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The Adventures of Guille and Belinda
For over two decades, Magnum photographer Alessandra Sanguinetti captured the lives and imaginations of two cousins in rural Argentina through a portrait of childhood that is both familiar and exceptional. This collection is an edit derived from two bodies of work: The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Enigmatic Meaning of Their Dreams, which was published with Nazareli Press and exhibited at the Yossi Milo Gallery in 2010. The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and The Illusion of an Everlasting Summer was published a decade later with MACK.
Sanguinetti’s work reads like a poem. The images, like standalone allegories, gesture toward the fantasies, hopes, and apprehensions of the two young girls as they grow from adolescence into adulthood. Through each of her projects we experience different rites passage: they try on different personas and perform for their idea of girlhood; adolescence evolves into womanhood, and the imaginings of the girls settle into the identities of young women.
The farmlands of the western province of Buenos Aires are a particular mix of the modern and traditional, where life is lived in consonance with animals and rugged landscapes. As Guille and Belinda slip between roles, alternately performing for and being caught by Sanguinetti’s camera, the profound bond between the two girls is unmistakable. Approaching the precipice of early adolescence, their games are imbued with the poignant weight of their dreams and desires as the world of play meets that of reality. By depicting the lives of women and girls within the conventionally masculine world of Argentinian gauchos and farmers, Sanguinetti’s book interrogates the frameworks of mythologies of all kinds, honoring lives that are usually unseen.
What comes through in equal measures is a sense of nearness—of belonging to a specific place and time—and yet a distance, or an air of nostalgia, that points to Sanguinetti’s own relationship to the landscape and her childhood. The photographer states: “I grew up in Buenos Aires, and spent weekends and summers at my parents farm. Guille and Belinda were born and raised in the countryside. We shared the same sensibility: that intangible quality of 'knowing', understanding a place, but I would come and go. They were always there.”
In The Illusion of An Everlasting Summer, we follow the young women, now ages 14 to 24 as they negotiate the fluid territory between adolescence and young adulthood. In this chapter, the two cousins are depicted as they experience young love, pregnancy, and motherhood—all of which, perhaps inevitably, results in an ever-increasing independence from their families and each other. Similarly, we can sense a shift in Sanguinetti's relationship to the cousins and the work they make, from insular childhood collaborators to three women with lives branching in different directions. Though the passage of time is one of the most palpable tensions at work in these photographs, An Everlasting Summer deepens Sanguinetti's exploration of the timeless, universal language of female intimacy and friendship.
In a recent profile in The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead writes, "Sanguinetti’s images… were created in the first place as art works, not as social or political commentary. But such commentary emerges, nonetheless.” This sentiment is a prominent through-line here as well—the selection of images and their sequencing point toward the roles of women, the ideals that are amplified and the subsequent machinations that naturally arise from living within a more isolated community, and the invisibility of such stories.
That’s one of the reasons why the role of collaboration is integral to this project. The photographer summed it up in her stating that: “They were very willing participants, and the ideas for the pictures came from the three of us…Then of course, they grew up. So did I, and the work took on different shapes and changes.” The tension between looking forward and looking back is palpable. As a viewer, we’re imbued with the power to see in both directions: that of the child looking into the blinding unknown future, and that of knowing adult sorting through memories.
Twenty-four years later, some aspects of their imagined future selves have come true: Belinda is married with two children of her own. Guillermina lives 40km away where she teaches elementary school. The passages of time is also a perpetual invention and reinvention of subject and photographer. When asking about her relationship with her subjects now, Sanguinetti states, “Our relationship has gone through many phases…During their adolescence, they withdrew and became a bit distanced, then as mothers, they got close, and it's been back and forth. The way I photographed, of course, adapted to all these changes.”
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Enchanting the pig
Alessandra Sanguinetti is a photographer based in California.
Her interest in photography began aged 9 when she poured over her mother’s collection of books by Michael Lesy, Dorothea Lange and others. She studied Anthropology at the University of Buenos Aires and General Studies at the International Center of Photography.
In 1996 she began working on a series eventually titled, On the Sixth Day, which explored the complex relationship between man and domesticated animals in the countryside in Argentina. Three years into this project, she turned her attention to two nine-year-old cousins, Belinda and Guille, whose grandmother’s farm had been the subject of Sixth Day. Sanguinetti followed the two girls’ for five years, taking pictures embarked on a life long project, collaboratively photographing the two girls as they grew up and presently as adult women. The first five years culminated in a much-acclaimed monograph, The Adventures of Belinda and Guille and the Meaning of their Enigmatic Dreams (2010).
Sanguinetti is a recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and a Hasselblad Foundation grant. Her photographs are included in public and private collections, such as the Museum of Modern Art (NY), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She has photographed for the The New York Times Magazine, LIFE, Newsweek, and New York Magazine and is currently based in San Francisco. Sanguinetti has been a member of Magnum since 2007.
Press + Articles
Off the Shelf: The Adventures of Guille and Belinda
The New Yorker (article)
Alessandra Sanguinetti The Adventures of Guille & Belinda
AMERICAN SUBURB X (article)
Photographing the Fluid Space Between Teenage Years and Adulthood
AnOther Magazine (article)
Teenage dreamers: growing up in rural Argentina – in pictures
The Guardian (article)
Alessandra Sanguinetti talks about The Adventures of Guille and Belinda
Fellowship Lectures (video)