotizes (About sex, I am looking for something bad to say, but can’t thing of anything at the moment)
-Friends are valuable. And friendships from a lifetime don’t get replaced easily, so they are to be watered, fertilized, and protected. And, sometimes, and even when that may hurt, pruned.
-Two things a man needs to know how to do: to take a risk and to say “Enough!”.
-You have to speak your thoughts out. Nobody can understand us if we don’t express ourselves. And communication is risky.  “Much” or ”Fun” may have a different meaning for each one. You have to use languaje with precission. (And if I say “language”, I mean words, looks, body and every form of expression)
-Some things should be written down, and some others should never be settled down.
-In good business everybody wins. That is why we live in cities, not alone in the fields (game theory). The most important asset in order to do business is the ability to generate confidence and credibility, and this asset is not to be learned: You are born with it or not.
-The only way to have people around you you can trust begins trusting someone.
-An ounce of image, like it or not, equals a Ton of work.
-There are many brilliant guys with plenty of wonderful ideas, but the ones that count are the ones that get it done. The ones with push and faith.
-The best way to get alive and well to 80 is to have a creative activity that pulls us to carry on, and seduces us into keep on delivering our goods. That  encourages us into endless output.
-You have to learn to love what you already have, which is probably enough without us realizing it, and get out of this desperate race to have MORE. And push if only this idea into our children’s brains.
-Among the weak, the strongest is the one that never forget his weakness.
-There are some instants in life where you are truly inmortal.
-Don’t push the river.
-One has to be very carefully in the choice of one’s own enemies.
-A thousand miles trip begins with a first step.
-Growing old one gets wilder and wiser. Also one can get to be a deeply religious non believer
-Do not worry about being known. Just try to be somebody worth knowing.
And..  my compliments to all of you who had the patience to make it till here!!

My "wheeled submarine" in Munich

In 2007 I had a great experience: in a short while I learned more about trust and generosity than in the many years before in my country.
After some years traveling to Vietnam, India and such I decided I was fed up. Too hot, too many people. So I decided to build a rolling home in Europe to use as a base. It was to be an important investment, but once made, the cost of moving through Europe one month a year would be close to zero.

Without giving it much thought I bought a used Renault Master Van (Inner height  = width = 6 feet !) to fix it in Munich for my traveling/ lodging needs. The raw plan was to park in front of a “Baumarkt” and work there... I had no idea.

Firstly I had to get the parts, but not speaking German it was really hard to do. So I thought: yachts and motorhomes have the same components. I looked for a yachting shop, and I found a place called “Der Segler”, where a guy named Theo took patiently care of me.
When I told him my plan he gave me a strange glance, and told me that he had a motorhome too!. In South Africa! And somebody there took care of it while he was away in Germany. So he in turn would help me (that had come through his door half an hour before) and would let me use his workshop and tools for the job.

Theo ended up being not only a fine technician and mechanic, but also a great guy. One week after our encounter he told me that having consulted with Ulla, his wife, he offered me his home to sleep in while I was fixing the van.
Well, thanks God. I had no idea how difficult the job would turn out to be. Through Theo, from Buenos Aires, I bought all the components:  gas and water tanks, heater, boiler, batteries, kitchen, sink, shower, tubes, isolation, etc. And when I got back to Munich I worked for a month to build what you see.
I Worked 16 hours a day, alone (Everyone is busy there) and in the courtyard, because the workshop was full of stuff. When he had a while Theo came downstairs  to offer instructions, coaching and German standards (!). And introduced me to tools unknown to man.

When it was done I realized that I would never have made it without his advice and help. It was a lesson on trust and generosity that puts me in the future in the duty of acting in the same manner given the chance. Thank you, Theo.
Finally, several kilos lighter and with skinned hands, I came home and the Van rested in a saw mill waiting for me through the year. In this manner my trips cost little more than the plane ticket. A few Diesel gallons and 100 Euros in a supermarket are good for a month of Spaghetti and 2000 miles.
And, even after having put up several buildings in 30 years as an architect, this was one of the most difficult building projects in my life, and as you can see, I am quite proud of it.