El Niño X 3: Young Bodies, Old Souls
through September 29
Fotoseptiembre Internacional is a biennial celebration of photography organized by the Mexico City-based Centro de la Imagen. Designed in 1994 to promote the work of Latin American photographers, Fotoseptiembre has become a worldwide showcase of not only the photographers of Latin America, but also the region's innumerable photographic subjects. This year, Fotoseptiembre encompasses more than 700 photography-related events in several countries around the world.
Austin's inclusion in the biennial is "El Niño X 3" (the child by three), an exhibition featuring images of Latin American children by Austin-based photographers Brenda Ladd, Curtis Craven, and Dennis Darling. To focus on the adolescents of Latin America is essentially to explore the depths of the simple lifestyle -- and the poverty frequently accompanying it -- that is so prevalent in these countries. In this collection, the youths -- who possess an uncomplicated charm that often betrays their impoverished reality -- are candidly presented in their natural environs. All the photos are black and white, enhancing the subject's gritty nature and antiquated quality.
Brenda Ladd's Tres Niños con Regalos depicts three children -- two boys and a girl -- sitting on a shrubby hillside that overlooks a small hamlet. These earthy cherubs, with their hesitant half-smiles and penetrating dark eyes, are at once wise and innocent, like petite bodies enveloping old souls. Curtis Craven's Afternoon Bath in Tecolutla River is shot from overhead, looking down on a blissful girl almost totally submersed in the river, the gray water circling out from her face framing her features like wavy halos. Dennis Darling's Feast of St. George is a beautiful yet unsettling image of two young boys dressed in ornate homemade warrior costumes. With somber countenances and toy swords at the ready, the boys seem prepared for battle. Their serious nature is both humorous and disconcerting; their chivalrous stances seem all too mature for their diminutive frames.
This collection is a fine example of the photographic medium as an artform, with engaging and narrative images as rich and lively as one could hope to find on paper. The three photographers represented normally work in vastly different styles, but here their differences tend to melt away in the grainy images. Each photo wholly complements the next, each befitting the other like kin in an extended family. Technical variables become obsolete in the dark pools of the subjects' eyes, giving way to one organic constant: little humans with large spirits. -- Cari Marshall