Within a few seconds of wondering, I was buried in images of Uruguay via a Google Image Search. Even though I had no idea what to expect, somehow most results seemed unsurprising. There were photos of the soccer team which had recently been in the World Cup semifinals, scenic vistas of the capital city Montevideo, tropical beach scenes, etc. Touristy fodder.
Looking at these images made me wonder if any country can honestly be expressed in photos. Can you gain any deep knowledge about a place from just looking at pictures? If I showed you a photo of a famous American monument would it tell you anything about the U.S.?
Maybe it's better to take the opposite approach and consider each photo just on its own merits. It is what it is with no burden to describe a place. Of course in the end they end up describing things anyway, and quite literally, but if you want to really know a place you'll probably have to visit it.
Nevertheless I kept looking through Uruguayan photos, and gradually unearthed some interesting ones. I really like this satellite image of the capital Montevideo. Great form, and something about the washed out blue feels very placid. Maybe that's where the Uruguayan flag got its colors?
Here's another satellite photo of sorts, a Uruguayan flying object originally published in UFO Digest:
I think what I like best about this is that it's so perfect. The image is nicely centered, frozen like a still life above rolling hills. Most images of UFOs are blurry grainy blurs shot nervously on the fly, but this is the ultimate counter example, obviously fake. Wonderfully fake. "The most chilling aspect of any UFO case," says the article with the photo, "is usually a report involving the abduction of humans for research purposes." You won't find a photo like that in any tourism brochure.
Here's the soccer ball used in the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay, which Uruguay won.
It's part of a whole typology of old soccer balls shown here. They're perfectly centered like the UFO photo but in this case I trust the images are authentic.
I have no idea what the thing below is but I like the photo. It looks like something out of Evidence.
The caption is tangled in the midst of a scientific abstract which mentions the word Uruguay. Maybe the photo was taken there. I can't really tell. All I know from the photo is that scientists are sometimes wacky and free-spirited, and they like to measure things.
The moment I saw the photo below I was drawn to it,
not because of what it depicts but because it reminds me of a shot I took in Cape Cod last summer.
Photographs work like that sometimes. They carry all sorts of baggage, and it can be hard to approach them from a fresh perspective. Earlier photos can interfere.
In the late 1800s the photographer Luis Pastorino published an album called Fotografia de Montevideo, composed of 24 albumen prints depicting Uruguay's capital city. I'd never heard of this book before but apparently it's something of a collector's item. The current asking price on eBay is $2800. You can see the whole book here. I think the photographs are beautiful. They have definitely interfered with my perception of Uruguay, in a good way.
If I showed you a famous Uruguayan monument would it tell you anything about the country?
Here's that same monument today.
To me the statue looks slightly altered. Maybe it's the reversed camera angle? Hard to say. Some photos —maybe every photo?— don't offer much info aside from what's in the photo. You've got to supply your own baggage. But look at the sword. At some point in the past century it's had a dose of Viagra.
I suppose Pastorino's images might have qualified as tourist fodder 100 years ago but they still have great power. They don't make tourist fodder like they used to.
More work by Pastorino can be seen here, including this shot which I love.
Ranching photos carry baggage. Long story which I won't go into.
Pastorino had a good sense of where to stand with the camera. The way the various peaked forms in this image mimic the skyline could only happen from one spot.
Who was this guy? I can't find much on him online besides his photos, but he obviously knew what he was doing.
Maybe someone in Uruguay has more info? I know that about 100 people have linked to my blog from Uruguay over the past 4 years. Who are you? What's your story? What's Pastorino's story? Send an email or some photos. Let's start a conversation about something none of us were thinking about just yesterday.