Archive of Attitude

We began the morning in Caracas by appearing on local radio shows to talk about the photo school and why we are here.  Since neither Janette nor I speak Spanish (I know, typical arrogant Americano), Mariana comes to translate.  She is fantastic, a producer who went to NYU and is not only whip smart, but has a great sense of humor.  We will appear on 6 radio shows while we are here.

Tonight is the opening of Janette’s exhibit at the school, so we go and meet with the printer, Laura (an incredible woman) and to the framer. We do this twice because there turned out to be a problem with one of the prints. From there we continue to drive around and get stuck in traffic. Everywhere you look are colorful graffiti and murals. The government supports the efforts, but the painters go out at night.  There is some tagging over existing work, but not much.

Then we’re back at the school while the show is being hung. Chantal and Emilio work hard to put it up after Janette and I figure out the flow. The “Archive of Attitude” show features some of Janette’s famous black and white photographs of the Sex Pistols, The Specials, Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Salt ‘N Pepa, The Modettes, Debbie Harry, and fans from both the punk scene and the early Bronx hip hop scene. Sprinkled in are some of the East LA gang girls. It’s incredible to see the work on the wall.  I have never seen Janette’s work this way, and it once again makes me realize what an amazing photographer she is. The prints are large and gorgeous—lush black and beautiful shades of grey really give them depth and make them dynamic.

Roberto Mata Taller de Fotographia

The Roberto Mata Taller de Fotographia is a great space, hidden like most things in Caracas, behind a nondescript doorway. The gallery is large with high ceilings, and upstairs there are classrooms, and a full darkroom for developing and printing film. But like anywhere, it is seldom used, and the top of the line equipment sits idle.

Driving around Caracas the one thing you see plenty of is color. From the red of Chavez supporters to the multi-colored graffiti, to the red, yellow and blue of the Venezuelan flag, you are swept up in the vibrancy of the city. The sky is clear blue, and looming on one side, the green mountain. On other sides, the rust colored barrio houses layer the hills to the far east. Greenery dips from all the balconies, and it makes the city seem so alive.

Driving everywhere without being able to roll down windows, while frequently stuck in traffic exhausts me. I live in a walking city, and as a person who never drives, I cannot imagine living this way. It is also apparent that the rich live in a bubble completely separated from the poor. As much as we wanted to get out and walk, and experience the city, we could not. And so we bow to a way of life we do not understand or have any experience with.

There are no stop signs here, or at least none that people really obey, except at major intersections. Everyone edges up on everyone else, and the first one who moves most aggressively wins. People have to walk between cars in a totally different way than how we in New York jaywalk. There are barely car lanes either.

We have our first taste of arepas and cachacas, and they are both delicious. Add to that the gorgeous taste of fruit (whether cut up or as juice), and I am really enjoying this bit of Caracas. We have visited a well-known bakery, Danubio, where Roberto knows the owner, Andreas, and he allows us to walk in the back to watch the pastries being made. We are then treated to spectacular desserts and café marrone (like cappucino), which I adore. What a treat! I could get used to that.

Roberto seems to know everyone, and that makes for a really pleasant day, even if the constant driving makes me exhausted.

The opening is a great success that brings out a lot of our students-to-be, as well as some local rappers. Since we are here to teach (and hopefully photograph) the youth and music scene, this bodes well for the future. People come up and introduce themselves and are so sweet and interesting we both have a wonderful time. It is so frustrating to not be able to really speak Spanish, but with some translating and a bit of effort we have some fun conversations.

We go to bed excited about what the next day will bring.

Tomorrow we meet Tuki dancers, drive around new parts of the city and actually begin to meet people and see the other part of town, so stay tuned for more of my Caracas adventure.