Photo not found

Sunday Salon
with Greg Fallis

Alessandra Sanguinetti – Part One


Alessandra Sanguinetti spent a period of nine years getting to know the Argentine farm families that are featured in her two best known photographic series. She became familiar with the ebb and flow of farm life; she came to understand and appreciate the matter-of-fact relationship between the farmers and the animals they raised.

Sang2

Sanguinetti’s chronicle of that life and that relationship is entitled On the Sixth Day, a reference to the book of Genesis. It was on the 6th day that the Biblical God is said to have both created the beasts of the earth and given Man "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."

Sanguinetti’s approach to photographing the series On the Sixth Day is, in a way, an echo of the approach the farmers take to their work. Unhurried, pragmatic, no-nonsense. Her approach to her subjects echoes the approach farmers take to their livestock. Realistic, sensible, unsentimental.

Livestock are not pets. They are exactly what the term describes…living stock. They are goods kept on the premises for convenient access and use. The only difference between the domesticated animals and the wildlife is that harvesting wildlife is more inconvenient. They’re all destined for the table, they’re all under the dominion of Man.

Sang5

Sanguinetti isn’t making a political point with this series. She’s no more interested in the politics of meat/vegetarianism than she is in anthropomorphizing the animals themselves. She’s simply documenting a way of life. Yes, the ducklings in the photographs are cute and the young goats are adorable…but Sanguinetti doesn’t purposely make them cute or adorable. That’s just how they are. Cuteness doesn’t save them from the table.

And yet it’s clear that Sanguinetti has some sympathy for the animals she photographs. Most of the images are shot from the same visual perspective as the animal she’s photographing. Her camera is almost always at the same level of the animal. She’s not looking down from above; she is with the duckling looking down from the truck; she is with the wild-eyed cow in the sorting chute.

Sang6

Most of us give no real thought to where our food comes from. We accept without question our position of dominion in the food chain, and we don’t really consider the how the steak on the grill or the chicken in the fajita gets from the farm to the plate. Sanguinetti isn’t drawing any direct connections; she’s simply revealing the reality. She shows us life on the farm. She shows how the farmers live, how the animals live, and how one serves the other. She does it without judgment. She does it with compassion for the farmers and for the animals.

Sang1

Oddly enough, he aspect of Sanguinetti’s On the Sixth Day series that rarely gets discussed is the powerful beauty of the photographs. They are wonderfully balanced and strangely formal in composition. While it’s absolutely true that this series is a meditation on the peculiar relationship between farmers, animal life, and the land they share, it’s not merely reportage; it’s also an amazing work of art. Sanguinetti manages to create images of uncomplicated beauty by using a sophisticated and formal style of composition.

For a great many reasons, that contradiction seems appropriate.