Under the Black Sun, 1991-1993

Under the Black Sun references the rudimentary technique used by street photographers in Cuzco, Peru, whose expertise was to produce ID-passport photographs within minutes.  The technique started to disappear as the pre-digital era and the millennium approached. The passport photographs were taken directly onto photographic paper with a custom made wooden camera. The exposed paper was developed inside the camera, with the aid of developer and diluted fixer in recycled tins. As the paper negative was removed to dry in the intense mountain sunlight, a layer of Mercurochrome (merbromin) was automatically applied to the skin of the subject. This red hand-painted negative was photographed again with the same camera to produce, through the same developing process, a positive image commonly known as a passport photograph. 
The innocent retouching with Mercurochrome served as a filter which lightened the skin of the subject, conferring not only a ‘racial enhancement’, but also a socio/economic, an aesthetic, and even an academic one, with the belief - of colonial origin - that a person with fair skin possesses all these qualities intrinsically. 
These ideas are questioned in Under the Black Sun, as the process is suspended in the middle, -at the negative stage-, unresolved with the red veil of applied ‘medicine’ still covering the face of the portrayed.  

Hand-painted toned gelatin silver print, Mercurochrome. Variable dimensions. 
The Lost Steps, 1996

The series of fifteen photographs draws from a process common in the nineteenth century, when the development of the optical lens was not advanced enough to entirely cover the format of the photographic negative. This technical limitation creates a dark aura around the photographed object and gives it a limited depth of field, as to only concentrate our attention to one single detail in focus. They are shown in minute detail, their textures printed on rich toned black and white baryta photographic paper, sized to entirely cover the peripheral field of view but small enough to make the image feel intimate at close range. Equally essential, a concise judicial text - used by law enforcement officials – uncovers the object’s circumstances.

The works play with the notions of perception, as what seems to be just a fork or a spoon is rather a chemical test to recognize cocaine chloral hydrate made in a clandestine laboratory. Comprising forensics from terrorism trials, crimes of passion, cocaine production, victims’ clothing, homemade weapons; the objects' innocent origin counteracts their incriminatory testimonies. 

All works: Toned gelatin silver print. 16 in x 16 in. (40 cm x 40 cm)
Left Blank, 1998

The work was originated at the Permanent Study Center on Emigration, and was based on the historical documents found at the Museum of the Emigrant in San Marino. Due to poverty and the lack of opportunities, during the late XIX C and early XX C the citizens of San Marino experienced a mass exodus, much as the ones we witness today.

The images are of the Census books, of the blank pages left untouched, unmarked. The pages denote the absence of the native citizen and new immigrant, but also designate their space within the official record. The blank pages were left unwritten with the hope that the citizens would return one day and the census would be finally accomplished.

The work is installed within a closed space; two images are placed on shelves against each wall. The works tend to bend themselves, as fragile bodies, due to the slim aluminum support at the back of the images.

All works: Matte Chromogenic color print mounted on aluminum. 40 x 48 in. (100 x 120 cm)
Untitled (The Disappeared), 1998

The large format triptych assembles dark brown and green tone based images showing garments in deterioration. Seen in relation to each other, they resemble a geographical map.

The work references the phenomenon of forced disappearances indicative of Latin American dictatorships and military regimes, which are still widespread in troubled nations worldwide.

Archival pigment prints mounted on aluminum. Triptych, 56 x 165 in (142 cm x 419 cm)
Censored, 2000

The series was researched at the University of Salamanca's library in Spain and it examines books - dating from XV to XVII C.- which were obliterated and repressed by the Spanish Inquisition.

The images combine subtle colors and subdued aggression; the elegant beige of the cotton hand-made paper contrasts with the intense black of the censored passages. From a distance and due to its larger format, the works could be mistaken for expressionist paintings, but a closer examination reveals indecipherable texts effaced by various interventions. 

Tension arises when the viewer perceives, behind the tonal range and graphic appeal, the violence implicit in the images. The works stand as witnesses to the suppression of ideas by the powers of authority, which have been continuous and relevant throughout the history of humanity.

Each work: Archival pigment print mounted on aluminum.  40 x 48 in (100 cm x 120 cm)
Armored, 2000

Armored is a work composed of five photographs that presents, in the classical pose of a ‘three-quarter’ portrait, the gradual evolution - 1970’s to 2000- of the armored vehicle. The intimate black and white prints bring the viewer physically close and invites them to observe the subtle differences in design and engineering. The work comments on implicit urban aggression in the cityscape.

All works: Archival pigment print on cotton paper. 4 x 5 1/2 in. on 16 x 20 in. paper (10 cm x 14 cm on 40 cm x 50 cm)
Bleus, 2002

The abstract photographs that accompany the artist book seem difficult to distinguish at first. The close-up images of bluish, purple and pink tones on a light beige background present moments of injury and trauma.

The trace of pain is transformed into a pleasing, colorful and symbolic landscape.

All works: Chromogenic color print. 4 3/4 x 4 3/4 in (12 cm x 12 cm)
Dactilares, 2004

Biometric fingerprints, verification of criminal record for American residence.

Archival pigment prints on matte photographic paper.
Each 14 x 10 1/2 in. on 16 x 20 in. paper, mounted on acrylic and aluminum
Embedded, 2007

The visual presentation introduces, in silence, variations of 21 arms-resistant garments worn by professionals on duty - soldiers, police officers, and government agents.
Bulletproof, 2008

The series present images of apparently innocent, unsuspecting, everyday pieces of clothing. Suspended in vacant white spaces, depicted in high detail, these well-crafted garments conceal their real purpose: to protect the wearer from an attack by firearms.  

Emblematic of our times, characterized by increasing militarization, violence and lack of gun control, threat is implicit within the fashion statement. Not only used by politicians or the rich and famous, armored clothing is being widely adopted by ordinary citizens in crime-war afflicted nations worldwide.  

Bulletproof includes eleven images of different pieces of clothing designed for different genders, styles and age groups. Each image is life-sized and printed on cotton paper with a similar texture to the fabrics used for their manufacture.

All works: Archival pigment print on cotton paper, mounted on aluminum. 40 x 40 in (100 cm x 100 cm)
The End (Cyanide), 2008

The work gathers three interrelated images, visually referencing classical still life conventions such as the chiaroscuro effect and the triptych composition.  The outmoded toilet-chair, the table with gathered chemicals to cure depression (among them a bottle of cyanide), the wood-encased glass bottle; they enforce the feelings of confinement and physical and mental ailment. The left and right wing images mirror each other’s composition with the floor detailing. These objects were found abandoned at the Hospital for the Mentally Ill in Lima.

Archival charcoal pigment print on cotton paper. Triptych. 40 x 120 in. (100 cm x 300 cm)
Helmets, 2009

The piece is proposed as a still life study of objects not commonly depicted by the genre, reflecting the encounter between color and black-and-white photographs. The large-format image presents protective headgear including the protection of the respiratory passages. The color palette was taken after a study of the Bauhaus period contributions.

Archival pigment print on matte cotton paper, mounted on aluminum. 60 x 60 in (150 cm x 150 cm)
Imprint, 2010-2011

to produce a mark on a surface by pressure
to indent
to stamp
to impress

Imprint is a project documenting involuntary markings, made through dental pressure on the skin, at moments where concentration is deeply involved.
Automatic unconscious gestures where the skin becomes a landscape or scenery for inner dwellings.

Archival pigment prints on matte cotton paper, mounted on aluminum. 15 x 20 in. each (36 x 50 cm)
Systems and Constellations, 2012

This work started out of an interest in understanding the new parameters of the human face, from historical XIX theories based on physiognomy to the new biometric systems developed for facial recognition, and on a personal note, understanding Prosopagnosia or ‘Face blindness’, the impairment in the recognition of faces and facial expression of emotions.
The research is based on the study of features, gestures and the mapping of the human face and how these configurations are changing the awareness of the self.

The series proposes 10 portraits, each with a different colored biometric diagram, ideally presented in a grid of 5 on top and 5 below.

Archival pigment prints. Polyptych. 16 x 20 in. (40 x 50 cm.)
Counterplots - and elusive messages, 2012-2014

This project deals with language systems and an examination of encrypted messages or texts, specifically produced during times of unrest by the military or intelligence services.
These texts are often used by governments or specialized agencies in Latin America when facing terrorism, organized crime, or drug cartels. What we read is not what is being transmitted.
The point of departure was found-confidential papers, written by the artist's father, who worked in the Intelligence division in Peru. At first, the artist could not decipher what she was reading, but her name, Milagros (in English: miracles), was mentioned, which immediately sparked her curiosity as to what their real meaning was.
Usurping implicit semantics, the elusive messages impose violence – forcing layers of meaning, power and strategy beyond the boundaries of everyday language – only unveiled with the correct protocol.

All images resemble ‘Bulky’s’ paper tonality and texture. Bulky is the humble version paper used for the governmental bureaucratic process in Peru, similar to the newsprint paper. 12 ½ x 9 ¼ in. (32 x 23.5 cm.)
An Inventory - of One, 1989 - ongoing

The series, which has taken over 30 years to produce, centers its interest on the identity document - its regulations and parameters. These documents, which follow a personal itinerary, are themselves confronted to other regulations and protocols, those of archival cataloguing, normally used by scientific researchers or imaging production departments at museums.

These image systems are put to examination by being used to catalogue the official document itself and its bearer.

The series consists of approx. 30 images and is ongoing.

Archival pigment prints on high gloss color paper. Variable dimensions.
Diary of a Cure for the Evil Eye, 2018

The notion of the ‘Evil Eye’ dates back 3,000 years to Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome and its symbolism is recognized all over the world. The concept is mentioned in religions such as Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Buddhism and, Christianity.

The ‘evil eye’ is believed to be a look - a stare, a glance – given to someone in particular. This glance is mostly rooted in envy, but also believed to not be deliberate , the ‘evil eye’ has the capacity to inflict harm, misfortune, illness.

In Latin America, specifically in Peru, the cure, known as ‘Cura del huevo’, is practiced as traditional Andean medicine. The cure involves sweeping a raw chicken egg over the body of the victim to absorb the evil eye. The egg is later broken into a glass of water and examined. The shape of the yolk and the patterns of the egg whites are interpreted to diagnose the source of the affliction.

The artist followed the traditional procedure of the ‘Cura del huevo’ during four weeks, observing, making notes and photographing the process, as in a diary. Through research and consultations with ‘curanderos’ and shamans, the results were examined. What one perceives in the shapes of the egg whites are the alleged images of the source of the evil eye.

De la Torre references the Rorschach Test and presents the ‘Diary’ works in the same format. The Rorschach Test is a projective psychological test to help assess emotional functioning and it is well known through its images of inkblot. The artist makes a parallel between the Rorschach examination and the shapes formed by the egg whites and, consequently, their interpretation.
What we see in these abstract images of egg whites are a projection of our own unconscious, our fears and our imagination.

Diary of a Cure for the Evil Eye: Archival pigment print, mounted on one-inch thick plexi-glass. 17 x 66 in. (42 x 165 cm.)

Diary (after Rorschach): Archival pigment print, mounted on one-inch thick plexi-glass. 16 x 16 in. (40 x 40 cm)