November 24, 2021
Photography by Jano Sandoval
Interview by Melanie Meggs
For those of us that walk the streets of Santiago de Chile, Jano Sandoval is a familiar face. As a child, he found his living history in the streets of his home city - and so, photography became the means through which he expressed his memories, observations and experiences. But Jano is more than just a photographer; he is a storyteller at heart. His books have always been a source of inspiration for his visual creations, and his latest project, SIJIFREDO, is no exception.
Consisting of 32 photographs, SIJIFREDO is a story of remembrance; it is Jano’s tribute to his father who left for his journey of exact time and towards his most desired place. Through its vivid colours and subtle nuances, the series explores the human desire to stay one more day with a beloved one who has gone.
In this interview with Jano Sandoval, we delve deeper into the world of SIJIFREDO. From the significance of its name to the power of his father’s words, Jano offers an intimate look into his creative process and the stories he has to tell. Join us as we discover an artist whose work speaks louder than words.
“SIJIFREDO is a work of visual storytelling that rescues one of the most striking aspects of my Father (the title of the work carries his second name), which was to build parallels between episodes of his history with what he saw in a current moment of his life. The image narrated is transformed in the impulse and rest, to visualize that the dreamed futures always had a resemblance to the moment in which they were generated (as imaginary), they are slow transformations that rise safe with respect to the logical human evolution, but at 'geological speeds.' This visual journey, through its color atmospheres, explores the human desire to have the possibility of staying one more day with that loved one who has died, but who has left a deep mark in terms of values and spirituality, without selfishness and without any emotional debt at the time of his departure.”
IN CONVERSATION WITH JANO SANDOVAL
THE PICTORIAL LIST: Jano please tell us about yourself. How did you become interested in photography?
JANO SANDOVAL: First of all, a big greeting to the readers of The Pictorial List. I was born in 1976 in the neighborhood of La Cisterna (Santiago de Chile) and I currently reside in the city of Quilpué (Valparaíso province of Chile). I am a street photographer, self-taught and 100% dedicated to photography since 2011, with several exhibitions and publications for galleries or photography magazines in South America, Europe and Oceania.
My interest was not born precisely from photography, it was a long road that emerges from my taste for reading since I was a child and walking the streets of my various neighborhoods where I grew up. On the other hand, my father, who was born in 1916, was a great storyteller, which he placed in historical context, with a personal appreciation and with a final message as a sort of moral, given the various social processes that he had to live and perceive in Chile and the world.
It was all these characteristics that allowed me to define that there was a need to communicate, not only what I had received from books or from my father, but also from my own history, which continued to be built from observation and the different cities I inhabited.
Although I had already been interested in learning about the history of great photographers and their photographs, it was not until 2007 that I "started photography", after reading the letter that the Chilean photographer Sergio Larraín wrote to his nephew, as an invitation to take pictures and that was the generator for the first time I took a camera and began to travel around the city of Valparaíso, Chile. For me that letter, which was written by Larraín in 1982, was a kind of manifesto and a light for what I would begin to build. A long road, by the way. (I invite you to look for this letter on the internet and read it!)
TPL: Tell us the full story behind your series SIJIFREDO. What is it about? When did the project and how the idea for it begin? Is it an ongoing series? What do you want the viewer to experience when they look at this series?
JS: The series SIJIFREDO is titled after my father's middle name and is a parallelism of a series of stories that I remembered and wrote down after his death in 2008. The series deals with one of the aspects that I most like to investigate, which is the use of memory and the use of spaces defined by the author in order to visually execute his own challenges.
The project arose in 2020, taking several photographs of my period of life in the city of Groningen (Netherlands) in which I lived for almost two years between 2016-2018 and whose images not only correspond to that city, but also to the various European cities that I had the opportunity to know (from Belfast to St. Petersburg). In this way, the territories that were part of my journeys are situated as a way of declaring that borders are quite diffuse and that they are also nothing more than an imaginary, just as our memory does. But there is also a support that allowed me to let the images rest in time and later have a new meaning to honour my father.
The collection includes 32 images, giving importance to the number 32 as the age I was when he died and that it is visually told in color, as the chosen technique, navigating through a day that contains in itself, a journey of sensations, memories, empathy and history.
This is how this series was closed in terms of number of works, which tells the story of "one more day" with that person who has left a series of lessons from the ethical and spiritual, where death rises as a poetic fact and allows that soul to continue accompanying us and accompanying us as an intimate fact. It is a finished work.
I invite the observer to challenge himself to work periodically on memory, the desire to be able to breathe thinking about those who formed him as a human being and that death is a milestone of resistance to the various challenges that life proposes to each person, such as the dangerous concept of "oblivion".
TPL: What does street photography mean to you? Describe your style. Where or how do you find inspiration? Are projects important in your street photography?
JS: For me, street photography has a very relevant visual and emotional meaning, from those who have given hours of their lives to build houses, roads, squares, etc., to the citizens in urban and rural areas, who give life and create a link with human history. It was growing up in those streets, playing, walking and enjoying, that I found diverse emotions of people: those who want to walk alone, contemplating or thinking only, those who use it as a means of work and daily struggle, those who enjoy creating music or dance, for example.
My photography style is a result of everything lived and observed, where I use the techniques of b&w and color as an interpretation of the feeling of a series, all closely linked to a small fraction of the absolute diversity that is observed there, where geometry, abstraction, closeness and remoteness of the subjects are part of the emotions of the human being passerby when facing the street (and what is on the side of the road as well).
The photographic inspiration, for me, has two relevant aspects: one is to take my camera and leave home very conscious of feeling calm and well photographing, very aligned with my soul and very lucid to be able to connect with a very therapeutic exercise that allows me to express myself as freely as possible.
On the other hand, the photographs that are taken, I review them when I get home many times, but all of them are always at rest, I leave them stored until a new review in time revives them, resignifies them and somehow "have a discourse between them" that tends to cohere.
For both ways of looking for inspiration, is that the projects in street photography are relevant for me, because for my way of working it will always be necessary to tell a story, which identifies my discourse with the image as a whole. From that edge, is where I give my respect to the observer, so that he can interpret, criticize and discover that "someone" who is telling a fraction of reality.
This is how I have built my four official photographic series, including SIJIFREDO, committed to my essence and admiring/respecting so many good photographers with whom the different ways of perceiving reality in the street, allows me to create a puzzle called "history".
TPL: What have been some of your favourite memories or moments in your photography journey? What have you personally gained from your experiences?
JS: Undoubtedly one of the most important was my first photograph in Groningen, the first one I took with all the relaxation, importance and connection with the city, looking for images of vanishing points built by groves, a grandfather entered the scene with his granddaughter, she was jumping happily and her grandfather admired and cared for her. Both were lost in the vanishing point of the scene, it was about 5 minutes that lasted this visual surprise.
Other favorite moments were visiting Belfast, which from the political and historical point of view always seduced me from a very young age, and being there I could feel a responsibility to photograph, from the respect and my restlessness for the street. In general, life in Groningen and travels in Europe in general are a key period in my photographic development, since I lived it as an ordinary citizen. I must add what I learned from the Pictorial movement, born in Groningen, in the early 1920s called De Ploeg, very relevant for my general knowledge of the arts.
Others equally relevant are my walks through the Pasaje Bavestrello in the city of Valparaíso, Chile, in the exact place where Sergio Larraín took one of the most iconic images of his career, so I can sit down to reflect and absorb good energy to photograph. The same happens to me when I visit the Población La Victoria in Santiago de Chile, where I find what I call the "Chile", which with all its social vulnerabilities, has a value of human commitment, always worth mentioning.
Finally, all the photographic journey that I have made in my life has meant gaining lucidity and coherence, of course the compositional techniques are relevant and improve over time, but the experiences have been vital to recognize myself as a photographer and to be able to deliver through visual messages included in the storytelling. To feel myself as a human being, very awake to the events that happen around me, many of them daily, others historical.
TPL: When you are out shooting - how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
JS: For the most part it is instinct that plays a leading role. What I do plan are the places to walk, but the scenes are presented where people are participants, almost in the totality of the images, either with their presence or absence. There are opportunities where the street scenery allows me to wait several minutes in search of an image and shoot as many times as necessary until I feel satisfied. Then I continue on my way.
TPL: What are some tips or advice you would give yourself if you started street photography all over again?
JS: I think the most relevant would be to take away the shame of taking pictures of everything that the road offers, that the daily exercise allows me to flow with greater relaxation so I can reflect more deeply on what I am rescuing. The other advice I would give myself would be to keep the passion for photography, to keep feeling that inner "fire" to be happy with my camera.
I invite the observer to challenge himself to work periodically on memory, the desire to be able to breathe thinking about those who formed him as a human being and that death is a milestone of resistance to the various challenges that life proposes to each person.
TPL: Do you have any favourite artists or photographers you would like to share with us, and the reason for their significance?
JS: I have two who are my references, one is the Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide, who through her photography has taught me the diversity of the places in which she works the image and that ethnographic legacy that she resolves through her visual proposals.
Another one is the one I have mentioned a couple of times in this interview. He is Sergio Larraín, from whom I rescue both the letter he wrote in 1982 to his nephew and the scenes constructed through his lens, which to my way of interpreting it, is a constant struggle to rescue the purest of the human being, even denying his own privileges, to achieve a spiritual level in his photography.
TPL: Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?
JS: Well, I use a Canon EOS 700D camera and my favorite lens is a 50mm f1.8. I have been working with this equipment for the last few years. I hope soon to change equipment and lenses as a periodic renewal, however, I am in love with this machine at the moment.
TPL: What are some of your goals as an artist or photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
JS: I would very much like to continue creating photographic series committed to my feelings as a passerby, as an observer of the whole and investigating the aspects that the environment and society invite and thus be able to take these series to galleries or photobooks.
I would like to see myself in five years, enjoying being able to access invitations from friends in Moscow and Berlin for the development of street photography projects, although the feeling of tranquility is to persist in taking new knowledge from new photographers or others that I have not yet managed to meet, and have the opportunity to deliver all my experience to people who are starting their way down this wonderful path and passion. Long live photography!
TPL: Are there any other special projects you are currently working on or thinking about that you would like to let everyone know about?
JS: In the coming months I will present my fourth authorial photographic work, called "Oxide", which is a photographic essay with experimental digital photography technique, which will unite another passion that has accompanied me in life, which is music. Its presentation format will be an installation in public places and the music for this work is being constructed and composed with the Chilean composer and singer-songwriter Javier Barría.
This work postulates, from street photography, how we citizens constantly and daily fight for our memories, which ultimately build a historical memory as a society and that the main struggle is not to make oblivion a mechanism of self-destruction or oxidation.
TPL: "When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…
JS: Read a book by José Saramago, playing with my cats, watching photography or science documentaries, getting together with friends and riding my bike...sleeping on some weekend afternoons, a wonderful pleasure!"