Courtesy of Andrea Hernandes Briceno
Andrea Hernandes Briceno
I'm a visual storyteller and National Geographic Explorer based in Caracas, Venezuela. I work in the place that I grew up in and love. It is a complex environment where facts don’t fully explain how we sunk into this all-around crisis or what is actually happening. This is why I use all the narrative tools I have in hand. Some stories require still photography or video or audio or all of them. Other stories need more complex tools such as listening with the spirit or the humility of understanding that we can’t fully explain what we see.
The core of my practice is the dignity of the people that open their lives to me so that I can tell their stories. I’m a local journalist and constantly return to the places and communities that I work in. During this pandemic, I’ve tried to keep an unusual distance with the people I photograph because exposing myself means exposing them to infection. I’ve had to become closer to them through technology making loads of phone calls and sending tons of SMS messages in order to personally close the physical gap that we have enforced for their safety and mine.
The way I make images has changed because we have to adapt to this new way of living. But my goal remains the same: to tell their stories taking into account their vision of the world and to foster our relationships so that we work through mutual respect.
Latin America has become the new hotspot for Covid-19 as the number of cases rise. It's a region that gathers the perfect conditions for a pandemic: low investment in the healthcare system with an unstable and mostly informal economy. The cheapest method of prevention is social distancing, but how can people stay home if they need to go out in order to survive?
In Venezuela, these conditions are especially grave. What I've heard while making images with a telephoto and a flash in the middle of the commercial area in Latin America's biggest barrio, Petare, is: "We can't stop". I've been photographing people going to buy or sell food. Commerce is a high-risk activity during a pandemic; it requires contact and closeness. For most people here, social distancing sounds like a trend in New York and they are more afraid of hunger than the virus.