The FIFV, or the Festival Internacional Fotografía Valparaíso, has been happening annually since 2010. It is a festival in Valparaíso where photographers around the world are invited to gather, spend some time taking photographs, and present their work in a public gallery. This past year, after submitting some images, Brazilian photographer Claus Lehmann was invited to cross the Andes Mountains and join the FIFV as one of twelve artists in residence.
According to the FIFV mission statement, the themes of the photographs displayed can be anything at all, as long as they accomplish one thing: understanding the world of Valparaíso. And so, when Claus arrived, he was sent with one other Brazilian photographer to spend his four days of shooting in the home of a Valparaísan family.
The first days were hard and strange (what am I doing here?!) but then you level down expectations and paradigms and remember you are there for your work.
This year was significant for Valparaíso because it was the first year after the 2014 fire at Cerro El Litre, a fire that lasted two days, destroying 2,500 homes and leaving 11,000 people homeless. The family Claus stayed with was living in one of the many homes in the area that was still under reconstruction. Claus describes the cramped living conditions, the precarious structure of the house, the culture shock—all this demanded flexibility from the photographers and the host family.
This is a kind of challenge that interests me—overcoming social and cultural barriers to get in touch with people.
I love people and their stories, which is why I’ve chosen to work with portraiture.
Claus says that what thrilled him about this project was the opportunity to learn about this family and their hugely different culture, and that his camera was like a free pass in getting access to them. He focused his photograph series on the Valparaísan families who were trying to reconstruct their homes and lives after the fire, and he says that while they opened up their world to him, he was able to share some of his world with them too. He says, “by the end, we left as part of their family.”
It was great to see how they live, what the eat, how they celebrate Halloween.
After four days of shooting, Claus and the other photographers headed back to the center of Valparaíso, where they used the festival’s production center to edit, print, and curate their photos. There, they met with photographers and curators from all over the world and finally, after a total of 10 days in Valparaiso, Claus displayed his gallery to the public.
It was really a great immersion in photography and made me think again about why I do this.
Claus hopes to display his pictures again, perhaps published in a book, or in different magazines and sites.
To see more of Claus’s work, visit clauslehmann.com.