Mendez & Kaplan’s exploration of the Columbian water crisis

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Mendez & Kaplan to investigate the impact of climate change in Colombia  in the new collaboration between WaterAid and 1854 

Please note, artists’ project proposals for the WaterAid Climate Commission rate may be subject to change because of COVID-19.

Cadáveres Exquisitos by Marisol Mendez and Monty Kaplan is certainly less a collection of photographic diptychs and more a tongue within cheek game of visible ping pong. This is not surprising, given that the ongoing series is based on the game commonly known within English as Consequences. Taking premise of the game — where players take becomes drawing on a sheet of paper, folding it after which passing it onto the next participant — the photographic duo’s series is a playful questioning associated with narratives . Half figurative and the other abstract, the images in Cadáveres Exquisitos work together to balance each other out in a type of syncopation.

After meeting during a masterclass for Folio in 2020, the pair “hit it off immediately” and began discussions around the long term of their work. “We both had all of these questions around photography and what we should perform with it after the pandemic, ” says Bolivian-based Mendez of their first encounter. Pretty soon, they will realised that existential questioning wasn’t the only thing they had in keeping. “We have a very similar history, ” Kaplan explains through his home in Buenos Aires. “We come from an extremely lucky few and we have a lot of opportunities…” he peters out, searching for the right word. Mendez chimes in: “…We recognise our privilege. ” Finishing each other’s phrases seems to be another match in their ping pong game — some thing they’ve no doubt perfected more than countless calls over Move while working together over country borders.

© Marisol Mendez & Monty Kaplan

Travel taught both photographers different ways of understanding culture and communicating through this. “We both returned to Latin America after residing abroad for quite some time and to all of us, it’s very weird to come back to your birthplace and find that this way that you’re noticed is very determined by foreigners, this foreign gaze, says Mendez. Both used this in order to spur them on within their desire to construct “a new narrative and new visual style” and offer “ a glimpse straight into what Latin America is certainly now”. Kaplan confirms: “it’s a fascinating change of perspective. You actually see things with a different set of eyes and as the photographer, you can use that to inspect your own identity as a Latina American. ”

Although they may come from similar backgrounds, Mendez recognises that in terms of picture taking they look at things extremely differently. Much of Mendez’s work is certainly wonderfully saturated; ripe-for-the-picking tomato vegetables radiating light. So solid is the colour you could almost touch them, making her photography cross into synaesthetic art. In a style that entwines filmmaking and digital photography, Kaplan’s work similarly investigates how we perceive reality at the same time in a more satirical way. “I think photography is this device to question what we observe, why we see it and why we take it because reality, ” he comments. “I have a good vision for seeing what’s not too nice to look at. I’m quite drawn to mundane scenes. ”

© Marisol Mendez & Monty Kaplan

In front of their trip to Colombia to photograph some of the country’s most vulnerable communities for the WaterAid Climate Percentage , how do the pair foresee their different approaches working together? For Mendez, the dissonance will help them capture the complexity of the water crisis in Colombia. We like to look at the images side by side to see just how this third meaning is made with the mix. I think that will responds to the idea that we have such a mixed continent, ” she proffers. Kaplan echoes this belief, highlighting that will they’re “dealing with a very big problem” which can be best depicted with a conscientious eyes. “We don’t want to run away from reality. Marisol’s work with all its colour plus humane balances mine away. ”   

© Marisol Mendez & Monty Kaplan

Central to the commission will be powerful human-led tales: nuanced and emotive visual narratives that shine a light on how women in particular are usually impacted by the climate-induced water crisis — both directly and by way of knock-on results — as well as how they are usually adapting and responding. Both the themes and structure of Mendez and Kaplan’s photographs, which explore identity and multiculturalism will be revisited in this particular new commission.  

Alice Finney

Alice Finney is definitely an arts and culture Publisher and Writer, based in Bremen. A graduate of the Main School of Ballet plus Sussex University, she is a specialist in writing about dance, style and popular culture. She gets written for titles including SLEEK Magazine, INDIE Publication, Mixmag, gal-dem, HuffPost UNITED KINGDOM, and Dezeen.

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