Hans Castro León
Places where the heart could live

These photos by Hans Castro León are the beginning of a journey through uncertainty and the constant fear he feels in certain places. The photographer works with chiaroscuro, a technique from Baroque painting that features stark bright-dark contrasts, equally impulsive and controlled. The shots here lead through Castro’s personal perception and show an unreal world where violence is always palpable. Arranged in small series, ordinary stories are transformed into existential experiences.

  • Everyday Life
  • Identity
  • Violence
3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

I still don’t entirely feel like a visual journalist, currently I still feel in a stage of learning and experimentation in photography. Experience and photography have taken me to places where I never thought I would go. I remember the first experiences of photographing my family, fellow sportsmen on bikes and wandering the streets in search of interesting things to capture. The main step where I began to take photojournalism seriously was with an intimate documentary about my grandmother who lived alone for more than 20 years, the idea was always to narrate her condition of life and her loneliness. I have never created direct portraits of her, she was an elusive person. But I did not take it as an excuse of not being able to create the project. Photography has that versatility of having no limits when concentrating on an idea. I had the opportunity to photograph spaces of her house and traces of her daily life in order to build a moving story.

2. The decisive moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

It is difficult for me to think about the exact moment where this journey began, I believe that the uncertainty of the day-to-day of my life was the main cause. The wandering and walking with the camera always with me, photographing what surrounds me, where I live. In the year that I created most of the images I was going through a difficult time in my life, the 3-hour day-to-day trip to get to my university and the care of my grandmother at home who suffered from terminal cancer. All this was sensitising me to the search for new ways of observing humanity through photography. I do not want to be visually literal in this project but to create an atmosphere. These encapsulated places are symbolic rather than significant. I have never tried to force images that deny us our own experience. My images represent a resignification of my life.

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

Photojournalism is directly related to the political, cultural and social. I think that due to these axes, visual journalism is constantly encountering aesthetic and narrative changes on the part of the author. I think that photographers increasingly feel more committed to long-term projects and to creating new strategies in the construction of conceptual images.

»Heart is the key word of everything.«

Hans Castro León
Your photography depicts scenes from your very personal life to public life with themes like violence and drugs. How do your family and friends react to your pictures? Are they involved in the process?

When I started photographing this project, on many occasions I met with family and friends and they asked me, why do you keep photographing that? I must admit that I did not convince them – they found the pictures quite simple. I think it must be due to a lack of visual culture in photography. I understand that they must be used to observing these landscapes in their daily lives, but even so they are still moved by looking at the images. Most of them feel a direct relation with violence. I have photographed people who somehow have a very deep meaning for me, they are not simply people, they have something to tell you.

In your answers to the questions above, you mentioned the resignification of your life. Can you elaborate on that?

By the resignification of my life I mean finding a different way to tell my daily life through a visual narrative. I believe that when you commit to a photographic project, you go on a path of teachings and wisdom in the creative process by discovering places, people and experiences. While few dare to expose themselves, personally these developments have been significant for me – I’ve left a part of me in every project. From this thought the title of the work “Places where the heart could live” is born. Heart is the key word of everything. I don’t mean an organic heart, but rather the poetic symbol of the heart in our humanity. Most of the images are characterized by violence, but there is a reflection of humanity in them.

In your work, you photograph your direct surroundings. Could you imagine working on something which is not that close to you? Maybe even in another country?

In any case, I would like to work on projects outside my locality. I think one of my dreams is to travel throughout Latin America in search of constant problems in Latin identity and culture. Most of the time I am a person who is openly committed to new experiences. I do not think I would have difficulties when being away from home, despite not having many possibilities of traveling frequently in my life. Not being of high economic resources, it is usually somewhat costly. But well, there are always opportunities if we make an effort. (Interview: Jan Kräutle)

Curated by Jan Kräutle

© for all photos by the photographers
© for all videos Lumix Festival Hanover, if not indicated otherwise.

*1997 in Santiago de Chile
Hans Castro León studies at the Instituto Arcos in Santiago de Chile, the city where he spent his childhood and has never left. Inspired by his single mother, he took up drawing and painting. After that, he came to photography by experimenting with other forms of visual expression.


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