When someone from the Black and White Fine Art Photography community of Google Plus, upon seeing one of the photographs of my series The night of lonely men, asked the question «It does have a reputation of ‘a violent city’, dangerous for only escapades. Is it true? «, I knew that the work I had been doing in capturing these nocturnal images of Caracas made sense. And it’s not that I did not believe it before, but this time, under that concern expressed by that popular social network for amateur photographers, the content of each image began to show two things: the interpretative power of the documentary record that the documented scenes make possible and its capacity to generate restlessness in the spectator, from a primary interpretation – at first sight -, and also isolated from the whole, because after all it was a series and that spectator of Google Plus had hardly seen one picture.
I was glad that one image, just one, of that group could arouse this concern and at the same time I was embarrassed to think if perhaps the record that was being made could constitute a scarce manifesto of the night reality of Caracas, just at a time when that too many people in the world were looking at Venezuela.
The 2017 report on the 50 most violent cities in the world, generated by the Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice of Mexico, places Caracas in second place. This location is based on the record of the homicides that occurred during the year and in 2017 there were 3,387 registered, which shows a rate of 111.19 homicides per 100 thousand inhabitants. This is an overwhelming amount and if we add the accelerated migration process, which registers about four million Venezuelans seeking better life options abroad, we will have a dantesque panorama of the reality of the country. A horizon where fear and self-imprisonment have been installed.
Going out on the street today in Caracas can be a risky bet, especially if it’s at night. The economic and political crisis that the country is going through has generated deficiencies and important collapses. There is a considerable decrease in the public transport system, constant failures in the electricity supply and, consequently, a general darkening of the city. The supply of drinking water, the garbage and waste collection service are also deficient. The police presence in the streets has been increased, but this has not achieved the withdrawal or decline of crime, because several of the police agencies have been involved in acts of extortion, robbery and kidnapping.
From this reality the answer to the concern expressed in Google Plus can only be positive: Yes, it is true, Caracas is a violent city, it has earned that reputation. However, they would be surprised at how many people still go out into the street, even late at night.
To go out, to make public, to rebel, to defy the night, has always been a habit of the inhabitants of Caracas, of the youth of Caracas. Going out, making oneself public, rebelling against fear, against the darkness, is today a kind of cry that has become a slogan within some spaces of pro-citizen social action. As a photographer I have participated in this documenting this city reality for my personal archive and also for the Civil Association “Ciudad Laboratorio”, which since May 2017 has undertaken an audit of public spaces in Caracas.
Taking photos of Caracas during the night involves risks, it is true, but I have not walked this road alone. It has been four months of work with a multidisciplinary team and with the support of two security people, who have been our eyes when we are focused on the Caracas night record, be it photographic or data collection in the spreadsheets for that purpose. . From this walk through the city at night (from 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.) several observations have emerged, among them the following: fear and self-imprisonment become more present as one moves towards the suburbs of the city. This, and especially in the sectors of middle class up. Towards the center and in the neighborhoods of poor class the street is crossed more, it is feared less.
I have also noted the darkness and the deficiency in public transport. The loneliness of many is overwhelming. Caracas is a sick city today, I have no doubt about it. But it is a sick city that struggles to generate antibodies for its healing. A city where you still go out and dance. A city wounded by an absurd and perverse ideologization, by phrases and government slogans that proclaim the union in the midst of uncertainty, distrust and disaffection generated by senior government representatives. A game of malignant rhetoric.
The greatest concern is the effect that all this can cause – and is causing – in the younger generations, in the children. What hope is there that there will ever be an open dialogue between this young generation that rises under the yoke of this ideologization and that other that comes and has forged criteria of life from times before Chavism?
Yes, traveling the Caracas night without company is not recommended, much less for women, who can be left helpless in the shadows and bewilderment. But you have to go out, make yourself public, reveal yourself and move forward so as not to be stranded in the middle of the street like a soul without sorrow, like an empty body. This has been the most significant observation I have made thanks to my desire to photograph Caracas at night.