Photography is as much about constructed image as it is about the story it communicates. Antonio Pulgarin’s work exists somewhere between document and aesthetic. He is on a mission to produce a sculptural journalistic impression. He is as concerned about the quality of light as he is the message of his mission. Pulgarin is Colombian; raised in Brooklyn. He came to photography at a very early age. “A defiant gesture,” as he refers to it over drinks. He is a very proud Latino.
“Gotta wet the whistle before you spill the tea.”
I wasn’t quite ready for him. Pulgarin is eloquent, composed, humble, sassy, articulate, and intelligent. He is his work, and he works at a level of heartfelt and instinctive professionalism. Growing up Latino-American was difficult for Pulgarin, before photography. The work, rooted in self-reflection, is bigger and deeper than just him; it reaches for a contemporary Latino narrative. “Photography helped me find my place within artifacts and culture from my country.” The work is revealing and allows for a kind of truth.
Inside these images is a kind of anger, and excitement. Behind their document they are as brutal as they are thoughtful. Pulgarin’s photography is like the work of photojournalists Robert Capa and James Nachtwey. Unlike Capa and Nachtwey, Pulgarin is shooting images of his blood; it’s his innate contact that makes the work so personal. They are not just picking up the stick of photojournalism as they are also informed by performers like Leigh Bowery and Nick Cave. Pulgarin’s images – to us – are of unfamiliar faces. Not to him. They ignite. Smell and sound are teaming inside color and light, and a quality of surface and texture so rich that you are enveloped by these strangers. The camera is a crafty thing, it is dangerous and intelligent in the hands of someone as hungry and humble as Pulgarin.
He does not slow down. Pulgarin’s work is the body of his practice. His passion, reaches beyond. Curator, collaborator, teacher, mentor, designer, the list goes on. He does other things. With a team of designers and artists he is about to publish the first volume of a collection of photographers’ work titled Visual Manifesto. He co-hosts Collective Other, a group where artists of color come together and discuss their work and issues of race, and Haus of Loca, where photographers and artists focus on the nexus of fashion and fine art and how these intricate practices engage one another.
You’d never guess that Pulgarin is only two years out of the School of Visual Arts. With his long list of achievements, works shown around the country, and projects in motion, he is a machine. Behind his talent, vision, and intelligence, he is one of the kindest most caring people I have ever met. Everything he does is in the service of others, to share with others, and to shed light on people who might otherwise not have any light. He is a humanitarian and a great artist.
Efrem Zelony-Mindell is an artist who lives in New York. For more of his work click here …
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