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Fotografías Mínimas is a simple and understated, independently published book of black and white street photography by Argentine photographer Leandro Piñeiro. During two separate periods in 2002 and 2007, Piñeiro stalked the busy downtown avenues of Buenos Aires, snapping passers-by literally “from the hip” without looking through the viewfinder or arousing attention.
Giving value to small encounters and chance sightings, we view it in passing fragments; moments of intimacy seen through a café window, a confused figure in front of an internet café, feet traversing a worn crosswalk or people immersed in quiet contemplation.
Piñeiro avoids representing Buenos Aires through familiar iconography. Rather, subtle details such as French style facades, men in tailored tweed suits and well groomed ladies in an elegant street-side café tell of a South American city that draws from the European heritage of the majority of its population. Such elements also hark back to post-war Paris street photography from which Piñeiro finds inspiration.
This vision of Buenos Aires, however, is not the “Paris of the South” that tourist brochures might wish to portray. The images, mostly taken from below waist level, or “from the viewpoint of a dog” as the photographer calls it, seem far from conjuring a sense of grandeur.
The city appears at times on the brink of collapse, with architectural lines bearing down upon its inhabitants, and shop signs crammed haphazardly into the corner of frames. In other photos we come down to the level of a child kneeling, a street musician slumped against a store window, and even an eager canine.
Piñeiro’s style of photography may seem a little raw, but its unpolished, verité feel perfectly encapsulates a place that, even in its most peaceful moments, seethes with potential tumult. Many of these photos were taken just after the economic crisis of 2001/2, which marked a period of social and political turmoil.
However, this context is not made explicit. The photos are left free of any captions that might lead us to any one particular reading of them. “My photos don’t carry a narrative,” says the photographer. “There’s no beginning or end and no message that needs to be decoded.”
The manner in which Piñeiro has pictured his metropolis seems to dismiss the idea that the city can be reduced to any easily digestible whole. His images ultimately point us back to the unrefined immediacy of urban experience, and the chaotic, enigmatic processes of those who meander, crouch, embrace or dream within the city’s streets. His photos therefore talk not only of Buenos Aires, but of all cities.
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