Arturo Soto, In the Heat

The searching space is constantly looking around. Icons stare off into distances as people fail to exist in the traces of photographic evidence. Logos reign as structures are used to support supplementary texts for advertisement boards, promoting the only human existence. The trees curve with strong winds as they stand like strangers who have just met. Powerless to nature's force, everything, everywhere is destined to be quiet.

Personal interpretation surrounds the set of photographs as political, religious and iconic structures form part of the photographers interpretation. Described by the photographer as 'a subjective depiction of the Panamanian social landscape' the wanderings he takes are one of wonder of the ordinary landmarks that decorate the city.

Subtlety reigns as the series takes its turns around corners of empty streets. Foliage diverts our attention to the next scene, merely wandering leaving the viewer in the walkers gaze. Everything is so perilous but violent, as trees surge to the left from turbulence. The idea of political negotiation amongst the landscape and user interfaces raises brave questions on current affairs. Through wandering, answers are searched for personal questions, gently pressing on issues that swim in the air of the area. And like a lucid movement the photographer lightly places moments into his camera producing a gentle tread into the political landscape.

The avoidance of colour is its most striking visual element with the roaring green of the tree leaves, glorious skies and bold icons loose vibrancy as the subtle grey tones in the photographs are presented instead. They mute their voices so they remain quiet. Unable to speak on behalf of the landscape, it is a quiet rebellion toward the glossy travel brochures looking for the exotic, instead finding the meaningful in the leisure quarters of the Panama Canal.

The icons that decorate the land are marks of human existence, the thoughts and feelings towards the land they call home. It might be full of passers by to loyal citizens, tourists with cameras but this land is theirs, for now.

To head back to thought processes, the connection between the land and consciousness creates almost silent conversations. It is only when the camera is placed there this dialogue with the land commences. The silent nature of the photograph leaves us quiet, as a viewer to a conversation with no words. These photographs attempt to break the silence between humans and their surroundings.

Panama’s presence in the collective unconscious is most likely due to its canal, exotic sceneries and recent political history. In The Heat is a subjective depiction of the Panamanian social landscape. The title references the city’s humid climate, but also alludes to a state of tension that describes my bittersweet stay in a place I felt at odds with. The series interrogates how personal experience influences the ways one negotiates, and ultimately represents the landscape. As a consequence, the colorful Panama found in travel brochures is purposefully absent. I wanted to stay away from the typical imagery that the tourism industry emphasizes, in which color is used to promote prepackaged experiences, leaving out whatever may contradict that illusory lifestyle. I am interested in depicting spaces that are very present and common, but that somehow people don’t seem to notice. Sometimes, this mental blocking has to do with familiarity, although I believe these spaces are frequently ignored because they challenge conservative notions of progress and national identity in times of economic growth. The pictures, however, are not mere illustrations of my sentiments. What interests me is the relationship between landscape and state of mind: the understanding of pictures as a reflection of experience, an open-ended narrative that results from my prejudices and desires. Even though the pictures aren’t tied to a specific social critique, they expose some of the social values located in the urban environment.