Adriana Lestido

Deep into the human heart

by Marcos Zimmermann.

As a crossbreed of bull and butterfly, Adriana Lestido walked through the last 30 years of Argentinian photography as a wild artist that was stirred between the pain of the people she photographed and her female social awareness. In that way she could build a corpus of images that, thanks to an unwavering asceticism, speaks from the bottom of the heart. Therefore, what you see in the photographs of Lestido is all that we are intuitive about but we cannot explain. Images that reveal the real world, but also a photographer instinctively obsessed to show what is behind people and also that which pinches our soul on silent nights.

After all, what should the art of photography be but that punch of light and shadow in our eyes, that paper ship that take us to unintended beaches, that caress that kisses the eyes and makes your spine shiver. Which would be the revolutionary power of this art if it weren’t used to show, undeniably, the marrow of what is visible? So is the new book by Adriana Lestido that summarizes her best years as a photographer and is full moving images.

She named it with the same careful simplicity as her photos, What is seen. And it is not a coincidence her book opens with a dedication to “light, generosity and beauty” of her disappeared companion during the last Argentinian military dictatorship. Since then, and with that same light, Adriana lightens her photographs. It is not strange either that at the turn of the page she snaps an answer to that wound, with the image of a child recognizing himself in a mirror for the first time, together with a moving text of Sara Gallardo: “The stone I was, softened and it made a hole. That mud washed away. We are done. Now the road is clean. What shall I say now? Well: just as a blind seed does not know the tree of tomorrow”.

This is how Adriana Lestido starts the book that, from the beginning, makes us feel skinned in the open. But she seems not to be satisfied with that catch and takes us immediately to a series called Children´s hospital. There is the start Adriana would do later on; the choice of tough subjects, her worries about social issues and her female´s sensitivity to take photographs. There is a personal fingerprinting that replicates in her later works and that gives her the tools to express the painful subjects she tackles, but also the potential hidden within the human solidarity.

Adolescent mothers, Imprisoned women and Mothers and daughters, the works that follow in the book, are the three love exercises Adriana has photographed and in which she was one of the characters. Each one of these works is the demonstration of how it is possible to show the inside of dismal subjects without resorting to dramatic effects, without making it necessary to picture more of what takes place in front of the camera. All these photographic ceremonies of Lestido seem to be cuddled by destiny. Lestido quotes a text by Pizarnik which endorses this idea: “the only thing that remotely looks like joy will be the pleasure of being aware of our own enlightening, the silence of understanding, and the quietness of just being there. That´s how years pass, this was how the beautiful animal joy passed

Immediately after this reflection, the book changes its temperament. Then two works appear: Love and Villa Gesell where a more updated Adriana, more intimate, expresses herself in first person. It is preceded by a text of Pedro Salinas, almost a self-portrait: “Each perfect kiss detaches time/ it pushes it back, it broadens a small world where kissing is still possible. / Neither in the place, nor in the finding / love has its summit; / it is in the resistance to part / where it is sensed, / naked, high, shivering”.

And here I want to stop. To go on depicting the works of Adriana Lestido would be erasing the charm to see them. It is better to let yourself go by the wild sensitivity she photographs. Her look both of a sweet girl and wild that, in a magic trance at times, or as an irrational beast al others, always lights with her camera “what is seen”. There is no doubt, this book proves that as Brazilians say that “The Saint has come down and possessed Lestido”.