PPD Spotlight: Juan Cristobal Cobo Looks Into Bogota's Past

By David Schonauer   Thursday March 10, 2016

Photographers often find stories by staying close to home.

“Last year, after basically quitting my day job as a commercial director, I wanted to pursue a project close to me, in the town I live,” says Colombian photographer Juan Cristóbal Cobo, a Pro Photo Daily reader.

Cobo found himself drawn to Bogotá’s main thoroughfare, La Carrera Séptima. The street, noted the New York Times  recently, was once lined by the homes of the wealthy. “Like a European promenade,,” wrote Annie Correal. “it led to the city center: grand municipal buildings, a towering cathedral, the expansive Plaza de Bolívar. Its electric streetcars were a symbol of progress, high in the Andes.”

That grandeur is a thing of the past, “The old city was nearly reduced to rubble after a political assassination in 1948 sparked riots that left buildings ransacked and burned, the streetcars tipped over and torched. Those who could moved north, leaving the city center to fill with soulless office buildings and the indigent,” wrote Correal.

“So much of the country’s history is mirrored by the street,” says Cobo. “I found a never-ending source of people, stories and situations — a lot of times surreal ones — that captivated me.”

Parts of La Carrera Séptima have been restored, but for eight months last year Cobo investigated areas that are not rehabilitated. “It’s dirty, it’s ugly, it smells and it’s full of thieves,” he told the Times.

“I ended up going there as much as three times a week,” he says. Cobo shot with a Canon 5D Mark II with a 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens and a Fujifilm XT-1 with a 23mm lens, focusing mostly on four blocks closed to vehicles, where he looked for signs of Colombia’s past.

 “Historic centers interest me,” he told the Times. “In Colombia, they are centers of forgetting.”

Born in Cali, Colombia, Cobo studied film at New York University. “During my last year in high school I got my very first job as a production assistant on a feature-length film,” he says. “I then decided to come to New York and stayed  there for 10 years. Since then I haven't stopped shooting. Photography came just recently, as I wanted to develop more personal projects, projects I could do solo, as opposed of working in film with large crews and large sums of money.” Cobo is once again living in New York.

His project on the La Carrera Séptima was named a winner of the Latin American Fotografía 4  competition in 2015, and then selected to be part of the “Los Diez” traveling exhibition featuring work from the LAF contest and from the Latin American Ilustracion 4 competition. The exhibition is now being shown at the CasaTinta  art space in Bogotá.


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