Blow up (Las Babas del Diablo)

Time is, among other things, a constant flow of events. It is perceptiveness what gives a meaning to such blend.

Most of the events go by unnoticed, they happen in the middle of something else.

Personally I enjoy those little extraordinary situations that appear on the daily routine, for example the feeling that last those few minutes after finishing to read that particularly moving book that eluded time, or finding a new meaning on a short story read years ago; enjoying a Dutch crunch bread roasted turkey sandwich from Arguello Market and the smell of the rain easing the somniferous heat of San Miguel city.

Nothing of it can be captured, but certainly they are inspiring. It also makes you wonder what extraordinary situations lay behind a picture.

I was recently captured by (and at the same time was aware of) a series of events that came up being personally revealing while revisiting one of my favorite writers Julio Cortázar.

At the time I was looking for a short reading, a break from the scanning and post processing work of my photos. I have in my library the two volumes of Cortazar’s short stories, so I grabbed Volume 1 and searched for something to catch my attention. I remembered El Perseguidor, a short story that I didn’t quite understood when I read for the first time some 10 years ago. This time took me a week to read it during the short brakes after lunch. I wanted to read it that way, slowly, following the Jazz tempo, enjoying its walks around Paris at night, the tormented relation of the characters.

What to read after El Perseguidor? A couple of days later I still haven’t decided. I opened the book randomly: Las Babas del Diablo. This story begins as random as I found it and it did not fully grabbed my attention until it describes the main character, “Roberto Mitchel, French – Chilean, translator and amateur photographer”. Well it turns out that Cortázar was also interested in Photography, along with boxing, jazz and the extraordinary.

That short story is about street photography (with a non existent Contax 1.1.2)

In the story Cortázar touches many of the most relevant elements photography: the importance of knowing how to look at a scene, the imposition on the picture of the photographer’s vision, the lost of the individuality of a certain element caused for its inclusion in the wholeness of the scene, the interruption of time.

The up most importance of the decisive moment: “I lifted the camera, pretended to study a composition that did not included them and lied expectant, I was sure that I will finally catch the revealing gesture, the expression that summarizes all, the life that the movement accompanies but that is destroyed by a rigid image that frames time if the imperceptible and essential fraction is not chosen…”

the photographer’s duty: “when you are with a camera there is a duty to be alert”

the photographer’s vision: “the photographer always acts as a permutation from its personal way to see the world for another one insidiously imposed to him by the camera”

“I think I know how to look at things, if I know anything at all and to look oozes falseness because it throws us away from ourselves without any guarantee… In any case, if the probable falseness is foreseen beforehand, to look becomes possible, maybe it would be enough to choose right between what to look and what has been looked at, to undress everything from its alien cloths”

To find and read, this story was a decisive moment by its own: a street photography short story written by Cortázar is like watching Doisneau’s Kiss or Cartier-Bresson’s Behind the Gare St. Lazare.


Later I found that even a movie was made from this short story in 1966 under the name “Blow up” by Michelangelo Antonioni.

Every event is always chained to another that may end up being extraordinary if you know how to look at it, photography has make me more aware of such events which is why, among many other reasons, it is so important to me. As Cortázar explains through its character: “among the many forms to fight the nothingness, one of the best is to take photographs, activity that should be taught early to the children because it demands discipline, esthetics, good eye and precise fingers…”


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