We got in touch with Panamanian photographer Lorena Endara (1984) a little while ago, when she sent us the details of her “Market Geographies” series, where she explores market activity through product codes and stickers. Browsing her website, we quickly discovered she has a lot more work we’d love to share!
What got you into photography and what makes you continue to photograph?
I started photographing when I was 16 with a Pentax K100 35mm camera. Everything about it seemed sexy and special… finding the right shot, deciding technical options, waiting to see if it came out right. I still get just as excited about photographing. I enjoy the process completely.
“I don’t want to replicate what others are doing just because I can do it somewhere new.”
You’re from Panama city, Panama. How does this heritage influence your work?
Panama is such a bizarre place. The capital, Panama City, is over-developed with the purpose of turning it into the “Dubai of the Americas”. But then you step out of the city and the rest of the country is so third world. The contrast between the rich and poor is extreme. At the same time, as a photographer, I try to stay away from cliches.
I am always looking at contemporary photography through online media and books so I face the challenge of doing interesting work in a place where it is almost too easy to do something exotic. I don’t want to replicate what others are doing just because I can do it somewhere new.
You’ve shot several series in central america, could you tell us a bit about these projects and what motivated you to take these?
My project A Man A Plan A Canal Panama is about the myth of progress, with all its promises and failures. It took me about 8 years to complete it as I had a very intimate and at the same time academic approach to shooting. It explores the landscape as the external forces of development collide with internal forces of identity and inheritance. The other project I did in Latin America was shot in Mexico while I participated in an arts residency program in 2009. I applied with the intention of doing another project during my month stay, but when I arrived I was captivated by the harsh landscape and spent the entire time photographing. “Time to Tell” features portraits and landscapes that focus around ideas of progress, absence, and heritage.
Banana companies are responsible for a lot of evil in the world as far as we know. Could you tell us a bit more about the banana project and why you collected all these stickers?
This project started out pretty idiosyncratic. I wasn’t focusing around banana companies, it was more about food systems and international trade. I grew up in Panama where for most part of my life, fruit and vegetables didn’t have stickers (and also where banana companies have done a lot of evil). In the last 10 years, I began to notice a lot more fruit and vegetables were imported as a result of globalization, or global restructuring – a term that seems more on point to me. So I started noticing these stickers and also the designs they had and the amount of information they provided.
They are so meaningless and so meaningful. I think they represent the confusion we have about where food comes from. These stickers show the Price Look-Up Code (or plu#) that enables international commerce but also show a very particular human element. I am currently investigating who designs these stickers.