Hailing from Bogota, Colombia, street photographer Sam Bohorquez emphasises the small moments and reminds us of the beauty in apparent mundanity. Bohorquez finds inspiration in unlikely places; windswept intersections, tearful pedestrians, and bearded smokers decorate her work with the kind of immediacy unique to street photography.
Bohorquez works almost collaboratively with her surroundings allowing them to offer her potent moments reflecting,
“the street helps me move like a cheetah in the concrete jungle, being fast and trying to go unnoticed”.
With Kodak Portra 400 film as her canvas and natural light, buildings, pedestrians and a Leica M6 camera as her paint, Bohorquez is “A photographer who thinks that jazz music and the movement and chaos of the streets are almost the same thing”.
This feeling of movement, of play, of ‘jazz’ permeates Bohorquez’s work through moments so intimate they almost feel stolen. An image of a walker wiping her tears from behind sunglasses as pedestrians pass by is a vignette so confidential you almost feel the need to look away. These insights into private moments evoke complex feelings of closeness and voyeurism while also making the viewer feel watched. It’s almost as if the subject is observing us as much as we are observing them, creating another moment of connection across time and space.
Bohorquez’s images give us windows into memories of people and places so palpable – one can almost hear cars zooming by, smell the smoke billowing from cigarettes and feel the texture of bricks and mortar. Her work is a stunning insight into pockets of the world we may otherwise not see, and Bohorquez reflects that she is “creating a giant archive of how people behave, dress, and interact with each other”.
In her quest to capture human interaction, Bohorquez reminds us of a key human need that has been denied many of us over the pandemic years; physical intimacy. A frame of a couple kissing, their facemasks pulled down to their chins is a stark reminder of the impact physical distance has played in our lives these past three years that hits somewhere deep and inexplicable. This impact extends into Bohorquez’s emphasis on subjects that are so often pushed into the shadows and forgotten, in particular older people. In addition to society’s perceived synonymity between youth and beauty, the pandemic has revealed our perception that older people are expendable (in Australia at least). By centering older folks in her images, displaying the beauty in wrinkles and the power of a lifetime of memories, Bohorquez challenges the growing agism that seeks to make the majesty of getting old invisible.
The importance of listening, documenting and attending to invisible moments and people is central to Bohorquez’s work as she reflects; “what awareness we will have of our cultures if someone does not dedicate his or her life to it, it is important work for societies in general.” In her quest to document culture, Bohorquez joined ‘The Calle’, a collective of street and documentary photographers founded during the pandemic with the objective of making visible street photography in Colombia and Latin America. This collective also functions as a gallery and is on the cusp of releasing the first edition of their magazine.
Sam Bohorquez’s approach to her art reminds us all to be open to our surroundings and responsive to stimuli and inspiration. Her art is made through a connection to her world and a willingness to accept what the universe has to offer. “(T)elling the story you want to tell seems to me a wonderful gift” and you have to be prepared to receive it.