Everything is real until proven otherwise: the photographer Luis Cobelo has created a magical world of imagery inspired by the Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. He invites the viewer into a small town somewhere in Latin America, where monkeys predict the future and chickens lay golden eggs.
How did you get the idea of doing a project around One Hundred Years of Solitude?
I first read One Hundred of Solitude when I was 12 years old, and I suppose a seed was planted right then. In more than 30 years, I remember having read it ten times; and the book still remains with me. I was in Aracataca, the little town where García Márquez was born, for the first time in 2007. During that visit I also photographed some images that were represented in the book. That first trip to Aracataca changed my life: to physically see all the places where the story took place was amazing. When the time came to leave the village, I knew I would be back one day. And I was.
What was the most challenging part of photographing this series?
Two things mark this project: the first one was the personal crisis I was experiencing, which made it difficult to focus on the project, yet somehow also defined everything. The cliché that you need a crisis to be creative was confirmed. In my case I think that a door that had been closed for several years finally opened, letting in all the things that are usually hidden by ‘regular humans things’, such as fears, insecurities or procrastination. I now have the doors open at all times.
The second thing that marked me might sound sillier, but it was actually the heat I experienced in Aracataca. It was terribly intense. One day I suffered from blood pressure issues and was actually blinded for a short while. Although I experienced fear in that moment – I also took in and enjoyed the temporary blindness. My vision began to reappear slowly – similar to the process of developing black and white photos in a dark room.
The world of Marquez is somehow magical. How were you able to combine this with the medium of photography?
I discovered that it’s easy for me to create magic – though this may sound unrealistic because I am not a professional magician. I believe that when you open your senses and your heart, things will appear more easily and fluidly. I am Luis, but at the same time I’m a photographer – there is no separation for me. This means that the combination of my personality believing in creating magic, and capturing magic through photography, comes naturally to me, because I’m just open to things happening.
Why did you name the series Zurumbático?
The word appears just once in the book. When one of the characters, Ursula, tells two little boys that they are “zurumbáticos” because they have a disease.
It is an old Spanish word that comes from Portuguese, and which is still used in Colombia, mostly in small towns. It’s a very musical word. The truth is that music is fundamental for my life, it always accompanies me. Zurumbático/a is a person who acts unequivocally, who is enigmatic and melancholic, a little crazy, who has a changing temper, sometimes bad, sometimes not so bad. In the first moments of the project, I intended to produce a photographic creation inspired by the word.
What are your next projects?
I have started a new project in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The name is Chas Chas and it’s about a neighbourhood called Parque Chas. The project started 30 years ago, when I came across a story in the form of a comic book called Parque Chas, dedicated to a neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. The comic follows the adventures of a journalist who reports on fantastical and extraordinary things happening in that place – a place where wonderful and magical people live. What really moved me to go there to discover if all of it was true, was this sentence: “everything you ever lost in your life, exists in Parque Chas”. And I found it.
A portfolio dedicated to Luis Cobelo’s work appeared in LFI 5.2019.
Luis Cobelo was born in Venezuela in 1970. The photographer studied and completed a degree in Philosophy. He has been working as a freelance photographer since 2001, focusing on documentary projects in America, Asia and Europe. In 2017 he self-published the book Zurumbático; pictures from the series have been exhibited at festivals worldwide. Cobelo is currently working on his new project titled Chas Chas, which is set in a neighbourhood in Buenos Aires.
To see more of Cobelo’s photography you can visit his website.