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The System A Story by Jorge Sáenz

Polaroids of Jorge Sáenz

Buenos Aires, 2001

How long does time last? How long does it take to build a life before it burst into pieces?

Some falls never seem to end. One might say that they take so long as to not even be perceptible. They are rather a metamorphosis: a soft landing into another state, even nothingness itself.

But there are others, landslides that are too short, almost no time at all: a glass shattering, a shriek in the crowd, a bullet. Barely enough time to try to escape or grab the camera and capture the moment.

The fall I am talking about was both. In Argentina, a storm of historical proportions was approaching the heart of the system. The bubble that had been expanding since the ‘90s finally burst, taking lives and dreams with it. A process simmering on a low flame. But the explosion was quick: 25% unemployment, an unprecedented record, that sent out a rapidly spreading shock wave. Friends, family, neighbors; the crisis had our faces and the faces of others. Those who were not fired were one step away from it. The “corralito” in the banks finished the job, trapping those who had savings in an iron corset.

People went out into the streets. 34 people died at the hands of the police. There were 5 Presidents in one day. We all got a little crazy and a little sick.

A few months earlier, out of nowhere, I was thrown out of my job as editor of photography overnight. No explanation. Without cause. With no compensation. When I thought about my family, time sped up again; there were 7 of us living in a rented house. I started to teach what I thought I knew, and with the help of my family and workshop participants, we gradually began to get ahead. We all became a bit more united.

I had gotten a Polaroid film scholarship at the time. Friends who went and came from abroad regularly brought me the film packs. The promise of possible worlds to portray. Also back then, I did a lot of bike riding. The accelerated time of the crisis slowed down during those days when I was not working much. The downtime was finally free time.

I would go bicycle riding with my grandson Octavio, who was 2 years old. From his bicycle seat he would point out the direction we should take. With him as our beacon and my SX-70 in hand, I could get a view of the social landscape and I could also get a view of my personal situation. I decided to photograph my wanderings and found the first answers reflected in that mirror.

The fall of the government to save the system was an inexorable fact. And we had all become a little more like one.

Jorge Sáenz, July 2015

dedicated to my grandson Octavio Passow, and in memory of Pablo Zuccheri, my two great companions though those years.

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