Alejandro Chaskielberg grew up in Buenos Aires. Perhaps because he lived in an urban environment, nature, once discovered, became his inspiration. In 2014, he traveled with his one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Lara, to remote Patagonia, where he discovered the El Hoyo labyrinth. He was mesmerized: The labyrinth seemed to transform everyone who meandered through it. Children became elfin, adults became childlike. Everyone seemed under a spell as they made their way through the maze.
Created by Claudio Levi and Doris Romera, it was a symbol for nature regained. Levi was from Buenos Aires and had settled in El Hoyo, next to El Bosón – a counter-culture community that had attracted individuals from all over the world. He met and fell in love with Romera, who had grown up nearby. Together they planted the labyrinth on land that had been ravaged by fires caused by drought in 1987. Over the years a number of fires had burned savagely and spread quickly through invasive pine trees, which had been planted by the national government for fast growth in the 1970s.
For Chaskielberg, the labyrinth was a timeless place. He decided to take nighttime pictures using the lighting technique he had created for his earlier award-winning Paraná River Delta project (2007-2010). Cinematic lighting, particularly the nighttime scenes of Peter Greenaway’s 1988 film Drowning by Numbers, was his inspiration. The photographs were made with different lanterns, at full moon only, in exposures of about 10 minutes. He soon realized, however, that in order to capture the labyrinth’s power of transformation, he had to create his own cinematic scenarios.
Chaskielberg, a photographer who also works as a cinematographer, decided to put to use his cinematic experience to fully capture the magic of the labyrinth. Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, which famously concludes in a hedge maze, he took on the role of director. He created scenarios – he painted trees, used torches, moved people around, had them pretend to sleep on the ground and stretch out on the tops of the hedges. In effect, he created a magical piece of land art and documented it.
Chaskielberg’s photographs visualize the feelings people experience while wandering through the giant maze. He created tableaus and made light visible. The images are spectacularly beautiful and seductive, showing us the transformation – and the fragility – of nature.