Freunde von Freunden: Bruno Candiotto’s sublime photography captures the mountains, rivers and trails of Chile’s Cajón del Maipo
First published in Freunde von Freunden
After ten years of success as a fashion photographer, Bruno Candiotto went through a moment of professional crisis. So, he left the glamor behind in favor of travel, and ever since has been busy documenting the diversity of life and culture in Brazil and beyond.
In 2015, Bruno turned his lens to Cajón del Maipo, a giant canyon in central Chile. The area is dense with snow-capped mountains and rivers running vein-like between them. Because of its beauty, Cajón del Maipo is known historically as a place of healing. Chileans suffering with respiratory problems would travel to breathe the clean air and bathe in the waters. But for Bruno, these mountains provided no such tonic: “Actually, I had to go to hospital after that trip,” he says. “That place is amazing but, at least for me, it was not healing. It was too dry and cold.” Bruno, it turned out, had developed altitude sickness, the feelings of nausea, dizziness and headache brought on by a depleted oxygen supply. But, despite his hospitalisation, Bruno still believes in the healing potential of places like this, both physically and mentally.
From his hospital bed, he reflected on the relationship between himself and the landscape. “Getting sick made me think about how fragile I am, and how big that mountain around me was.” For him, the intensity of feeling in his sickness was directly linked to the intensity of feeling he experienced in the mountains. Bruno is a highly emotional and affect-driven photographer, and describes his work in synaesthetic terms: “Usually people think that photography is strictly visual, but for me it is much more. I believe that through photography you can feel the smell, taste and everything.”
Spontaneity is vital for Bruno, eschewing strict itineraries in favor of serendipity and openness. He found San José de Maipo only after an old friend suggested the trip. They both left for the mountains the next day. “That’s how things happen in my life,” he says. “Having no plans makes me sensitive to what I will find.” This process echoes what, in 1956, French philosopher Guy Debord once defined as dérive, in which the participant lets unconscious desires guide them around an environment. Always unplanned, the traveler must “let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there”. More than half a century after Debord first wrote these words, Bruno is practicing them in his photography.
The vastness of Cajón del Maipo’s pastel pink or grey-hued mountains, offset by rippled sheets of sea or rocky footpaths, bring to mind the sublime landscape painting of centuries ago. On those rare occasions when people do appear in a photograph they are very small, overwhelmed by the scale of the environment. Perhaps, Bruno says, “sometimes the people are small because the world is too big.” Nonetheless, he is deeply interested in the relationship between humans and their environment, seeing the latter as a tool for photographic play. He uses photography to explore our relationship to everything that surrounds us: “This can be the camera or a design project, it can be the whole city, or even the whole world. It also can be the political scenario. People build things to manipulate, in a good or bad way, which I then explore.”
This creative play, however, is more than simply the pursuit of fun. Bruno declares, in all earnestness, that he would like to change the world with his photography. “I just want to make people think. I believe that education is the key. That’s why I am also a university professor. Inspiring people and making them think about little things of life is the way I’ve chosen.” This, really, is the crux of Bruno’s method: Get out of your comfort zone, get a little lost, and try to see the world differently. “I believe that the Earth is an apparatus,” he says, “and we need to learn how to play with it. Just like a photographer does with a camera."