Adriana Lestido

Amores difíciles” (Hard Loves), a retrospective comprising 162 images by Argentine artist Adriana Lestido, shows one possible evolution of the work of a professional photographer in these times. Lestido trained as a photojournalist, and for many years she worked for newspapers and photography departments of news agencies. Owing to the success of her first several series—e.g., “Hospital infanto juvenil” (Children’s Hospital), 1986–89, and “Madres adolescentes” (Teenage Mothers), 1989–90—she made a name for herself in the Argentine photography scene. The primary concern of those series, as well as of “Mujeres presas” (Women Prisoners), 1991–93, was to describe Argentine social reality by examining specific subjects; the work’s status as journalism also reflected that end. These are straightforwardly documentary records of people and situations.

A comparison of Lestido’s photographs from those early years and her more recent work reveals that her main themes have remained constant. The focus on children and their relationships with their mothers is evident throughout her production, as is the overwhelming presence of women. Indeed, but for a few isolated exceptions in recent series, her work is marked by the absence of men. But if the content of Lestido’s work has not changed much, its form has, most certainly due to a growing awareness of herself as an author and an artist. This is particularly evident in one of the more recent series in this exhibition: “El Amor” (Love), 1992–2004, makes use of more abstract visual elements, or at least elements that tend toward abstraction. The topic of this series is lovelessness, which the images attempt to reflect. Here, the connection between image and theme is vaguer than in her early work, partly because most of these photographs make use of elements that hinder clear definitions and hence diminish the communicative value of what is photographed. As opposed to the precision with which her often marvelous early work described situations and captured faces, in her more recent photographs Lestido turns to the less concrete, more suggestive power of metonymic images. Series such as “El Amor” and “Villa Gesell,” 2005, make wide use of blurry images and underexposure, which often end up seeming like stylistic resources that are as important to Lestido as her ostensible subject matter. Thus, in this series, as in so much contemporary photography, the medium itself becomes part of the subject.

Some of Lestido’s work wavers between these two approaches. For example, “Madres e hijas: 4 Historias” (Mothers and Daughters: 4 Stories), 1995–98, was created over the course of three years, a brief period by her standards, and its various parts show how her oeuvre developed during that period. Thus the subseries “Marta y Naná” (Marta and Naná) consists of clear images of two women, while in the complexity of “Alma y Maura” (Alma and Maura), one can sense Lestido’s growing interest in visual syntax as such.

Pablo Llorca

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.