Resisting categorisation into series or sequences, the work that makes up El Nuevo Mundo strives to be “self-sustaining”, each piece deemed “important” in its own way. Crucially, the images – steeped in Latin American metaphor and visual language – serve to counteract the “Eurocentric tendencies” that shaped Velásquez’s education, and which continue to fuel imbalances of power across race, class and labour distribution.
The subjects that feature are friends of Velásquez, yielding intimate portraits forged through theatrical, improvised acts of collaboration. Their identities are deliberately obscured through careful cropping, or masked through props and gestures; indicative of the artist’s “protective… motherly tendency” towards her sitters (or, further still, her fastidious ethics of representation). “I’m trying to blur the authorship line,” Velasquez says. “I want the subject to present themselves with their own agency, on their own terms.”
At once playful and critical, El Nuevo Mundo testifies to a fervent admiration for photography — but also to photography’s limitations, vulnerability and failures. The work’s potency lies both in its overdue presentation of a silenced culture, and in its restraint whilst doing so. But also, crucially, in the way it allows audiences to find their own way; to “bring [their] own story.” This is the art of diplomacy, after all. Never is an argument so persuasive as the one we believe we’ve come to ourselves.
Velásquez’s art is not one of storytelling, but of feeling. It is the art of reconsidering, and experiencing something altogether more lyrical. In her words: “The only way to understand photography is to understand poetry.”
El Nuevo Mundo by Cristina Velásquez is available on OpenSea.