Celine Frers captures the extreme beauty of Argentina and her people. Plan South America caught up with the Argentine photographer to learn about her love of wild landscapes and why a personal connection with her subjects is so important.
By Carolina Beresford
Your primary subject is Argentina itself. What is it about this country that attracts you?
“The more I travel abroad, the more I like Argentina; I realise that the things I like can’t be found just anywhere. I live in Argentina for it’s landscapes, for the virgin territory it has, for the good people you find when you leave the city. Argentina is an adventure. It really has to do with what you think life is about. I love the immensity of the country; in Europe you see people everywhere – when I went I felt like screaming, ‘where does the dirt road start?! Where can I walk around barefoot!?’ That’s what I really like about Argentina.”
It’s evident in your work that you form a special relationship with the subject you are photographing, be it the landscape or its people.
“I usually spend a long time in the places I photograph. I want to understand the land, the light, the people. On my Colours of Corrientes project I met so many truly good people, people who open their lives to you and are willing to give everything. When people ask me ‘what do you believe in?’ it’s exactly that; I believe in people who move you, who make you want to be a better person.”
Is that what inspired your Land of Gauchos project?
“The Gauchos book was a personal project of mine, something that I’d been longing to do. As a child I used to spend all day with the gauchos on the farm; they are the best memories I have. I’m grateful for having been raised amoung people like gauchos – in their simplicity they understand life so much better. It’s enriching talking to them. I feel that people who are closer to nature understand life better. I have spoken to people who don’t even know how to read or write and I feel a sincere connection. They are completely profound in their simplicity.”
One cannot admire Argentina without taking into account it’s people…
“Of course! My next book is Argentina and its People – it will take a deeper look at the country and explore the cultures that are still so virgin, like the Collas and the Wichis. It’s about getting to know the people in these communities, like I did with Gauchos.”
What do you want to achieve?
“With Gauchos, without realising it, I created something of historical and ethnographical value. I captured something that’s being lost – there’s a value to photography in that sense. Many places have changed completely in the last few years. With Argentina and its People I want to capture and preserve the cultures that are fading away.”
In your quest to record the landscapes and people of Argentina, is there a particular aesthetic you strive for?
“I always search to create an atmosphere. I search for beauty, but not an obvious kind. I want the image to be the starting point for a story. If it’s not the people, it’s the light, or the dust, which generates something beyond the image. Even if it’s a static landscape, it has to have a certain life. I like to transmit the beauty I see and inspire the viewer.”
Is there a particular anecdote from your travels that stands out?
“When doing Gauchos, I always remember how hard it was to actually locate the gauchos! In some provinces, like Corrientes or Patagonia, it’s easier to find them, but in others you really have to look. In La Pampa I spent two days driving down dirt roads looking for them… Finally, I came across a little house and found two gauchos living there. It was like walking into the past, as if nothing had changed in the last 100 years; it was a completely sacred space. I ended up talking to them for a while and taking some amazing photos. Moments like that, which occur spontaneously, are the ones I enjoy most.”
Find out more about Celine Frers Photography > www.celinefrers.com