When you’re around ten years old, summer evenings, with their made-up games, flash thunderstorms, and aimless wanderings, have a magic and a mystery that you can never quite recover. But a decade ago, in her series of photographs of a pair of cousins in rural Argentina, Alessandra Sanguinetti managed to capture that feeling on film. The series came to be called “The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Enigmatic Meaning of Their Dreams,” and now, at long last, it’s been published as a book.
When she met the cousins, Sanguinetti was trying to work, taking photographs of animals near her parents’ farm. “Beli and Guille were always running, climbing, chasing chickens and rabbits,” Sanguinetti writes. “Sometimes I’d take their picture just so they’d leave and stop scaring the animals away, but mostly I would shoo them out of the frame. I was indifferent to them until the summer of 1999, when I found myself spending every day with them. They were nine and ten years old then, and one day, instead of asking them to move aside, I let them stay.”
Sanguinetti now lives in the U.S., but she’s been returning to Argentina to photograph the cousins ever since. (“The Adventures of Guille and Belinda” covers the first several years of their acquaintance; another series, “The Life That Came,” takes a look at the cousins’ teen-age years.) Here’s part of my conversation with Sanguinetti.
How did it work? Was there some degree of collaboration—did they have ideas for what they’d like to be photographed doing?
It was three-way. They were kids, so when they play, it’s good if they have a little bit of direction, and then they do what they want. It’s a little like improvisation and theater. I would tell them, why don’t we play that you’re husband and wife and you’re eighty years old, and they would transform it into something else. Or I would tell them, let’s play it’s the funeral of one of you. And they transformed it into the funeral of the boy one of them liked. We had a really good time doing that. Any idea I had, they adapted to their own situation. That’s when interesting stuff would start to happen, and they would take over. If they didn’t take over, then it would fall flat. They would offer things up, and I would guide it visually.
What kinds of things did they suggest?
The first thing that comes to mind—I don’t have a good picture of it, so it’s not in the book—but they liked to play journalist. They would play out the worst kind of news program; one of them would be the journalist, and the other one would be the woman whose baby was stolen, and they would just run around the field and act distressed. They would act stuff out every day, just kid stuff. And I would show them books—da Vinci, religious art—and they liked the ones with angels, so we’d have fun imitating that.