PRIMITIVE BEAUTY [2010]

Teachers, butchers, midwifes, children, elderly, grave men, journalists, lawyers, lay brothers, sinners, prostitutes, monks. Terse skin or deep wrinkles that tell a lifetime of stories. Firm chests or those which barely remember what they once were. Athletic bodies, bulging abdomens, long-distance runners are all part of it.

With the fierce devotion of those who embrace a new religion or the scepticism of those who have nothing left to lose, they participate in their ritual of salt and mud; which resembles rather than a therapy of uncertain scientifically proven efficacy, an ancestral rite.

Before the daily dose of the smelly medicine, I can discern, even taking account of the vulnerable nakedness, certain characteristics of individuality: well-hydrated skin, worn hands by countless hours at the mercy of the sun, the discrete mark of a bikini or that of a T-shirt with a style similar to Marlon Brando.

The decisive moment approaches, the last step in the ritual: applied with visible signs of affect and solidarity, smooth black mud is placed like a blanket from the soles of the feet to the eyebrows.

Sometimes, only sometimes, a miracle occurs. I’m not talking about the dozens of stories, be it one’s own or from others, narrated with suspicious conviction about the multiple therapeutic effects of that clayey act.

The miracle revealed by my camera is of a different nature.

Masks of humid skin, slippery and impregnated with a strange sheen, akin to a primitive amphibian; or dry and chapped, similar to pachyderms, replace the artificial signs of identity of the anonymous recipients and, paradoxically, gives them back their original form, from which their sometimes-disregarded primitive beauty emerges.

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