Artist's Statement: Fernando Decillis Photographs the Gauchos of Uruguay

By David Schonauer   Tuesday June 4, 2019

“In Uruguay, the gaucho is a national symbol of character.”

So notes Atlantic-based photographer (and PPD reader) Fernando Decillis, who was born in Uruguay. A commercial and editorial photographer based in Atlanta, Decillis has shot for brands including AT&T, Microsoft, CNN, He’s also photographed celebrities including Matthew McConaughey, Sofia Vergara, Toyota, Coca-Cola, and The Home Depot. His editorial work has appeared in Bloombern Business, Adweek, Vanity Fair, Smithsonian and other publications, and he’s photographed celebrities like Matthew McConaughey, Sofia Vergara, and Roger Federer.

He has also worked on personal projects throughout his career, most recently returning to Uruguay for a personal project titled “Patria Gaucho.”  The project, which we spotlight today, explores the intersection between archetype and humanity. As an archetype, notes Decillis in his artist’s statement below, the gaucho “is honest, self-sufficient, proud but humble, generous, brave; and most of all, he is free.”

ARTIST STATEMENT: “Patria Gaucho” by Fernando Decillis

In Uruguay, the gaucho is a national symbol of character. He is honest, self-sufficient, proud but humble, generous, brave, and most of all; he is free. The gaucho lifestyle is solitary, nomadic, gritty, and full of rich traditions. In the open grasslands, gauchos round up cattle and wild horses. they hone skillful tricks to bend the will of large herds.

As a child in Montevideo, I remember seeing these dignified horsemen towering above my head as they paraded through the streets with their wide-brimmed hats, ponchos, boots with spurs, sheepskins, leather whips, and long, sheathed knives during the gaucho festivals. Since I left thirty years ago, I have dreamed of going back to photograph the heroes of my childhood.

Every year, in the small village of Tacuarembó, Uruguayan gauchos travel from all over the country for the Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha. They share traditional yerba mate, cook over open fires, and compete against one another in games of skill with wild horses and cattle.

The weeklong festival ends with the jineteada gaucha, where gauchos compete to ride untamed horses. The display of skill and showmanship highlights the bravery of the gaucho lifestyle, and the relationship between the men and the animals they live alongside.

To watch untamed horses in the wild is to behold the spirit of life itself, expansive, driven, without limitation. These are the faces of the men whose lives are rooted in a tradition of breaking that spirit, to carry humanity farther and faster toward one another and into the unknown.

See more of Decillis’s work at his website.


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