Andrea Santolaya

01 October | 16 January, 2021


Press release


Our first surprise comes from the fact that photographer Andrea Santolaya has not allowed herself to be seduced by the stunning blues of the sky and sea, nor by the absolute greens of the land. In the Azores, everything dazzles and delights: the verdant coastal landscapes, the mountains and mists, the woods of sweet pittosporum and Japanese cedar, roads and paths that carry us away, the most beautiful lagoons and their legends of thwarted love. The other surprise is her art of seeing – a black and white gaze, penetratingly sharp, of the life, the people and their everyday pursuits and pleasures. A hint that the thousand colours of these islands could be misleading, or even false. Seen in its brightly-coloured illusion, this beauty might lead to a misinterpretation of the inhabitants’ fortunes, often overlooked by those who visit.
It is in black and white that we find the perfect truth of these small and large worlds, our eyes drawn by hard-working faces and hands, finding the reason for the existence of these people in the place they live. And so we are led to believe in their condition as Azorians and in the universality of humankind. Not all populations can take pride in the whales that pass by in their calm, temperate seas, in full view of the nearby houses and land; nor in the boats that come and go from the island that shelters them, vanishing in the horizon in their search for worlds that lie far beyond. Life is seen in the weather-beaten faces of fishermen on land, the pensive, dreamy gaze of girls by the sea, female sailors, perhaps daughters and granddaughters of the owners of the ships moored at the quay, in the rain. And there are women who sing when it’s time for mass, and pilgrims at the church doors – the so-called ‘romeiros’ who, for a week during Lent, travel the island on foot, praying and asking for the forgiveness of sins. And here is an image of a man lying on a bench in Campo de São Francisco, where the greatest Azorian poet, Antero de Quental, killed himself with two gunshots in the mouth, sick from anguish and metaphysics, unable to find meaning in life or the world. I don’t know whether the man in the photo is sleeping under the sign of the anchor and hope, or whether he is mourning the death of the other, the poet of transcendence and perpetual light. What I am sure of is the secular and the sacred, spirit and faith, the antidotes to uncertainty and the fleetingness of our time on this earth. This is what my eyes tell me when I see the sensitivity and photographic skill of Andrea Santolaya, who shows us the true reality of the people of the Azores.

João de Melo