Contributing editor Anne Veh brought photographer Germán Herrera to my attention. As sometimes happens, a visit with the artist served to amplify something I’d sensed about his work, but hadn’t confirmed in any way.
Sometimes, in meeting the artist and seeing more work, whatever had first spoken—from seeing work online, for instance—falls silent. But in meeting Germán in person and seeing more of his photography, the intangible quality infused in his work like an atmospheric condition was brought more vividly to life.
In 1988 he spent six months in Cuba. A portfolio of photos from that period reflects, as he writes, “a search for the Self in the streets of Havana.” Viejo con perro
, the lead photo here, is from that portfolio.
Early on, Herrera turned the camera outward to capture moments that make us feel the unanswerable questions of life. Who am I? Why am I here? A gaunt dog stares into the lens while an old man in the background also looks at us directly, smiling. He wears a baseball hat. In the empty space we see something boiled down to its essence.
What is the meaning of these fundamental gazes? They confront us unmistakably in the ambiguous space of being here.
In later work, Herrera turns his attention inward. The contemplative figure with the cone-like hat, an overlay of lines and birds in a tree, so richly evokes an inner search.
His later photos—composite images mostly—become dreamlike, symbolic and metaphorical. They speak of the fragmentation and isolation of the shadow realm, but also of the beauty and mystery of the world. His work speaks in a language we recognize in our own depths.