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PORTFOLIO

26.03.2021

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On many levels, Caracas is overwhelming, demanding and contradictory. This is precisely why Ronald Pizzoferrato, a native Venezuelan, took on the challenge of producing a photographic portrait of the city. In this interview, he speaks about the constantly changing diversity, reflects on his role as a photographer, and does away with the city's recurring and overused cliches.

LFI: From a photographic point of view, what catches your eye when roaming through the city?
Ronald Pizzoferrato: I try to avoid a colonialist position that only knows the roles of “the Photographer" and “the photographed”. I am just one among many people. There is nothing here that seeks attention, there is nothing “photographable”, because the city is not a circus or a zoo where I seek to exhibit something.
My work is more of an effort to reflect the city and its particular beauty through family, friends or acquaintances. It is a view that is rather difficult for outsiders to see.

The cliché that Caracas is one of the most dangerous cities in the world nevertheless persists. What is the biggest challenge in your work?
The most difficult thing is to not reproduce this constant stigmatisation. The people in Caracas are tired of what photographers, both national and foreign, show. Life here is not all danger and poverty.
That is why I find that the most difficult part is to make people understand that there are a number of people who are looking for another narrative. That's where the complexity comes in: a photographer in a polarized city like Caracas can be seen as a threat or even as an infiltrator, and issues like crime and insecurity are something that you will manage if you are a local, so you can minimise the actual danger. Of course, all this is difficult to grasp, and not as simple as it sounds, as the city constantly demands to adapt through ever-changing norms, rules and codes.

How would you describe the atmosphere in the city?
From a visual and climatic point of view, it is my favourite city in the world. Caracas it's like a paradise in an urban context, but the fragility makes it very demanding: everything can change from good to bad at any moment, and sometimes so fast that you don't even realize it.
I would say that Caracas is like a city which you can trust in its totality, but you also inevitably have to measure yourself. It's a city where the logical and the illogical can have a common narrative, where antagonistic things come together. It sounds weird and kind of utopian, but I think that's the word with which I could describe its atmosphere: utopian.
The most striking thing for me is that even as a native there is no guarantee that you will understand the city: it has many layers, faces and realities - and they all keep changing.

You cover humanitarian crises and social issues. Would you say that your work is political?
My photography is very political. I was born and raised in Venezuela and experience the political events around me on a regular basis. It is almost impossible to disconnect from that reality. If you don’t understand politics in a city like Caracas, you won't understand the city itself.
However, although my photography is political, it doesn't take the side of the national government or of the opposition. Even apart from that, there are many political actors who want to use certain visual narratives for their own interests. So if you are not very clear about what you are photographing you run the risk of your work being manipulated for political interests, even if you don't want that to happen. (Interview: Danilo Rößger)

All images on this page: © Ronald Pizzoferrato
Equipment: Leica M-P (Typ 240) and Leica M6 with Voigtländer Nokton 35 f/1.4 and Voigtländer Nokton 50 f/1.1
© Max Well

Ronald Pizzoferrato

Ronald Pizzoferrato is a Venezuelan artist and photographer born and raised in Caracas and currently living in Switzerland. In 2020, he graduated successfully with a Master’s in Art and Design from the Zürich University of the Arts, and was honoured with the Best Master’s Project Award 2020. His visual art revolves around topics such as violence, marginalization, poverty, migration and decolonization. He works as a freelance photographer for NGOs and other institutions as well as on self-initiated projects in Latin America. His approach is to visualize marginalized realities and educate the public about issues they are unfamiliar with. Given that photography contributed to the exoticization of humans during imperialism/colonialism, it is crucial for him to provide authentic representations of non-Western realities.

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