WPO in Bogota with Irina Werning
- By Astrid @ WPO
Saturday evening, 24th December. It’s pouring down rain in London town, what a surprise. I’m frantically, but to no avail, trying to hail down a black cab to take me to the airport. I was flying to Boston that evening, only to stay grounded for less than the length of the 7.5 hour flight, then head back to the airport to fly to Bogota, Colombia, via Miami. 21 hours later (I managed to hail a taxi after all, but not without getting soaked), I touch down in the great Latin American capital… a place of exquisite beauty, contrasted by the threat of crime. I feel energised, yet at the same time hit by a strangely unsettling feeling caused by a mixture of jet lag and the 2,625 m (8,612 ft) elevation of this town.
As I stand there waiting for my luggage to come out, observing the others who just arrived slowly decrease in number, I begin to fear the worst has happened. 5 minutes later, a pretty airlines hostess confirms it has… my luggage didn’t make it. Something about the flight being overweight and them randomly selecting 8 suitcases to hold back. I guess I’m one of the lucky 8.
Fortunately however, what is in my suitcase doesn’t matter to why we are there. It is Irina Werning’s suitcase that holds the goods. Two hand-stitched dark blue jean overalls, a third pair of overalls with yellow flowers, two white t-shirts, one over-sized t-shirt, a pink blouse, gold hoop earrings, a blue watch, one pair of brown and one pair of black boots, a fake ponytail, small iron-on animal patches, and a tube of glue.
Apparently, this is what it takes to go Back to the Future on Irina’s terms, who is the winner of the 2012 Portraiture category of the Sony World Photography Awards. I quietly wonder if her time machine can help me out with my lost luggage.
We are in Colombia for the last leg of the South America, Back to the Future Tour. Organised by Sony Latin America and WPO, it completes a five-country visit, in which Irina has gone back in time to recreate the future a total of 13 times in just over a month. Santiago, Lima, Caracas, Panama and Bogota were all on the list of destinations and from what I’m told, it has been a great success. The reason for the project is promotion, mixed with a lot of fun.
Following her win at the awards, the Argentinean native, Irina, caught the eye of Sony Latin America, who have claimed her as an ambassador of sorts. She has since been equipped with the newest and best Sony products and sent on this tour to photograph a new series of her perfectly executed diptychs and present her work to press and students.
Standing in the Plaza Bolivar, in Bogota, I realise it is again a waiting game. This time not for taxis or planes, but for the sun and clouds to start behaving. You see, Irina is a self described control freak (which she says matter of factly in her thick Argentinean accent). No apologies from her… the photograph must be captured in the exact same conditions as the original. In this case, the perfect state of overcast. We watch for nearly two hours as clouds surround the sun, almost forming a perfect halo, but never actually covering the sun, as if to say ‘you are going to play on my terms today, not Irina’s’. So we wait for another while until the National Capitol building, which sits on the Southern side of the square, helps us out by finally hiding the sun.
Everyone rushes to their places… brother and sister next to each other, holding hands, with feet positioned just so, a giant grin on the brother's face and the sister contorting her hand up near her overalls just so. One assistant is at one corner of the two, but out of the shot, with bread crumbs ready to throw in the perfect position for the pigeons to come feast; another assistant, which happens to be my role for the moment, is on the opposite corner to attract the pigeons to the top left side of the shot. And Irina, in front, is snapping away, giving orders to move hands here, smile bigger, cock head right, lower chin more, look at the camera and freeze in time one more time.
And so, another escape, back to the future, is successfully completed. On to São Paulo for me next…