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Maria Teresa Ponce - The Present Absence

Category: Portrait 27. May 2009

Maria Teresa Ponce understands how people develop a nostalgia for the country they have left behind, where their own friends, family, places, experiences, and history have remained. Ponce left Ecuador when she was nine and moved to the US, where she spent her youth, and studied architecture. After she completed her degree, she returned to Ecuador to find a country in economic crisis, with no work to be found for young architects.

This crisis resulted in Ponce turning to art: she began to take photographs. She experienced that photography opened up new worlds which interested her, but to which she hardly had access. Her photographic work investigates the inner world of prisons, including their inmates. She then digitally superimposed the photographs from the prisons onto photographs of a condemned hospital building, thereby representing the ailments of an institution meant for rehabilitation.

Her landscape photography, taken along a pipeline which runs from the Amazon rainforest to the Pacific coast, gives the impression that wealth and economic prosperity are being siphoned outside the country through a hermetically sealed channel. Ponce's work is characterized by her search for these areas and her willingness to expose herself them, as well as their inhabitants.

One aspect of Ponce's documentary style is an intentional staging of scenes – some of her projects reveal an interventional approach. In the end, Maria Teresa Ponce works with the medium photography not only to produce pictures, but also to experience, and to evoke associations which are easy to miss. Sometimes, the artist says, she finds herself bordering on activism, the term “photographer” falls short of a proper artistic self-definition. (wh/jn)

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