[Smiling] Why not? They are half of the population! No, I started with Sweet Expectations
and I think that work overall—
now when I think of it in fact—
was sort of like a disillusionment with the adult world. I’ve always been a bit immature…and still am. I can’t get over that I’m not a kid anymore, even though I’m going to be forty. And I think I grew up in this bubble, thinking that when I would be twenty-one, suddenly I would be this marvelous person and that my life would start, and then I turned twenty-one and I realized it was really up to me, and that there was nothing great or magical about the world, it was really up to you to make and find your place in it. So there was a period of time when I was disappointed with everything, and when I looked at children, you know…all I saw was doom. I just saw little adults. I thought then, and I would say to myself, ‘they will grow up to be adults, full of disillusion’. That is what I was dealing with when I took those pictures. The photographs are anonymous too, they’re not about the child I was photographing. Some were kids of the street, some were neighbors. And then afterwards I didn’t take pictures of kids for a long time. I was doing all the Sixth Day
animal work and then in 1999 after having been very ill while we were abroad doing an artist residency for Martin, we came back and I went back to the farm to go on with the Sixth Day
project, but I just couldn’t relate to the animals, and I didn’t want to be around animals being killed, or blood, and I also felt that I was repeating myself. So I started spending time with Guille and Belinda, the nine-year-old granddaughters of this woman I had spent a lot of time with who had a lot of animals. I spent time with them and began actually filming them—filming them with an old camera the way I would film at home, not with any particular idea in mind. Then I started to photograph them in color, and then I developed it, and said “oh maybe I have something here.” But actually when I was photographing them I thought I was wasting time. I thought I should be working on the animal series. So it wasn’t a decision “oh I am going to do a project about these two little girls.” I really just enjoyed being with them. One of the first things that attracted me to them, was to spend time with their voices, you know Belinda has this very high-pitched voice [Alessandra imitates a phrase in Spanish, shrill and girlish] it was just such joy to be with them, I felt alive… since I had been so sick and scared before. I just felt really alive with them. So it was never a decision to photograph them, it just happened. I guess I feel more comfortable with children. But not really. No, I don’t feel more comfortable—maybe now that I have a daughter I know how to relate better, before I didn’t really know how to talk to kids. To photograph them is a completely different thing. You know, that is exactly the way to deal—no, to relate to somebody when you don’t know how. I think many photographers do that too. But actually I would feel uncomfortable, I didn’t know how to talk to them or play with them. I didn’t especially like them or dislike them but I never had that thing like—“oh babies!!” When I had friends with kids I would love them, but I would just get very bored. You know, I’m just a horrible person [laughs]. But now I understand because I have a daughter. But before… so it wasn’t really that I enjoyed being with children, I take that back. I enjoyed being with them
. They had this very special thing about them, they really enjoyed the attention I gave them, you know, they were alone—to have somebody coming and saying, “you are the center of the universe… play” was… for them, for a time, fabulous.
SM: How did Belinda and Guille look back on the experience of being photographed? Have they commented or reflected on it, particularly in light of your most recent gallery show at Yossi Milo?
No, we don’t have those types of conversations.
First of all, Belinda, the one who had the baby…she doesn’t reflect. She’s intelligent and she is really funny, but … she only looks forward, not even forward, she lives in the present day-to-day. She doesn’t really, or at least she doesn’t communicate, any reflection on her life, which makes her a very … I don’t know if happy is the word, but a very satisfied person. Everyday she deals with whatever happens everyday. Guillermina yes, she is much more romantic and emotional, and doesn’t really know what she wants, and if she wants something she usually can’t have it. She’s more like everybody else. She has more of an idea about the project, she doesn’t know about this show yet, because I haven’t spoken to them in a few months, but she would probably have something to say, but I don’t know what it is. Belinda, she wouldn’t have anything to say. I don’t even know why she lets herself be photographed. Because she is very private, we don’t talk with Belinda much. She doesn’t talk. She is the kind of person that won’t smile to make you feel better. I wanna be like her in my next life. Really, she is rock—in a good way.
SM: Has she always been that way or is that something that has come with growing up?
: No, she has always been that way. She was always sure of herself. She always knew what she wanted. She knew she wanted a family and kids. That’s all. She wasn’t interested in anything else. So she has that. I don’t think she ever doubts anything, and I find that incredible. And her cousin is the complete opposite—but complete
opposite, not only physically. In every way they are opposites.
Now they live in town, but before they lived in the countryside, about ten kilometers apart. Their parents worked in other people’s farms, taking care of them. Ten kilometers in the countryside is nothing, but it’s enough so that you need a parent to drive you. So they would get together more when I was there. And now they live in the same town, but Belinda is so private that they hardly see each other. They see each other more when I’m there.
SM: I wanted to ask you, because you are someone who has been distinguished among photographers of the last several years, as a major talent, by your critics and peers, what, if any advice might you offer from your personal experience to young, still emerging, yet to be distinguished artists regarding their work and careers?
You know I could think of a million things I could suggest, but as soon as I think of them, the few times I’ve said them, I would just see the words tumble of out my mouth, and I realize how ridiculous it is to give general advice. General advice, no, it would be only what works for me, and everybody is different. I couldn’t.
SM: How do you feel about being photographed?
, I don’t want to be photographed. My image doesn’t match my… well, physically, you know at thirty-nine you are changed, and when I look at myself in the mirror I just don’t recognize myself anymore. I have to start adjusting and putting all the things together. I feel twenty-five, and I don’t look twenty-five anymore. It’s not about looking pretty, it’s about being young. My husband wants to photograph me all the time, and I don’t let him. But I never liked being photographed that much either. I know
, especially by some photographer, and not by family, because I know how much you can be…changed.
SM: In an image?
Yeah… And… yes, I do that all the time. For example on the playground, if someone wants to take a photograph of my daughter—
I do what I hated to see people do before… I freak out. I feel protective. I don’t want it! And then Martin…he is much nicer person than I am…he let’s them. But I have this reaction, the same reaction that parents had toward me. And now I wouldn’t be able to take pictures of children in street anymore, before you could do it. Now it’s impossible. People get very upset.
SM: Do you think it’s impossible here in New York, or in Argentina as well, and everywhere?
No, actually in Argentina it has also grown more difficult. There was a rumor going around while we were travelling through the provinces that there was a white van with people photographing children and later stealing their organs! [laughs] So we would be looked at suspiciously, even though we drove a tiny grey car. But it’s not impossible. I mean, it’s just in the way you approach it and how you explain. You just can’t snap and leave. Nothing is impossible, actually.
SM: Alright, last question: Are you working on anything right now? Is there anything you are interested in for future projects? You mentioned you don’t really make specific plans when it comes to creating a series, but—
—No, now I have some plans. I mean, like the animals from the Sixth Day
for example, it was a plan in the sense that I knew I wanted to do something with animals but I just didn’t know how, and I didn’t know why yet. I remember being at ICP in ’92 and having images in color of animals and very vague things that I knew I was drawn to—
it just didn’t have structure to it. With the girls, no, with the girls it just happened. And now, I have images in my head of things I want to do, subject I want to photograph, but I can’t really…and I have begun to two or three projects but I don’t really want to talk about them because I might not go through with them, I don’t want to put that pressure on myself. But there are a few things floating around.
I mentioned to Alessandra that I’d brought along my own camera to take a snapshot of her for the article, but assumed after listening to how she felt about having her photograph taken that that wouldn’t be possible that afternoon. However she calmly replied “yes, of course” and told me it was because she had decided all the same that she must get beyond her dislike for it. She picked up her dog, Lunita, and I asked her to stand by the window for a moment.
Thank you for your time Alessandra.