Annie Y. Saldaña: Casitas
The relationship between a child and their grandparents is a multifaceted mix that’s very different from that between a child and their parents. It is often the case that a grandma would love her granddaughter even more than her own child, without admitting it in words of course, and the reasons for this are yet unknown. The freedom and liberation that both sides feel — grandparents are not ultimately responsible for the child’s upbringing in many cases and children know they can get away with more than they would with their parents — certainly has something to do with it. Through our grandparents we inherit stories and values that stay with us for the rest of our lives.
Annie Saldaña’s grandmother would share her country-life stories with the young photographer-to-be, free from the constraints of modern life and technology constantly fighting for our attention. Those were days where houses were made of wood and the locals would walk barefoot without worrying they would damage their tender soles. Saldaña began documenting wooden houses in 2013 in homage to her grandmother and her simpler, purer way of living in harmony with nature. She would employ bright, highly vivid colours in line with the colourful life in the Caribbeans and its aesthetics.
Saldaña’s project Casitas exposes the living conditions that Puerto Ricans have to endure such as natural catastrophes, limited government support and unstable electric service. Although the series began in 2013, it wasn’t until 2017 when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico that Saldaña realised the series is something more than just a personal project — it is a testament of the residence of the local population. It’s incredibly easy to take things such as electricity for granted and forget that fellow Americans who don’t live on the other side of the world have had to adapt their lives to make do without the luxury of modern conveniences.
Nevertheless, the houses are bursting with colour and life, the walls decorated with all sorts of quirks and nicknacks, from maps and pictures to guitar replicas, toy cars and religious symbols. Being inside someone’s home is generally reserved for their closest friends and family so the viewer might experience a slight sense of voyeurism, being privy to something that isn’t meant for their eyes.
These are homes in the real definition of the word, rather than properties — they have been slowly built together by the local community and Saldaña asks us to view their inhabitants just like we view ourselves, fellow human beings, and not jump to conclusions about who they are or what their values might be just because their lives are different from ours.
— foreword by Zak R. Dimitrov
Annie Y. Saldaña is a photographer and educator
Born in Puerto Rico, 1987. Finished a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphics Arts from the University of Puerto Rico in Carolina. Graduated with a Masters in Fine Art with concentration in Photography from Miami International University of Art and Design in 2012. Shortly thereafter she worked as curator of exhibitions and gallery coordinator at Vargas Gallery, FL where she organized nineteen exhibitions in two years. After moving back to Puerto Rico, she founded PRISMA Art Projects in 2015, an artist-run organization focused on supporting contemporary emerging artists through curated exhibitions and cultural events.
Saldaña has participated in exhibitions in Puerto Rico, United States, United Kingdom, Mexico and Germany, including the latest solo show at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture in Chicago, and group shows such as Bienal SalaFAR at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, Bienal de Fotografía at Museo de Las Americas in San Juan, Miami Independent Thinkers in Miami and PINTA Art Fair in London.
Saldaña taught photography and graphic design for 8 years before embarking on her current role as Digitization Specialist at The General Archives of Puerto Rico in a mass digitization project aimed to provide online access to historical records to the public in Puerto Rico and abroad.
My grandmother always shared stories of her life in the country, its beauty and complexity, living life in harmony with nature, but also walking barefoot on unpaved roads to arrive at the nearest school. In her honor, I began documenting wooden houses in 2013. It was an intimate project, guided by the nostalgia of a place that seemed to no longer exist. The intense colors, identifiable with Caribbean aesthetic, and the mountainous landscapes were my primary emphasis.
Casitas is a photography project that documents the living conditions of Puerto Ricans in the mountains of the island. The project aims to provide the international community a look into the current living conditions of fellow Americans by collecting oral history and learning about the residents, their families, and challenges they must overcome in the face of climate change, unstable electric service, limited economic support and many others.
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