Between May and September of 2018 I participated in the project «Caracas at night – Observatory», promoted by the civil association Ciudad Laboratorio. The objective of the project was to audit 33 public spaces in the city of Caracas to study the conditions in which its inhabitants, especially pedestrians, must travel in it to fulfill their work obligations, as to go out and have fun. Shopping centers, squares and cultural centers were the subject of the study (To see images of this study you can go to the Instagram account: @ciudlab).
During this period, I took advantage of the opportunity to carry out a particular registration, whose concept was based on a question asked by one of the coordinators of the audit, the architect Grecia Blanco. The question confronted one of the observation items related to the security aspect: women traveling alone during the night. Grecia questioned this item to indicate that men who moved alone at night also fit in this aspect of security.
To understand the indication of Grecia, the reason for the item and the aspect of security within the study, it is essential to know that Caracas is considered one of the most violent cities in the world, especially because of the high rate of violent deaths has registered in the last decade. Several studies support this terrible situation in Caracas and one of the most reliable is offered by the Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice of Mexico in its annual report, which can be seen in this link: https://bit.ly/2xjqjbW.
From that timely observation or questioning then my interest in documenting the presence or transit of men alone during the night hours.
The places audited during the project were located in different areas of Caracas and managed to cover the full spectrum of the differentiations of social and economic classes that characterize the city, as well as the diverse characterization of risks to personal and collective security.
A terrible reality of this situation is the establishment of fear in the community. Most of the inhabitants of Caracas walk their streets with fear, especially during the night. But an important observation is that this fear has a greater presence and effect in the areas inhabited by the middle class and in the suburbs. In areas and neighborhoods considered popular or inhabited by people with fewer economic resources, there is a greater circulation of people on the street at night, and it is not that these people have less to lose -although this is not obvious to some-, but perhaps they are more accustomed to facing lack and violence and this leads them to develop better and more effective defense mechanisms, both in the physical and in the psychic aspect.
This documentation called «The Night of lonely Men» was carried out in parallel to the study promoted by Ciudad Laboratorio, and although it shares some aspects of the general objective of the audit, it does not try to show the risk conditions in which the portrayed persons may be, much less aims to be a document that facilitates an analysis on the aspect of citizen security in Caracas. The look of The Night of lonely Men is photographic, essentially photographic and not sociological. It is an author’s gaze, in as much as it seeks to capture aspects related to the perceptions of the photographer in the presence of men who travel or are alone in the street at night.
It is, rather, an interpretative look at what the presence of a man who walks alone, who waits alone, who observes around without anyone accompanying him, who seems to face only the night of one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It is a look towards fragility and adaptation. A look that seeks to understand and not demonstrate. A look that is based on its own uncertainty, its own precariousness, perhaps with the hope of finding that place where the true reason of fear is hidden. And that which may give him some strength in the face of so much strange nocturnality.
Selections from this work «The Night of Lonely Men» has been published in:
Revista muu+ Artes y Letras (Argentina), see here: http://www.revistamuu.com/nelson-gonzález-leal.html.