Location
Urubamba, Cusco, Peru

Alejandra Orosco

Peru  

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(Lima, 1988) Communicator and photographer based in the Sacred Valley, Cusco, Peru. In her artistic practice, Alejandra seeks to question the possibilities and limits of documentary photography, using different media and tools to create her narratives. The themes she addresses through her current photographic research are the impact of development on traditional populations, friction between scientific language and intimate life, and the impact of climate change on mental health. Her work has been exhibited in Peru, Switzerland, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, and the United Arab Emirates. She currently works for international media and co-directs Maleza, an Arts Center in Urubamba, Cusco.  

“Sólo Los Recuerdos No Se Ahogan” / “Only Memories Do Not Drown”

“Only Memories Do Not Drown” highlights the 1978 story of El Peñol, a town whose residents were compelled to relocate because of a hydroelectric project that would eventually supply 30% of Colombia’s population with energy. 

Through photographic and press archives recovered during their eviction, Alejandra Orosco reinterprets their narrative by submerging these materials underwater, mirroring the town’s flooding.  

Now, only water remains, and beneath it, memories persist. 

I am interested in highlighting the importance of the photographic archive and its ability to tell future stories.

Interview

What was your inspiration, process, and research? 

The impossibility of photographing what was beneath that lagoon inspired me to imagine other aesthetic possibilities to tell this story. 

While I imagined what that underwater world could look like, I began to interview different people to understand how they or their family members had lived the migration experience and reconstruct the old town from their stories. Among them, I found Nevardo, director of the Old Peñol Museum, who granted me access to their entire photographic archive, and from which I decided to work on the photographic proposal. 

Nevardo had been one of the children who had to leave his home due to the arrival of the water. He, like others, began to play to rescue the photos that the adults threw into the waters of the Naré River. Those children did not calculate the importance of their game and that those images would be the only physical evidence that would remain of that town that was disappearing before their eyes. 

I spent two years researching both the history of the town and the impact of hydroelectric projects in Latin America, finding that thousands of towns are displaced for the construction of dams. This reaffirmed my need to tell the story of El Peñol to show that it was not an isolated case, but rather the sign that thousands of towns are constantly forgotten under the waters of these development projects. 

My photographic research went through many stagesuntil I finally decided that distorting the images with water would be what would tie the entire series together, conceptually, and aesthetically. 

One of my main visual references was “Narciso” by the Colombian artist Oscar Muñoz, or “Paisagem Submersa” by the Brazilian photographers João Castilho, Pedro David, and Pedro Motta. 

What do you hope to achieve with this project?

hope to encourage reflection on the human stories behind each development project from which we all benefit. 

The way we live detached from the origin of our privileges, without knowing where the resources are extracted so that we have electricity, internet, food, or water in our homes, encourages us to continue being an unconscious and excessively consumptive society.  

would like this little story to help us see the problem in a more global way. May these portraits encourage us to see ourselves as part of the problem and that perhaps in the face of closeness to invisible human stories, we will achieve a more empathetic society and begin to see ourselves as part of the solution as well

At the same time, as a photographer I am interested in highlighting the importance of the photographic archive in its ability to tell future stories. This project taught me to value the everyday images that I consume and produce and think of them as possible evidence of this time for those who come after. 

In times of image overproduction, I find interesting to tell stories from recycled images, giving them value and speaking from what has already been done

Were you able to apply what you learned at VII Academy/Foundry Photojournalism Workshop to this project, and if so, how?  

Yes, I have been able to apply different things learned during the VII Academy courses, like the editing tools that Monica Allende shared with us during the development of Level 1 of the Program for Narrative and Documentary Practice. was also able to reflect on my role as a photographer within the stories of people displaced by development projects together with Stefano de Luigi in Level 2. Stefano’s comments were crucial in helping me see myself within the story and recognize myself as a character too, expanding and strengthening my statement as a photographer, helping me with writing tools to land these reflections in my work. 

Finally, perhaps the most valuable thing I have gained from the experience as part of both seminarshas been meeting a community of photographers in Latin America and the world that helped me understand the similarity of our stories and what role we are playingwithin these. This is something that I appreciate, and it still helps me today to understand the importance of our work documenting socio-environmental stories from each region.