AMANDA RICA TAYLOR - I AM A GAUCHO
British artist Amanda Rica Taylor presents a series of cinematic photographs of men on horseback, galloping through expansive landscapes that fade into white, as if dissolving into fiction. These men are the Argentinian gauchos with whom the artist travelled over a period of one year in an effort to better understand and memorialise their way of life.
Visually striking and imbued with narratives of romance and drama, ‘I Am A Gaucho’ offers an intimate glimpse into an ancient culture that’s increasingly at risk from disappearing from collective consciousness.
Driven by a similar motivation to the one that drove Edward Sheriff Curtis to document the Native Americans, Rica Taylor’s artistic practice focuses on photographing the world’s remote cultures. Sensitive to the distrust that many of these cultures have developed for the West, Rica Taylor’s process typically involves spending lengths of time living within the communities so as to form relationships with her subjects before directing her lens. The result is a uniquely intimate perspective that celebrates traditions without reducing.
I Am A Gaucho is the result of such a process, which involved the artist travelling alongside the gauchos on horseback across Patagonia and Argentina’s varied landscapes. Though an inexperienced rider herself, Rica Taylor was struck by the gauchos’ relationships with their horses whom they still rely upon to earn a living. Significantly, it is this relationship that has persisted over time, whilst the gaucho’s role has been thrown into flux.
Historically, gauchos were a social class of countrymen who were born and lived on the pampa plain, and were made legendary during the War of Independence in which they were said to be fierce fighters. To many urban dwellers, however, the gauchos were viewed as barbaric and uncivilised, a perception which was strengthened by the industrial revolution that reduced the need for rural labour, forcing many to adapt their skills.
Nowadays, gauchos work in a variety of roles as horse trainers, breeders, tourist guides or herders. In the light of these contexts, Rica Taylor’s photographic series serves as a document of how the community has evolved whilst clinging onto traditions in the face of contemporary pressures.
Each image is named after a line from the translated version of José Hernández’s epic two-part poem ‘El Gaucho Martín Fierro’. Through rich photographic detail and the minimalism of a monochrome aesthetic, Rica Taylor captures the trust and tenderness of each moment of the gaucho’s lifestyle, emphasising the persistence of this particular rhythm of life and yet, the digital editing creates a fading effect, as if hinting at the nostalgia to come. Herein lies the central tension of Rica Taylor’s work as she appears to offer the viewer age-worn snapshots of the past, whilst closer inspection reveals urgency, strength and most significantly, life persisting.
By documenting an ancient culture through a contemporary lens, ‘I Am A Gaucho’ revives the narratives around these men and their long-standing traditions, but in a wider sense, the exhibition sparks a sense of hope and wonder. In a time of increasing turbulence and fracture, Rica Taylor’s practice reaffirms human’s basic instinct to connect and to empathise.