In her Decentralized Archive exhibition, Astrid Jahnsen presented a series of pictures taken in the Decentralized Judiciary Archive in Trujillo. The images show the accumulation and abandonment of all kinds of objects, stored as evidence in judicial investigations or confiscated for judiciary reasons. That exhibition marked the beginning of a line of work that sprung from the idea of the archive itself: the staging of the seductive power of thousands of objects, stored and cataloged, and the stories they could tell; anonymous stories that as a whole throw light on certain often elusive aspects of the way our society works.
That line of work explains, at least in part, why Astrid Jahnsen chose to buy some time later a pack of negatives offered in an online sales site and why she set on a personal crusade to rewrite the story contained in those pictures. It is a story full of coincidences –such as her chance encounter with Ricardo, a man who made it possible for her to identify, half a century later, some of the people portrayed in those pictures– and an example of the beauty that can arise from the questioning into the past: together with some of the people they managed to identify in those pictures taken by a photographer that worked in the El Rimac area of Lima in the 1950s, Astrid organized a reencounter of all those who had lived in the neighborhood.
Creole music, ornaments on the ceiling, the old photos hanging on the walls, hugs with old friends. And there was the opportunity to tell a story that everyone had let slip away into the past.
What followed was work done in newspaper archives, interviews with some of the old neighbors and finding more photos, this time, in family albums. All this would help to trace the history of a traditional working-class neighborhood of Lima that would be transformed by urban development: the construction of the Santa Rosa bridge during Manuel Odria’s government split the neighborhood in two and forced many residents to move. The change in urban dynamics would also bring migrants from the Andes and, as a consequence, the Barraganes alley would never again be the same.
The project, still a work in progress, involves the publishing of a book, the setting up of a small museum of the history of the neighborhood, and an exhibition during the III Lima Photography Biennial. And, surely, future reunions.