Book Review: Gauchos Icons of Argentina
By Brigid Kapuvari
In order to truly be free, one must escape the boundaries of society and develop a connection with the environment surrounding them, allowing room for pure exhilaration. What are the qualifications to liberty? Is it the right to wear traditional clothing? Is it the ability to ride through the winds without obstruction? Is it the capacity to do what you want, when you want, and never have to rein in your pride? Based on the images in his book, “Gauchos: Icons of Argentina,” published by Assouline, it is evident Aldo Sessa would argue that the answer includes all of the above.
Aldo Sessa is considered one of Argentina’s most well known and esteemed photographers. Since the age of 17, Sessa has spent his days snapping pictures that reveal the secrets of the globe, showing the highlights as well as the shadows. Recently, he returned back to Argentina with the intent of immortalizing the nature of the gauchos, nomadic horsemen who are brave and resilient, serving as romantic icons for autonomy and love for the land. With his camera, Sessa followed these expert horsemen, capturing moments that give viewers not only a taste of their lifestyle but also their unrestrained character.
To illustrate, there is a photograph in which a large group of gauchos are huddled together, their backs facing the camera as they grip their horses. The scene is captivating because, while their exact expressions are unknown, based on their erect postures and collaborative formation, they are a united front. By contrasting their bright, fiery red capes against a pallid sky, Sessa emphasizes that this team of men are prominent and untouchable.
Moreover, there are multiple shots where Sessa aims to flaunt their crisp attire and fashion sense. They dominate the territory adorned in polished instruments, signaling an element of civility. In one picture, Sessa zooms in on a rider’s sleek boot lodged into a brass stirrup, light striking the engraved metal in a way that suggests nobility and strength. In another, Sessa focuses both on a pointed knife and a flowery sheath, insinuating that even luxuries can impose fervor. These men may power intensely through the landscape, but they are not completely wild. There’s a certain grace to them.
Finally, Sessa exposes the dynamic energy of the gauchos as they launch into action. He captures the instant when two men latch onto a colt, grinning ear to ear, proud to be counterparts to a native creature. He seizes the moment where a gaucho, his upper half bare and refined, guides a herd of cattle from an island and through an expanse of water, eager to be an influencer of change.
All in all, via both color and black and white images, Sessa strives to prove that these men are in sync with their surroundings and maintain a diverse, unique culture. They are beautiful, yet they harbor a ferocity that exceeds the average civilian. Knowing no limits, they are unfiltered, exhibiting both civility and ferocity. Gauchos, as Sessa’s work depicts, represent what mankind could be if it relieved itself of confines and acted more on impulse – boundless.
"Gauchos: Icons of Argentina" is published by Assouline.