Only one possible panorama for the multiple panoramic photographs by Fernando Rosa.
The house of the beasts was the self-given name of the London Zoo for its opening in 1828. In 1890 the term Zoo, was adopted in the United States, becoming commonplace that every major city in the world today has its own public collection of live animals for exhibition. Today there are more than 10,000 collections of live animals for public display according to AZA (American Zoo and Aquarium Association). Animals in captivity for public display can be traced back to Egyptian civilizations in 1250 B.C. The Totocalli, best known as Moctezuma’s Zoo, was the collection of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles and even human oddities owned by the Emperor Moctezuma II in Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in America. It is alarming that even in the nineteenth century, Moors, Tartars, African or Native Americans were exhibited in inhumane conditions in European zoos under the absurd gaze of others: the savages. Entertainment has changed: Zoos today, besides being a place for study and learning, have the imperative role to preserve habitats and endangered species. What we cannot be sure of is the disappearance of zoos under this change in global consciousness about flora, fauna and our environment.
For Fernando Rosa photography is a human construction, where nature does not behave as usual. The construction of his panoramic photographs goes completely beyond the natural field of vision of the human eye. A fortunate decision is the use of monochromatic materials, thus creating an immersive experience: an altered state. The ordinary and usual in a zoo becomes a kind of time capsule in Fernando Rosa’s images, a diorama, a hieroglyph, a codex... a universal vocabulary. Known animals cease to be familiar and become peculiar, strange, distant, rarified beings, like species from another era, another world, another universe. What if it were a simulation? If none of this existed in the present? How will these photographs be seen in the future? What are those strange beings that look up, watch and monitor other strange beings? Granted, the imagination of Fernando Rosa is not science fiction, but why is there an image of a surveillance camera among all the images of recognizable living things? What is Fernando trying to provoke with this? Is he warning us that we are being watched, because we are another being in captivity? What if humans are nothing but specimens for study? Early modernity was characterized intellectually in the belief that science would save the world, and this reasoning gives shape to the possibility of universal truths. Yes... The time, modernity, when people still believed in photographs. If postmodernism emphasizes the impossible, and is not optimistic about the possibility of progress towards a change in the future, then why would one want to see the photographs by Fernando Rosa as a continuation of the classic aesthetic scheme of direct photography, where supposedly reality is only revealed to us as a mere aesthetic experience. If perceptual experience is an experience of underlying structures and substructures, of categories in the philosophical plane where lion / carnivore / feline / mammal / animal is actually substance and on a scientific level that equates to order and species, the panoramic views of Fernando Rosa immerse us in his own imagination. Thus, the world is what it is: a mystery.
Gerardo Montiel Klint
A few kilometers from what today is the historic center and before used to be Moctezuma’s Totocalli.
Neo naturalistic aesthetic
The work of Fernando Rosa is made with such simplicity that it manages to establish an aesthetic point of articulation with its panoramic views. These shots involve a long exercise of composing the image and we find an investigative exploration that recognizes and generates a new type of naturalist view.
Avoiding the desire to research and classify as this has already been widely performed by naturalist photographers from the nineteenth through to the twenty-first century, this proposal accounts for animality as its leitmotiv, and focuses on the role of animals in their own artificial spaces. This is where the symbolic effectiveness of Fernando Rosa’s work reaches maturity, to the extent that if you look carefully, animals, reptiles and birds are free and it is we humans who are confined in our limits in understanding.
It is not about searching in animal behaviour for the metaphors of fear that we in the West have about all that is wild and untamed, but instead to seek to live with the differences that exist between these worlds that combine the natural and the cultural.
Panoramic photography is pushed and tested so that not only is the horizontal line established, but there is also a search for verticality and perspective to capture these disparate worlds. A panoramic shot has technical strength but a constructive limit in expanding the view. This body of work constitutes a refined exercise increasing the technical potential of this format traditionally limited to landscapes.
For this series of photographs by taking a controversial issue and resolving it with care, Fernando Rosa’s work on zoo animals is an exercise in extracting prejudice and building a visual body of work, a panoramic commitment to the value of animals for conservation. From this perspective, this visual statement, developed in 41 images, structures a neo naturalist ethic and aesthetic. This visual exercise makes a clear contribution to the critical stage of national photography, where eagles take flight and sparrows are released by the city of dreams.
Dr. Gonzalo Leiva Quijada
Academic/ Researcher, Aesthetics Institute,
Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.