Photographs by Jorge Taboada. Interview by Habitat Project.
Images from above. The city saved from its own stories, presented as archaeological remains, out of scale with all its inhabitants and no one. People lose their features and identity, and become invisible. Documentation of overcrowding in these new spaces called “home.” Expansionist model, repeating large suburban spots throughout Mexico and Latin America. Houses with minimum space; together and facing each other, displaying a visually comforting but distressing landscape. Housing depersonalization and standardization of needs, extinction of individuality. The city as a result of mathematical models, fractals organized in monochromes. Stone witness, infinite repetition, geometrical fascination for a “sinister paradise”.
HABITAT: Why did you start working on Alta Densidad and where are these places located?
JORGE TABOADA: To be honest it wasn’t planned. The pictures started adding up. My glance is restless because I’ve always had these obsessions. Photographers use the camera to capture what they don’t want to forget, what they want to take with them. Like many other photographers I ‘steal moments’. My process is intuitive, when I look at my pictures after some time I can see the lines, threads and concepts I want to develop. As a photographer of architecture I am drawn to observe depth in cities, from the ground to the sky. From a helicopter I can see the huge development of housing in the Mexican suburbs that are rapidly developing. I am attracted to the perfection and order of this process. It’s like honey for my eyes. But then I am anguished, when I think of people suffering, due to standardisation and to lack of planning, few parks and places to gather: it’s a low quality of life.
H: How would you explain us your idea of density?
JT: In my work, density is just visual because if we strictly consider the concept of population density it doesn’t really apply. In Mexico and Latin America in general there is a lot of space and inhabited territories, this is why cities continue to expand like rings around industrial areas and replacing what used to be farmed lands (American sprawl). This only leads to chaos and increases distances and difficulties in commuting to the workplace. I am obsessed by documenting order and repetition. There are many ways to interpret my pictures: like abstract fragments, urban and social critique, a kind of violence on humans, etc.
H: Which kind of paradox are you investigating in your work ? and why ?
JT: The paradox I was referring to earlier is a visual but not spatial density, as well as the love- hate relationship I have with the shots I take. I am hypnotised by these immense, uniform, symmetrical, perfect, wise landscapes, where different peoples’ stories are taking place, of individuals moving in a unique fluid space, like in a ‘broth’. It gets me thinking about the consequences of living in such places, and the politics that generate a sort of ‘sinister Paradise’.
H: Do your shots have a social value? Which one?
JT: Alta Densidad is a project which subtly criticises the issue of social housing in Mexico. It’s a silent criticism. The proliferation of giant complexes in the suburbs of these countries’ main cities and their model is not sustainable, for the city or its population. It’s a portrait of people from afar and from very high up. Distance is in all my pictures. I basically make people invisible and document only their archeological remains.
H: Which is the role of the photographer in contemporary state of art?
JT: I think one of the main themes to be dealt with in Latin America is reporting and documenting minorities, segregated ethnical groups, and environmental, political and social themes. Latin America is undergoing great changes and is attempting to understand and assimilate them. Development is on its way, democracies are improving. We as photographers are aware of these phenomena and try to look at them from different angles, whether we are in Monterrey or in Saõ Paolo.
H: Have you ever entered into those houses? If you have the opportunity to give an advice to an architect, what will you say him ?
JT: Yes, I had the opportunity of entering these houses. They are very small and sometimes families of four live in one room. But we can’t blame it on architects, it’s more about government politics. I don’t think they are enough, or decent. They lack space, functionality, thermal insulation: it’s poor planning. Not to mention the fact they are far from the city centres and cannot count on efficient public transport.
H: Do you have plans about continuing your research on housing conditions? How?
JT: I will continue to investigate the theme of suburban cities. I would like to analyse all the factors that modify the rapid growths of urban landscapes, not just housing.