A World of Mirrors

 

Ambarin Afsar spends a delightful time reliving Gabriel García Márquez’s world with Fausto Giaccone, who has wandered through Gabo’s creation and found it alive and thriving.

South America/ Colombia/ Aracataca Department of Magdalena: Maria Grazia Daconte, the daughter of Antonio Daconte of Italian origin, who was also the founder of the Olympia Theatre in Gabo’s hometown. In this photo, made in 2010, aged 91, she is tending to her birds on the patio of her home in San José square. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

South America/ Colombia/ Aracataca Department of Magdalena: Maria Grazia Daconte, the daughter of Antonio Daconte of Italian origin, who was also the founder of the Olympia Theatre in Gabo’s hometown. In this photo, made in 2010, aged 91, she is tending to her birds on the patio of her home in San José square. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

 • He enjoys listening to music while working at the computer or while scanning. He enjoys the music of Tom Waits and Bob Dylan as well as the Italian singersongwriter Fabrizio De André. His tastes range from jazz to classical. • Fausto is passionate about reading, and spends almost all his time buried in books. He likes reading Anita Desai and Jhumpa Lahiri among the Indian crop of writers. • He is coming to India to be a part of Sensorium 2014 festival in Goa (5 December 2014 to 25 January 2015), and, while this is not his first visit, he hopes that it will inspire another series.

Fausto enjoys listening to music while working at the computer or while scanning. He enjoys the music of Tom Waits and Bob Dylan as well as the Italian singersongwriter Fabrizio De André. His tastes range from jazz to classical. Fausto is passionate about reading, and spends almost all his time buried in books. He likes reading Anita Desai and Jhumpa Lahiri among the Indian crop of writers. He is coming to India to be a part of Sensorium 2014 festival in Goa (5 December 2014 to 25 January 2015), and, while this is not his first visit, he hopes that it will inspire another series. Photo Credit: Hermes Mereghetti

Macondo: An imaginary town dreamed up by Gabriel García Márquez for his novel, 100 Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad)— a town based on Gabriel’s own birthplace of Aracataca, and his country, Colombia. The novel was published in 1967, and found its way into the hands of a young Italian man serving his time in the military in a desk job. “I was depressed and bored of shuffling papers,” says Fausto Giaccone, “my love for books is really a gift from the military. I was obliged to concentrate on the works of writers like Márquez.”

This young man is now 71 years old and has visited Colombia many times since. He has also done something remarkable. He has taken one of the most complex novels, and in his own way, turned it into a photobook. “I was amazed when I first read 100 Years of Solitude. I couldn’t place the period of history, and I couldn’t have pointed to the places mentioned in the story on a map. But I loved reading it very much.”

“I have never renounced the nostalgia of my homeland: Aracataca, to which I returned and discovered that between reality and nostalgia was the raw material for my work.”
—Gabriel García Márquez

South America/ Colombia/Aracataca Department of Magdalena: Maria Magdalena Bolaño was born in 1917 in Villanueva Guajira, and went to Aracataca when she was eight, along with her mother to work in the home of Colonel Nicolás Márquez. Two years later, she became the nanny for the newborn Gabriel (fondly known as Gabo). In 2010, at the age of 94, she still had an enviable memory. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

South America/ Colombia/Aracataca Department of Magdalena: Maria Magdalena Bolaño was born in 1917 in Villanueva Guajira, and went to Aracataca when she was eight, along with her mother to work in the home of Colonel Nicolás Márquez. Two years later, she became the nanny for the newborn Gabriel (fondly known as Gabo). In 2010, at the age of 94, she still had an enviable memory. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

A Passion Spanning Nearly a Lifetime
A 22-year-old Fausto, who was also studying architecture in Rome, started making pictures during his first hitchhiking trip through Europe in the early 60s. “It was an important decade for the world. I was inside the movement, and I was also outside, as a watcher, as a photographer. This was when I understood that this would be my life, this would be my future. And after 40 years, I can tell you this, I wasn’t wrong.”

South America/ Colombia/Aracataca Department of Magdalena: A quiet Sunday afternoon on the patio of a modest home. Fausto was wandering around in Aracataca one day, and he saw this family sitting together, involved in each other, and he simply entered the house and made a picture. What surprised him greatly was that the family went about their business, and took no notice of him. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

South America/ Colombia/Aracataca Department of Magdalena: A quiet Sunday afternoon on the patio of a modest home. Fausto was wandering around in Aracataca one day, and he saw this family sitting together, involved in each other, and he simply entered the house and made a picture. What surprised him greatly was that the family went about their business, and took no notice of him. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

Finding One’s Own Mind
Fausto has done editorial, travel and photojournalistic work. “I’ve been able to live on photography all my life. But, in these last few years, I understood that this wasn’t my real nature. I was really happy only when I was working on personal projects. This could happen perhaps four times in forty years, and only when I could make a book with my work. It is difficult to understand your own nature. Maybe, you understand at the end… you understand why, perhaps, you had some difficulties while dealing with your work, with your life.”

South America/ Colombia/Department of Magdalena/Aracataca: A room in Gabriel’s grandparents’ house where he lived until he was eight years old. The photograph was made in 2006, before the house was turned into a museum. The portraits on the wall are of his mother, Luisa Santiaga, as a young and old woman. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

South America/ Colombia/Department of Magdalena/Aracataca: A room in Gabriel’s grandparents’ house where he lived until he was eight years old. The photograph was made in 2006, before the house was turned into a museum. The portraits on the wall are of his mother, Luisa Santiaga, as a young and old woman. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

“I couldn’t tell you because even I don’t know who I am yet.”
—Gabriel García Márquez

A Seed that Took Decades to Germinate
While Colombia is not unfamiliar territory for Fausto, he has been travelling to it since the 80s, it was only in 2006 that he realised he wanted to make a photobook. “But I did not want to just make a coffee table book about Gabo’s Colombia. I wanted to make a book with me, my vision of photography. And, I wanted to tie them all together.”

South America/ Colombia/Valledupar Cesar department/ Academia de Vallenato del Turco Gil: Vallenato music is very popular on the Colombian coast and was much loved by Gabriel García Márquez. On the wall is a portrait of the legendary blind musician Leandro Diaz. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

South America/ Colombia/Valledupar Cesar department/ Academia de Vallenato del Turco Gil: Vallenato music is very popular on the Colombian coast and was much loved by Gabriel García Márquez. On the wall is a portrait of the legendary blind musician Leandro Diaz. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

Internalising and Forgetting
Fausto has plenty of old photographs from Colombia, but he decided not to use any of them and started afresh. “The part of Colombia that was fascinating for me was the coast, the Caribbean coastline that also fascinated Gabo. So I started reading the book again—once, twice, thrice, many times. I read his autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale, and his biography by Gerald Martin. I read it all, and then, I wanted to forget everything, and be myself.”

“I don’t know who said that novelists read the novels of others only to figure out how they are written. I believe it’s true. We aren’t satisfied with the secrets exposed on the surface of the page: we turn the book around to find the seams.”
—Gabriel García Márquez

South America/ Colombia/Cabo da Vela Department of La Guajira: This is a Wayúu Indian woman in the Guajiro sacred place. Gabriel’s maternal grandmother, Tranquilina Iguarán, was of Wayúu origin, and played a fundamental part in his creative development during his childhood. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

South America/ Colombia/Cabo da Vela Department of La Guajira: This is a Wayúu Indian woman in the Guajiro sacred place. Gabriel’s maternal grandmother, Tranquilina Iguarán, was of Wayúu origin, and played a fundamental part in his creative development during his childhood. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

Constructing His Own Plotline
The photobook consists of quotes paired alongside Fausto’s photographs. “I did not want to say, this is his house, this is his babysitter and so on. You don’t need to know what this piece of architecture is, or who that person is. I call Macondo the world of Gabo, but I made this book in a way so that it could be interesting for anyone. You can look at it as a story of Colombia and the Caribbean.”

“It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.”
—Gabriel García Márquez

South America/ Colombia/Valledupar Cesar Department: Ash Wednesday in the cathedral. In the book, a character called Colonel Aureliano Buendía has 17 sons who are permanently marked by a mysterious Ash Wednesday cross. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

South America/ Colombia/Valledupar Cesar Department: Ash Wednesday in the cathedral. In the book, a character called Colonel Aureliano Buendía has 17 sons who are permanently marked by a mysterious Ash Wednesday cross. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

The Italian Neo-Realism Connect
The book’s ‘magical realism’ is inspired by Vittorio de Sica’s Miracle in Milan, which was an adaptation of the 1943 Italian novel, Totò il buono, by Cesare Zavattini, who also happened to be Gabo’s lecturer at a film school. This connection was first discovered by Federica Chiocchetti of Photocaptionist, and it made me marvel at the cyclical nature of things. “The link between Gabo and Italian neo-realistic directors like de Sica and Roberto Rossellini is very important. They would think about their movie in a very simple way, taking incidents as well as actors from the street, instead of professionals. Of course, it was just after WWII and it was a very poor period. But they were able to create miracles out of the everyday problems of people. Gabo’s books also start with everyday life. Nothing special happens. The colonel is waiting for a letter, waiting for his pension… these things can happen around you in Mumbai or around me in Italy. But he’s able to transfer them to a higher level, using his language.”

South America/ Colombia: This is a washing plant on a banana plantation near Aracataca. A major story arc in the novel involves banana plantations, which spur a strike, which results in a massacre. This arc was probably inspired by the Ciénaga massacre of 1928. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

South America/ Colombia: This is a washing plant on a banana plantation near Aracataca. A major story arc in the novel involves banana plantations, which spur a strike, which results in a massacre. This arc was probably inspired by the Ciénaga massacre of 1928. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

Selling One Photobook to Fund Another
From 2006–09, Macondo took Fausto three years to shoot. He spent a month in a year in Colombia, but by his third trip, “I did something that I hope will make Robert Frank proud. I sold an autographed copy of The Americans to a collector so that I could fund my trip. It earned me USD 2000, which was enough for travel, but not for all the film that I had to buy, of course.”

South America/ Colombia/Aracataca Department of Magdalena: This railway cuts through the village of Aracataca and has always been important. It once transported both people and bananas from the United Fruit plantations to the port of Puerto Colombia. Today, it transports coal for a multinational company to the port of Santa Marta. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

South America/ Colombia/Aracataca Department of Magdalena: This railway cuts through the village of Aracataca and has always been important. It once transported both people and bananas from the United Fruit plantations to the port of Puerto Colombia. Today, it transports coal for a multinational company to the port of Santa Marta. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”
—Gabriel García Márquez

We are inspired by different things in life. I have a photo titled Macondo because of Gabo, who wrote books inspired by the people he met, the movies he saw, the teachers he had. Fausto distilled a lifetime’s worth of experience into a photobook about a town that is memory, metaphor and fantasy in equal parts. And so, experiences become universal, and the mundane and the everyday is where the magic comes alive.

South America/ Colombia/Aracataca Department of Magdalena: Billiards is one of Colombia’s most popular recreational pastimes. This venue was a dance hall for plantation workers. It is one of the few surviving buildings in wood with a corrugated iron roof dating back one hundred years. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

South America/ Colombia/Aracataca Department of Magdalena: Billiards is one of Colombia’s most popular recreational pastimes. This venue was a dance hall for plantation workers. It is one of the few surviving buildings in wood with a corrugated iron roof dating back one hundred years. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

Tips by Fausto

  • Don’t be afraid to dream and follow your dreams. Something exceptional might come out of it!
  • Reinvent yourself constantly. This is not my first work about Gabo. I had previously shot along the Rio Magdalena for a feature based on The General in His Labyrinth, but this time, I wanted to make a book.

Equipment and Gear

  • Fausto  wanted to leave everything he’d learned behind and so he decided to shoot in a new language, with a medium format Rolleiflex camera.
  • For interior shots, he switched to a Mamiya 7 that gave him 6×7 prints.
  • Gabo’s novel is timeless, and Fausto wanted his photographs to have the same quality, and hence his choice of gear.
South America/ Colombia/Santa Cruz de Mompox Department of Bolivar: In the public library. Mompox features quite a few times in the geography created by Gabo for his novels, and also in The General in His Labyrinth. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

South America/ Colombia/Santa Cruz de Mompox Department of Bolivar: In the public library. Mompox features quite a few times in the geography created by Gabo for his novels, and also in The General in His Labyrinth. Photograph/Fausto Giaccone

Tags: Ambarin Afsar, aracataca, colombia, fausto giaccone, gabo, gabriel garcia marquez, Italy, literature, macondo, neo-realism, photo book, rio magdalena, roberto rossellini, rolleiflex, Sensorium 2014, TLR, vittorio de sica