Flipping through the pages of Aperture Magazine in Griswold library, a section in Aperture volume 206, the spring edition of 2012 caught my attention. There was a piece on artist Paula Luttringer called Archaeology of a Tragedy, written by Victoria Verlichak. The piece is about Argentina in 1930’s and through the next few decades when the government suffered from military problems and led to various political activist outbursts against the democratically elected government of Hipolito Yrigoyen. During this time, however, thousands of people seemed to be “disappearing”, some in more blatantly violent acts such as being thrown out of airplanes.
Luttringer offered archaeology of the experiences of those people disappearing collectively, including her own in 1977, as she herself was arrested while pregnant at the age of twenty-one years old and thrown into a detention center, where her first child wound up being born.
Within the article, there was a picture of a torn and tattered black shoe in black and white; it could have been a ballet shoe. Underneath the image is a quote from a woman named Gladis Cuervo who was abducted in 1976 in Buenos Aires and taken to the secret detention center Hospital Posadas. Cuervo says, “Since the day of my release, thirty-plus years ago, whenever a man comes near me on the street, on the train, on the bus, or in the subway, the first thing I look at are his shoes.” She continues to describe how she could only ever see the shoes of the policeman who controlled her and the other people in the center, due to the fact that she and the other victims were blindfolded. The picture of the ragged black shoes I’d spoken of earlier was an image of the black, laced, and shiny shoes she described. Cuervo speaks about her association with her times in the facility with the seemingly meaningless pair of footwear. She says that to this day, upon seeing those shoes on someone, she is transported back to her time in the center, re-submerging herself into that time and place.
To me, this is one of the most important elements of photography. The mental association that can occur with any insignificant object for any particular person. It goes back to the idea of one man’s junk being another man’s treasure, except this time meaning one man’s important memories connecting to a random object, and yet having absolutely no value for another. That is one of my favorite things about art: the range of significance that something holds according to a variety of different people.