LA NACION | Open sky gallery in Chubut by Daniel Gigena (2022)
Laura Ferro's work is located on the route that connects Puerto Madryn with Trelew, on the side of National Route 3; It is part of a Patagonian project to make artists visible.
After Frau Goerli 1989/2021, the photo of a young woman taken by Lena Szankay in the year the Berlin Wall collapsed and placed on a large scale on the side of National Route 3, the District 1 Trelew Art gallery and Vía Pública Patagónica SA, presented a new site-specific at km 1418, between Trelew and Puerto Madryn. The gigantography of the artist Laura Ferro (Buenos Aires, 1985) is the first installation of a series of photographs that will be exhibited throughout the year in the province of Chubut. Entitled -If I name it, I lose it- about the territory, the feminine, and what cannot be expressed in words. In the image, a woman's hand is seen clutching the mane of a white horse. The photos were taken between 2019 and 2020 in Península Valdés, where Ferro lived for many years.
“It was born after Lena Szankay's first site-specific, which will soon move to Cabo Raso, on National Route 1 -says Cristina Querol, in charge of District 1, to LA NACION-. With Ezequiel Fernández, from Vía Pública Patagónica, we felt that we wanted to repeat the experience of staging a work outside of conventional exhibition spaces. That breaks, bursts and dialogues in turn with the landscape, makes it poetic”. The roadside intervention reconfigures the territory. “We thought of setting up an open-air gallery, with multiple works, throughout the province of Chubut, so that artists can be made visible from Patagonia. That the province begins to name itself linked to an artistic project, non-profit and made with love. I hope that the images, in this sad moment of war, connect with peace.”
Those who travel along Route 3 will be able to park on the wide shoulder, take a close look at the work and upload (as many have already done) their own photos of the gigantography to social networks. The work, eight meters wide by four meters high, was printed on a resistant canvas capable of taming the Patagonian wind and withstanding rain and sun. "It was very exciting when they hung the image," the artist told the press. There are not many words to name what the photo represents and that is the interesting thing. It is a landscape within the same landscape that is seen in the area.” Those who travel along the route will then be able to “travel” with the image.
"Some people who circulate daily on route 3 get off, register, connect, follow - adds Querol-. They send me their photos, with comments like 'put more!'; They say they get excited, moved, that their heart beats faster when they get closer to the poster. And that is much better than seeing advertising or a political poster. They make Instagram stories, they create. The poster acts as a trigger.”
The artist spent her childhood in Península Valdés and San Carlos de Bariloche. “I work in the search for new perspectives on my personal history, whose forms are built and deconstructed in a continuous process - reads on Ferro's website -. As an interdisciplinary artist, I use different tools such as photography, video, writings and installations that complement each other to integrate a body of work that, at the same time, is supported by research and archive. In the questioning about the portrayed object, one of my main tools is to put the body to open questions”. In 2018, he published his first photo essay book: The Wild Appeared in My Dreams.
Ferro studied at the Argentine School of Photography and the Andy Goldstein Creative School, and has a degree in Psychology, specializing in the work of Carl Gustav Jung. He held individual and collective exhibitions at the Recoleta Cultural Center, the Borges Cultural Center, BA Photo, the Light Festival and Ecocentro Puerto Madryn. His works have been published in newspapers and magazines such as LA NACION, Clarín, El Chubut, Revista Sur and MalevaMag. In 2019 she obtained a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for an archive-based photographic research project called "Time is a landscape" and in 2020 she was selected as a finalist in Latin American Women Photographers to exhibit her work in Paris in the collective exhibition Le monde vu par les femmes d'Amérique Latine. In 2021 he participated in the Canserrat art residency in Barcelona and since then he has lived in Spain, where he is dedicated to documentary photography.
CLARIN | An identity made of geography by Julia Villaro (2019)
Images taken by four generations of his family and poems by the artist Laura Ferro are the subject of the book "The wild appeared in my dreams"
Four women and a child hold an inert eagle. The arid landscape of Patagonia flattens the photo: the stone is erected preventing the eye from any possibility of escape, of abandonment to a horizon. The women take the bird by the wings; the child, by the beak. They unfurl it like a banner, everyone poses and smiles. The image belongs to Laura Ferro's family archive, and now it is also part of The Wild Appeared in My Dreams. The book-work combines the photos taken by her family in Puerto Pirámide, together with a group of poems, also written by the artist. Through four generations (the author, her father, her grandfather and her great-grandfather), the desire to portray a landscape has persisted. But over the course of those years, it turned out to be the landscape that was portraying them.
Ferro begins his book with a personal confession: he never knew his grandfather. In these times there are many stories of artists (and not artists) who delve into their genealogies in search of those affective fossils that can become fuel for new stories, while shedding a little more light on old ones. The challenge is more or less always the same: how to give that little fragment a meat that transcends the anecdotal; how to make your own story reverberate in all stories. How to find the universal in the singular to move, and not just move. Ferro achieves this by letting the images and images speak –in turn–, by letting nature speak.
But without humans there is no possible landscape. What we see - we know - looks at us. As untamed as nature appears, if it presents itself it is because there is an eye that girdles it, approaches it, cuts it out, and imprints on it a way of feeling and thinking. Any landscape is, then, a construction of two, the interaction between the natural manifestation and the eye that observes it being. Ferro is very aware of that. Harmoniously, he weaves a link between words and photos, between landscapes and portraits, between stories and silences. In a kind of suggestive parallel montage, a counter-shot of the imposing pyramid that gives its name to the port follows one another with the letter, in illegible manuscript, that the artist's great-grandmother wrote to her father. Both forms are imposed on the view without letting see beyond. Both occupy the same space in a particular universe of memories.
The history of the family in southern Argentina begins at the end of the 19th century, when the great-grandfather Ferro settled in those lands of Peninsula Valdés to administer the fields of another Italian. Alessandro Ferro exploited the salt flats and shipped his production to Buenos Aires. He also built a railway. "On the plateau, with my family we got lost looking for treasures from the Tertiary Era," says the author. Once a year, we brought to light those pieces that since the time of my great-grandfather we have been finding in these lands ”. A search tradition, an identity built from a geography, a family tree made of found objects. Silently, each landscape manages to enter us and help shape us.
At a certain point in the reunion of the photos of her ancestors with her own - the author does not determine if it was before, during or after - Laura began to dream of those childhood landscapes and refined the writing of those dreams to configure the verses that make up the third part of his book. (“Two deserts”, the first of four parts, is made up of his own photos and “Archetypes of Patagonia”, the second, those of the family archive). The poems, then, also acquire the form of an image. They are timeless and impossible snapshots where the killer whales threaten, the calves look for the exit of the sea and the children play with the wise men. In one of the dream passages, the family home cracks. "The drawers are preserved even if the tide covers them", writes Ferro. Dreams are always infrared images that reveal what the photographs cover.
"Epilogue" is called the fourth part, in which the artist organizes the photos taken by her father. And attached to the book is a soft-cover booklet, which contains the immaculate portraits, taken by the author, of objects from other eras. Those that were trophies of childhood family expeditions.
Roland Barthes said that the form antagonistic to that of the book is that of the album, which he associated with the circumstantial, the random and the rhapsodic. Carefully organized, The Wild Appeared in My Dreams is a book with an album temperature that, germinating in the random and rhapsodic, matured towards an idea of its own. Like many photographic projects, it finds its best form and display device in the sheet. It requires intimacy, proximity, and time; it demands that the faces of the characters and the landscapes remain in front of us and hold our gaze. It forces us, then, to a voluntary act. We must be the ones who ruthlessly turn the page, to move forward.
DAILY EL CHUBUT | Presentation of the wild appeared in my dreams (2020)
Laura Ferro presented her book called "The wild appeared in my dreams" on Friday at the Asunción Cobo Popular Library in Puerto Pirámides. At the presentation table, she was accompanied by Rita Carrizo, the vice president of the library.
“The book is a personal quest in which different layers of the story intermingle. It includes photographs of landscapes, family archive material of photographs from the year 1900 to date, and dream texts written in the form of poetry, among other things ”the writer presented adding that“ the presentation consisted of a talk where I shared the process six years of research and editing of the work. It was like looking at history from a kaleidoscope, where the different layers and points of view of a story intertwine.
Then, I shared an audiovisual projection where the prologue of the book is related, accompanied by images.
Finally, with Rita, we opened the question table to the public. It was an interesting initiative that generated a very enriching exchange among those present. It seems important to me to share and present this book in Puerto Pirámides, since it is a part of the identity of a territory. It is a duty to share it with the community and on the Peninsula, the place where this history and project had its birth.
Last year I won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for a photographic project that I am working on at the moment in Península Valdés. It is my next search crossed by this geography as well ”.
We have a landscape that runs through us
“I never knew my grandfather Emilio. Through his suitcases full of slides and his words written in books, I could feel the desert pass through him. That heroic scene of wind and emptiness claimed his presence, called him to an uncertain destiny.
In his photographs, and in those that followed him, I saw fragments of a territory over and over again through different generations, as if something from that landscape kept us gravitating on it. An infinite and invisible horizon, a space defined by absence, marks a family that looks where there is nothing to see.
It is nature, mutable, eternal, which observes us and portrays us. It is the perfume of the moment in that land that persists and reminds me of the shared past. We all have a landscape that runs through us at the same time we try to catch it. As if opening the drawer of an old piece of furniture, I was rescuing fossils, classifying maps, ordering photos, drawings, letters, and travel diaries. Like the archaeologist of the family archive, I was reconstructing a story, its multiple dimensions, its shadows.
Spinning her around, I looked at her in different ways. From the life of a man to the founding of a family, a tribe, a people. From the abysmal force of the territory to the first maps, measurement, occupation and control. From the fossil remains of a past to walks through the desert without margin, bleak. I was suspended on the edges of recognition, I was the woman lost in the landscape. The wild appeared in my dreams in the form of an animal.
MALEVA | Interview by Maria Paz Moltedo (2017)
Laura Ferro is encouraged to question herself, to search for herself, to explore inside and outside of herself. And that can be seen in the immensity of his photos, which with few elements, an animal, a landscape, tell of an infinite universe. Since she was a girl she enjoyed photographing the Patagonian environment in which she grew up, and today at 31 years of age, through her particular gaze as a Jungian photographer and psychologist, she has traveled and captured deserts, mountains, immensities and valuable little things, such as archaeological pieces. Today he exposes a bit of the whole world that he admires and dreams in "Treasures of the Mountain", his exhibition in Pagana, Casa de Arte (José León Pagano 2655), while preparing a book where psychology, photography and archeology converge .
What is the central idea of your exhibition "Treasures of the Mountain"?
The idea is to show as protagonists of the scene: arrows, scrapers, Tehuelche tools, pieces that I have been finding inside the mountain throughout my life, which belong to the original tribe of Patagonia. And on the other hand I show smaller landscape photos. This is the place where I lived until I was 7 years old (since then I have lived in Buenos Aires); we were educated in contact with nature from a very strong place. I used to live in Bariloche but since my family is dedicated to sheep wool every weekend we would go into the fields, without a telephone, with a motorized light, to heat water you had to cut firewood. Times were different, and that is what I rescue the most from my family upbringing, that contact with the wild and with a slower time. The first image that always comes to me from childhood is surrounded by animals.
You studied psychology and photography. How do you think they connect in your life?
I majored in the Carl G. Jung branch of psychology. It is related to symbolism, cultures, anthropology. For me photography has something of death, something that happened, that is extinct, and is portrayed in that image forever. Psychology has a lot of that too, when going to search the unconscious for those things that are part of the past, that moment does not repeat itself exactly the same, but they are symbols too, they are there, present, acting. Psychology helps me to give content to photography. They are means for self-knowledge. For example, I am working on a book that has to do with my dreams about Patagonia analyzed symbolically; with photos of the desert, which also symbolize the personal desert, the one that one has to transcend when having a crisis. It also has symbols, Tehuelche objects, family photographs from 120 years ago. My great-grandfather was a Cinzano partner in Italy and he arrived in Peninsula Valdes in 1888; There he built the Peninsula railway to work two salt pans. My grandfather, Emilio EJ Ferro, decided to stay and specialize in sheep. He wrote "Unfinished Patagonia", "Patagonia as I knew it"; I made a sample with that name in honor of him. We had many things in common, he liked photography too.
And what were and are the images that always invite you to shoot a photo?
Landscapes, nature for me was always something that made me shoot. It's like an existential feeling, it makes you wonder what the world is, what this planet is, this perfect nature. In Puerto Madryn, at the Ecocentro, I made a show, «Uno», with photos that deal with this; My idea was for man to become aware of the small dimension he has with respect to nature. I like what makes me question myself, that generates an existential question. I always have this duality of way of life, between nature and the city. Some time ago I learned to love the city, to find charm in the cultural part.
Are there photos you have taken on trips that have marked you?
Two years ago I was lucky enough to get to know Japan from the Japanese spiritual philosophy, with my mother, my sister and a Japanese friend who lived in Bariloche. She was able to show us Japan, and we went to Mount Koyasan, we met Shintoism, a religion where the perfection of nature is praised, there are temples for the wind, rivers, forests, I said "this is my religion!" We sleep in a monastery on the mountain; I was very impressed by the joy with which older people live, I took many photos of elderly people, because there it is the other way around, everything is given so that they can live an old age to the full. And you see 95-year-olds walking into a tradition party, smiling.
What is your ritual when you take photos of nature landscapes? Those of Patagonia for example.
There is a photo of a deer that I was alone for three hours behind a bush to take it; they went for a walk and I stayed still, hidden, camouflaged with the landscape. The deer looked that there was something strange, there is a certain curiosity in his look in the photo. That moment for me was unique, it is the roar, when the animal is in heat and fights for the females; you don't know if he's going to attack or shoot out. For me, this type of images, stories, generate a break for me. For me it is essential that what you see questions something in your structure, in your life, that leaves you with a question. If you finish watching it and you end up exactly the same, it doesn't make much sense. For me the path is that, to evolve.
THE WILD APPEARED IN MY DREAMS | By Carla Barbuto (2019)
Last week, "The wild appeared in my dreams", the book-work of the artist Laura Ferro, was presented in Buenos Ares. Learn about the story that began back in the 19th century with a pioneering grandfather.
For four generations, Laura Ferro's family allowed themselves to traverse the desert of the Valdés Peninsula (Chubut) and gradually acquired a treasure made up of old maps, 1800 photos, bones and fossilized stones. This treasure, kept in a safe in the field, was a family ritual and is now part of the book-work "The wild appeared in my dreams," which was presented in Buenos Aires last week.
We have been following Laura's work for a long time, we called her, we asked her about her book, about the presentation and she needs to share the story of her great-grandfather, Alessandro Ferro, a pioneer in Patagonia in the 19th century, to answer us.
"I had the idea of making a more limited book, which was called" The two deserts ", I worked on it in a clinic with the artist Leila Tschopp and at the same time I did a workshop on the history of photography, a space in which I met Guadalupe Gaona. By that time, I had already made a record of the family archives of a collection of fossils and relics that were found in the lands of Peninsula Valdés from 1880 to date ”, and this is how Laura tells us how family history is was sneaking into his editorial project.
“My great-grandfather came to Patagonia in those years and found the empty desert and two salt flats; so it was decided to build a railway to exploit the salt. During the course, he found pieces because the place is surrounded by paleontological history of the Tertiary Era ”, Laura continues.
The ritual and the treasure hunt
We know that walking the Patagonian desert leads you to find unimagined treasures; wonderful stones, fossilized bones, date points and, in the case of Laura's family, old maps and photographs of yesteryear. “When you walk through these plateaus, you find treasures, my brothers continue to do so. It is done from the place of the game and that, over four generations, generated that they were accumulating and that each one has their box with their searches, with their stories ”.
“All that material was in a safe that is in the field and once a year, my father would take out all these pieces, from the smallest to the greatest, and he would tell us a story. Some time ago, as this ritual was lost, I wanted to bring those pieces to Buenos Aires, register them as a unique object, as a treasure and digitize them ”, Laura tells us and we began to understand how the family history of the four generations began little by little to be a wonderful book.
All those pieces kept in a jacket safe were placed in the center of the scene. “When I met Guadalupe I told her: 'I have the project of“ The two deserts ”in photos, I have these fossils and I have dreams written in poetry… I need someone to give me a hand. And we began a process of editing and selecting all the photographic material from the four generations, the fossils, everything… ”.
The treasure made book
This beautiful book-work contains photographs of the “two deserts”, a selection of dream poems and a record of the treasure from the safe of a family, which has persisted the desire to portray a landscape. “More than one recording the landscape, I feel that the landscape portrayed all of us for four generations. It is the landscape that looks at us, it is always there, time passes, generations pass and the place continues to be. There is something about time that is incredible ”.
The process of the book took five years of work. “I thought it would be shorter, it is the first work in book form that I did and, having to do with a personal internal process, the times are set by the process and not by one's desire. It took a long time and I could have done it even longer, but it was an internal process turned into a book ”, reflects Laura.
The South in Buenos Aires
“The presentation was incredible. With a friend, who is dedicated to making book trailers, we put together a video. So the presentation was audiovisual where we projected a 3-minute film, we put the sound of the wind and I was reading the prologue. Everything was like bringing a little part of the South to Buenos Aires ”.
A part of the history of Patagonia in a safe, a pioneer grandfather in the Patagonian desert; a family that follows rituals and an artist that carries a part of the South in Buenos Aires in the form of art.
SOPHIA MAGAZINE | Rite of the Wild (2018)
A photographer, nature and the infinite forms that the dream dimension of life assumes, are captured in an impressive gallery.
His photographs move, but not only that: they also take us back to that sacred place that is the wonderful world we inhabit. Rivers, mountains, animals, skies, deserts and archaeological pieces make up, through his lens, dream postcards.
And in each one of them beats the secret desire of every human being to be part again of a wilder, less polluted environment.
“Several years ago I wrote my dreams and analyzed the symbols that appear in them. The word orders and allows to symbolize. The image transcends it, it is a metaphor that takes me to an infinite world. This dream world is the one that I try to represent. With these words, the photographer Laura Ferro presents a part of that vast universe of hers, which is full of images and dreams. From there he left early to undertake an existential journey of exploration and self-knowledge.
Born in 1985 in Buenos Aires, her childhood was spent between Península Valdés and San Carlos de Bariloche, in Patagonia Argentina, where she forged that unbreakable bond that unites her with nature. Hand in hand with sunsets in the field in which time passed silently and slowly, he knew how to find and let himself be trapped by beauty.
And although at age 7 he returned to Buenos Aires, he never lost the ability to look around with the same astonishment of childhood. An exercise that cultivates and is grateful.
Also passionate about anthropology, cultures and symbols, she trained in Psychology, specializing in the branch of Carl G. Jung. In search of tools that would allow him to capture his talent, he studied photography at the Andy Goldstein Creative School and at the Argentine School of Photography.
Travel, look, be part of the landscape. Her artistic and experiential search never stops, perhaps that is why Laura achieves an incomparable visual record, traversing with her camera what is revealed before her eyes as a secret and universal treasure that deserves to be seen. A work that brings together metaphors and symbols at the same time, which she deals with superimposing in compositions full of vigor and meaning.
Restless soul, he has just published his first book of photographs called The wild appeared in my dreams (2019), an encounter between earthly life and the dream universe that offers the most beautiful of gifts: the consecration of the joy of going out into the world . But there are also his works Mountain Treasures and Traversed by the landscape, where he investigates (over and over again) through that very design of his: to make each photo a work of art.
SUR MAGAZINE | The Wild Appeared in My Dreams by Diran Sirinian (2019)
Laura Ferro dreams intensely, remembers her dreams in detail and systematically records them in notebooks. Laura is Patagonian; it seems to feel and vibrate Patagonia. She is a photographer and psychologist, and as such she confesses to being a Jünguian orientation. As if all this were not enough, he inherited a rich photographic legacy of more than one hundred years, produced by his great-grandfather, his grandfather, his great-uncles and his father.
From all this was born The wild appeared in my dreams. Curiously, this publication was born on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the first sighting of Patagonia, and of the Valdés Peninsula, by the Magallanes Expedition, whose chronicle was prepared by Antonio Pigafetta. That's where Laura's dreams are born, “in animal form”, as she herself confesses in the introduction to her book.
Patagonia has been a rich breeding ground for the imagination and stories of numerous explorers and chroniclers, scientists, missionaries, photographers, artists, immigrants, military personnel, officials, and even amateurs and tourists who drew on its geography, topography, fauna. , climate, and native cultures. Thus, a narrative and visual production flourished that throughout these 500 years was constituting a fascinating imaginary body.
With its own stamp, arising from Ferro's concerns, and from his family history, Wild appeared in my dreams is a unique contribution to this tradition. They were several years of elaboration and reworking, since the author felt the need to capture in a book what she had suckled, what surrounded her "far away" and what she dreamed of. It was not an easy mission, precisely because of the lack of linearity of this set. With the loyal assistance of Guadalupe Gaona, author of the suggestive Pozo de aire, accompanied by the designer Ana Armendariz and with the intervention, in a second stage of Nicolás Goldberg - a valuable contributor to the graphic concept of the book - The wild appeared in my dreams managed to leave finally afloat with much merit.
The oneiric question, is from the beginning one of the pillars on which Ferro builds the work. On its blue draped cover, the book presents us with a photograph of a family on a rocky beach on the Valdés Peninsula: four adults, a teenager and a child in their arms, wrapped in a mist that we do not quite understand where it comes from. The following suggestive detail of the publication lies in the treatment of the guard sheets and the first guard sheets and the courtesy sheets (often minimized with some plain color): Ferro goes to the elements of his treasure chest to decorate the book, using cartographic documentation as a visual resource.
With her photographs taken between 2004 and 2018, Laura turns the Patagonian space of the Valdés Peninsula into the first part of the book, “Dos Desierto”: on the one hand the external, tangible desert, and on the other, that of her Jünguian formation, in the words of the author "internal desert, which one has when going through a personal crisis, in the search for desire, the existential". In a clever double-page counterpoint, empty spaces are laid out alongside vast plains and barren plateaus. In the midst of that "infinite sterility", powerfully overwhelming, we find two images of Laura, who like an archaeologist and almost camouflaged with the landscape, explores, searches for something. We don't really know what.
In "Arquetipos de la Patagonia", the second and most voluminous part of the book, with another visual melody, the author enables us to dive into her selection (1900-1954) from the family photographic archive, which she herself guarded, studied and edited during several years, first assisted by Guadalupe Gaona, and more recently by Goldberg. Presented in full double page, the landscapes of the family archive acquire another power. With the plane divided into thirds (cloudy sky, calm sea, uninhabited land) one of the images eloquently refers us to Gustave Le Gray's maritime landscapes. This photograph invites us to delve into the landscape and discover details. We are traveling as the crow flies, different heights, different perspectives. The image also serves as a narrative link, since this second part begins with a close-up of the plateau, a calligraphic reproduction of correspondence and the aforementioned marine scene, followed by ships and camps with workers, among many other captivating photos. It is worth noting that also in the navy of pp. 96-97 Legrayan reminiscences resound.
Laura deftly fulfills her narrative mandate by editing, ordering, and putting these images on the page. The dreamlike and a strong symbolic register are present throughout the pages.
The third part of the book, "Dreams", consists of the wildness of that interior desert, captured in 120 years of photographs of the "external desert", which project the photographer's unconscious: the sea, the plateau, the cliffs, the fauna of the place, the sheep, the family, the fossils and, of course, the desert (its deserts).
In the fourth chapter of the book, “Epilogue”, Laura explores the family archive exclusively through color photographs that cover the period 1960 to 1978, with an editing criterion different from the previous ones. Like the dreamlike and the symbolic, the desert is still there, but now the human mark predominates. But Laura's book does not end with the epilogue. As a child captivated by Darwin and Ameghino, whose works she consulted in the family library, the author systematically dedicates herself to recording the objects found by the Ferros in that desert with her camera. In a cross between art and science nuanced with personal history (impossible to avoid the enormous archaeological legacy of the Patagonian lands), “Sur” consists of a beautiful and simple booklet, composed of 14 photographs of prehistoric and paleontological objects with reminiscences of Taryn Simon or Alphonse Bertillon.
THE PHOTOGRAPHER RECREATING 120 YEAR OLD IMAGES OF PATAGONIA / Jordan Salama (2020)
Photographer Laura Ferro grew up on the Península Valdés, in Argentina, and has dedicated her life to documenting the history of this coastal part of Patagonia. In her latest project, she recreates 120-year-old images of the remote region, depicting the changing appearance of the landscape over time. Culture Trip reports.
On the long gravel roads of the Península Valdés, you can look through your rearview mirror and see cars coming up behind you from many miles away: they look like mini-tornadoes kicking up dust as they race through the empty Patagonian steppe. Península Valdés is characterized by an almost unfathomable emptiness, different from the Patagonia of the Andes, to the west, where mountains harboring ice-blue glacial lakes and dark-green pine forests loom over you like a postcard. The Patagonia of Península Valdés is more desolate: flat, barren, with foot-high shrubs and endless visibility. There are no planes flying over, indeed there are hardly any buildings here, so at night the yellow-green landscape plunges into pure darkness and silence. On the coast, where sheer cliffs meet crystalline bays and coves (and, of course, the open sea), wildlife abounds: elephant seals, Magellanic penguins, sea lions and if you're lucky, southern right whales and orcas. To the average visitor, it looks like a world largely unchanged from one or two hundred years ago; to those more intimately familiar with the region, however, even minor changes in the landscape reveal clues about the passage of time.
Laura Ferro, a 34-year-old photographer, is one of these people who can read the landscape. Her ancestors have been herding sheep on the peninsula since her great-grandfather immigrated here from Italy in 1888. Since she was a young girl, she's heard stories of lonely gauchos out on the steppe, fallen asleep to the eerie songs of distant whales and documented the history of the people and nature of Argentina's great Patagonian peninsula. “This is a place where the past lives on all around you,” she says. “In fossils that are 30 million years old, in megalodon teeth, in old tools, in sharpened stones. In the landscape itself. "
Ferro has always been fascinated by the concept of time and the different ways it can be made visible - that's why she became a photographer in the first place. Now, in a new collection of photos called Time Is a Landscape, she's recreated images that were taken 120 years ago to show what has changed - and what hasn't. Carrying with her a camera and a trove of black-and-white photographs taken by an unknown visitor to the region at the turn of the 20th century, Ferro has roamed the peninsula and attempted to reconstruct the photos - taking them from the same position, and even going as far as to seek out the same wind and weather conditions. The many similarities that remain leave the few differences exposed. In one of the photos, the natural stone pyramid that once served as the namesake of the only town on Península Valdés - Puerto Pirámides - has crumbled and disappeared. In others, coastal erosion is clear. Despite the changes in the physical landscape, Ferro's photos are remarkable reconstructions.
“I'm always reconstructing, always reconstructing,” she says with a chuckle.
Patagonia, in all its emptiness, has long attracted writers, artists and thinkers hoping to find meaning in its barren lands. Bruce Chatwin, inspired by a prehistoric bone on his grandmother's mantel, set off through the south of Argentina in search of people who, for various reasons, were also drawn to Patagonia and decided to settle there; the result was In Patagonia, one of the most famous travelogues ever written. Descriptions in Antoine Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince are said to have been based on a trip the author took to Península Valdés.
Ferro is drawn to the region because of an innate, deeply personal connection that is inextricably tied to her upbringing. Her first book, The Wild Appeared in My Dreams (The Wilderness Appeared in My Dreams) is an ode to that childhood, and the family history that shaped it, in the form of photos and poetry.
In the book, she writes, "As if I were opening an old piece of furniture, I began collecting fossils, classifying maps, arranging photos, drawings, letters, and travel diaries." And, she continues: "As the archaeologist of our family archives, I was reconstructing my own story."
It helps that her grandfather, Emilio Ferro, kept an impressive library. His study, in the main house of the estancia that is still in the family today, was lined with dark-wood cabinets filled with original leather-bound volumes of geological and botanical surveys of the region, huge framed maps from centuries past and old photos of her great-grandfather and his fellow gauchos camping out in the fields. In a nearby wooden shed on the property of the main estancia, a creaky door opens onto dressers stuffed with more old papers, journals and ledgers than anyone but Laura knew what to do with.
One of the few mysteries Ferro hasn't been able to solve, somewhat ironically, is the identity of the anonymous photographer whose work she has spent so much time trying to recreate. She's narrowed it down to a few possibilities, but she will likely never be completely sure of their name.
What she does say with certainty, after following in their footsteps, is this: “Now I can understand his spirit. Always elevated, looking for the highest point from which he could document the natural world below. After so much climbing, walking, traversing winds and tides, finding the place where the body decides to stop and freeze that moment forever is a feeling like none other. "