Weekend Portfolio: Tali Elbert
This was originally posted on Juanele AR, a pioneering bilingual arts organization founded and edited by Rick Powell and Gabriela Schevach.
The photographer from Chaco, Tali Elbert (b. 1978), presents for the first time her series Pasaje(Passage), a group of eleven large format (1.80 x 1.20 meters) images of elderly people moving around in water.
The photos were shot underwater and provide an evocative perspective and a sensation of calm and beauty about old age. Considering that water is an element that can bring relief to people who are near death, Elbert’s look strikes for its visual poetry and the serenity of the bodies suspended in water.
The Peaceful Passage
In the beginning, we easily floated, weightless, no obstacle around us. The water-cradle rocked us in its perennial cushioning. Nobody could harm us or offend us there; nothing could make us sad.
We stayed in a trance until we got carried through an underground corridor to the inescapable estuary and then we were born wet. That became the first passage and Tali Elbert, in herprevious project, took pictures of it. It was the moment of birth, that tosses us, according to an ancient metaphor, into the river of life. That metaphor, containing the rapids as well as the bends, warns us that nothing’s possible without this vital fluid — neither the cultivation of seeds, nor the construction of cities or the sustenance of the body.
The murmuring rain, a sweet river, a brimming and fresh glass of water are essential elements, such as the blessing and moisturizing dew or a kiss. If we could only feed on liquid, the kingdom of need wouldn’t exist. Nevertheless, we die dry, withered and alone, in the quietness of our own desert. That’s the last passage for everyone.
Tali Elbert has photographed elderly people moving in water. Far from birth, they let the soft stream lead them through their own river of forgetfulness — another classic metaphor. In the pictures, calm and mercy prevails, a sort of light on the surface of water. The sparkles of a beneficent pool.
Between arrival and departure, in the long course that transfers us between light and darkness, we are just passing through. It’s a certainty that can’t be appealed. Tali Elbert wants to leave a record of this in the peaceful, almost sweet form of a possible passage. The bodies photographed here seem to be quietly waiting, in serene transit, as in a jellyfish garden, beyond all pain, without memory, without suffering.
Text by Christian Ferrer, philosopher