Gazing at the silvery, nearly ethereal surfaces that define sky, land, and water in this photograph, we are offered a kind of stage set, a space for the contemplation of ourselves and our place in nature. Pedro Tzontemoc’s austere composition centers on a dark silhouette, a lone figure in a canoe set in a still expanse of water against the monumental backdrop of a volcanic mountain; its immensity is a reminder that the earth is unfathomably grander than any individual being, more enduring than the time span of our own lives. This image conveys a profound stillness, the desire to inhabit only this moment. And yet, as nature becomes increasingly remote from our daily experience,* perhaps the encounter with nature expressed here becomes yet another culturally conditioned experience, fraught with its own expectations, nostalgia, fears, and desire. In an era of relentless image saturation, does a photograph such as this provoke awe, or do we perceive it as a mediated experience, a form of replay?
Ultimately, Tzontemoc’s photograph is an expansive mirror; the moment he has captured is now ours. Whether we view it as real or fictive, a conjuring of past or present, this vision becomes our world to ponder, to make of it what we will.
* 51% of the world’s population lives in urban centers; in Mexico, the statistic is nearing 80%.
Mirada de Elizabeth Ferrer sobre una fotografía de Pedro Tzontémoc.