“In the relation between a photograph and words, the photograph begs for an interpretation, and the words usually supply it. The photograph, irrefutable as evidence but weak in meaning, is given a meaning by the words. And the words, which by themselves remain at the level of generalization, give a specific authenticity by the irrefutability of the photograph. Together the two then become very powerful; an open question appears to have been fully answered.”

—John Berger

Full Circle

Early last year, I recorded a podcast about the life of Tina Modotti. I had only just become aware of her because of her arresting look in a photo and was surprised to learn what a remarkable and ultimately tragic life she led: An immigrant to the United States, she moved to Mexico to pursue a relationship with Edward Weston, met the left-wing avant-garde of the time, joined the Communist party, fought in the Spanish Civil War, and eventually succumbed to a heart attack in a Mexico City taxi.

They gave her a huge burial, with Pablo Neruda writing a poem that was etched on her gravestone. When I found myself back in Mexico City last month, Rocío and I went on a quest to find the grave.

It turned out to be no easy feat on one of the largest cemeteries in the world. We found ourselves in a walled compound in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities, walking across high grass and fallen gravestones, past crypts and flower beds. Mexican graveyards, it turns out, exemplify the rest of the country: Somewhat chaotic, charmingly colorful, with a healthy if unusual relationship to death.

First we got lost, then separated. Confused, we relied on our phones’ location services to find each other again. While I had tried to find the grave myself, Rocío had tracked down a worker who knew where it was.

Tina Modotti’s headstone was located between a lot of unassuming graves, adorned by fresh flowers that were drying in the sunshine. The headstone was weathered, but you could make out an etching of her face alongside of the poem. With the heat beating down, we sat before the grave and just took it in: The unusually quiet environment, the dry weeds growing between the graves, and this sad but inspiring story, which suddenly felt a lot less abstract.

Dark Spring

As if you feed my fascination with all things black and white, Beach House just released a video to their new single “Dark Spring”, which include some great monochrome visuals.

“The feeling of unshakable longing for a place we’ve never been to is often an indescribable force. How is it possible to miss or pine for a place you’ve never traveled to you ask? Kaukokaipuu has also been described as a specific form of wanderlust – a craving for a distant land or a deep feeling of ‘homesickness’ for a place you’ve never seen. The Finnish recognize that this emotion is very real and so named it kaukokaipuu.”

Día de los Muertos

In 1931, Soviet film director Sergey Eisenstein visited Mexico and filmed a more than two hour long “symphony of Mexico”. He brought back some truly masterfully cut images of the annual Day of the Dead celebrations.

Brasilia

Esplanada dos Ministérios em construção. Brasília, 1958. Foto: Marcel Gautherot/IMS

Palácio do Congresso Nacional. Brasília, 1960. Foto: Marcel Gautherot/IMS

Wherever you stand, you have the impression of being on the margin of a dangerous precipice. Brasilia stands on the margin. — Were I to live here, I should let my hair grow down to my feet. — Brasilia belongs to a glorious past which no longer exists. That type of civilization disappeared thousands of years ago. In the 4th century B.C., Brasilia was inhabited by men and women who were fair and very tall, who were neither American nor Scandinavian, and who shone brightly in the sun. They were all blind. That explains why there is nothing to collide with in Brasilia. (…)

(From Clarice Lispector’s short story Five Days in Brasilia)