Excerpts of this ongoing project have been featured in the New York Times (in digital) and World Policy Journal (in print). It has been partially exhibited in Photoville, New York (2016-2017). It was awarded Ian Parry's 2017 Highly Commended Award and exhibited in London Bridge in 2018, as part as ‘World as Image”, a collective exhibition, curated by Rebecca McClelland.
Between lights and shadows, a couple hugged beneath a tree on a breezy afternoon. They had fallen in love before being able to touch each other so now, they took every chance as if it were the last. And any chance could have been the last.
“There's nothing left for us here but death," the teenage boy said, as he held her head in his arms.
Within a week, they would be crossing the Simon Bolivar bridge, joining a diaspora that currently exceeds three and a half million people.
Venezuelans are the second largest refugee population in the world, second only to Syria, according to the Organization of American States. Venezuela is the murder capital of South America. It has the largest inflation rate in the world, the lowest wages and the highest poverty rates in the hemisphere. The most crowned beauty queens. One of the highest teenage pregnancy rates. While millions flee, others try to survive. The rest just doesn't survive at all.
The Venezuelan collapse has measurable, well-known, causes and effects. But watching your home fall apart cannot be counted or measured. It can only be shown.
An oil rich nation, that once held all the hopes and expectations for Latin America. A dream land. A promise. In a constant battle between the reminiscence of the past and the brutal reality of the present. Horrified by everyday life; sublimed in a summer that never ends.
Paradise Lost started in 2012, documenting the rise of violence in Venezuela. It has now become a photographic journal of a country that is free falling into chaos. It is an ongoing personal project focusing on the complexities of the crisis and the gray areas that often get lost in the narratives. The nostalgia of living in a country that you call home but that you no longer recognize, except in intermittent flashes of beauty, that people desperately cling to as a way of feeling home again, of not feeling completely estranged.
From everyday encounters with violence and the many shapes that can take, to the rise of state violence and ongoing political turmoil. Together, these stories amount to an untenable situation, framed by the promise of a dream that became a nightmare. Between our own beauty and horror, comes Paradise Lost.
This is an inside look of how it feels to watch your country die.
Forever grateful to every single person featured in this project, to their bravery to put a face and a name to the problems that Venezuela is facing, in spite of all the risks that might entail. Without your determination, most of these issues would still be kept secret. I am so appreciative for letting me into your lives.
Also, to those who are not in these pictures but who have supported this work in the many paths it has taken throughout the years: Natalie Keyssar, for editing this project incessantly, thank you for your patience and presence. To Nina Berman, for pushing me to be my very best version. To James Estrin and David Gonzalez for believing in this project since the first time they saw it. To Santiago Escobar, for helping me understand my own work and making it look like it does today.