‘The act of photography is that of ‘phenomenological doubt’, wrote Vilém Flusser in Towards a Philosophy for Photography. This phenomenological doubt is due to ‘the attempt of photography to capture a situation from any number of points of view’. If the objectivity of the photographic medium has been discussed for more than a century, the question of phenomenological doubt resonates quite well with the contemporary, post-modernist condition as the urgency behind the act of capturing picture. The ability of photography to truly bear witness of a situation is moreover exacerbated in the particular case of photojournalism. How can one depict the intimate reality of a situation, especially when it relates to a moment of distress, of a crisis, or a conflict? How to reveal the multi-faceted reality of migration and displacement within the strict photographic frame?
LA ESPERA (literally ‘the wait’) is a process of documenting the life of migrants, refugees and deportees across Mexico. Searching for an intimate relationship with its photographed subjects, while connecting them through the universal experience of the wait. We can all relate to the sensation of being caught in a limbo where our faith depends on factors going beyond our possibilities and will. For the majority of us though, to be in suspension is a temporary and disjointed experience within the flow of time. For those who live a situation of displacement, frozen time is all the time to live – and it is exhausting.
Visiting migrants’ shelter across Mexico, Ruiz Cirera would find groups of individuals from each corner of the world, all waiting for something: for their visa, for the right moment to cross the border, for a message from someone they know. In the series we can see mostly portraits, paired with empty interiors with reminiscences of life, as if someone has left in a hurry, and desolated urban landscapes. It is not an easy task to portray at-risk people without exposing them to danger; Ruiz Cirera photographic strength is to transcend the act of pure documentation through the use of visual strategies empowering the dignity of faces and silhouettes: his look is never inquisitorial, the light is never direct, the details are rarely revealed.
In the work of Ruiz Cirera, the phenomenological doubt that is the act of photography is shown through the complexity of humanity: of those who, in the images, are simultaneously a migrant, but also just a person sleeping in a field; a refugee, but also just a person praying; a deportee, but also just a person waiting. Fixed categories are blurred, finding ourselves wondering if what we look at might, as well, be us.
Adapted from the text by Elisa Rusca for the exhibition of La Espera at Galerie Focale