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Work / Photography

Pablo Di Prima thoughtfully documents Colombian teenagers in an exploration of identity and beauty

Central Saint Martins student Pablo Di Prima is a man of many talents – especially for one so early in their career. Studying on a graphic design course, Pablo works with film, the medium which previously caught our eye, but, it turns out, he’s also a dab hand when it comes to photography.

In the summer of 2017 he found himself on a trip to Colombia, on the recommendation of a friend. “I was told many stories about people in different regions of Colombia, characters of all kinds. Maybe influenced by too many Gabriel Garcia Marquez novels, he told me that magic is real there, that the most fantastic phenomenon are rendered visible. It looked like the perfect scenario for my pictures,” Pablo says of what it was about the country that drew him in.

Having visited various locations around the country, his latest project really took shape when he stumbled upon the village of Rioacha. “I was going from Punta Gallinas in the north to Santa Marta which was towards a southern area, Rioacha was a stop on the way,” he recalls. The former, he tells us is “one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been” and the latter, “an area where there is the most fruitful of forests in the western area of the country”. Rioacha, in contrast, is “literally an industrial and transition territory”, usually only visited by tourists as a stop-off on long car journeys. It was in this unexpected location, however, that Pablo met a bunch of teenagers who became the core of his project.

A beautiful series, Pablo’s images document this group while displaying the striking environment they inhabit. Soft in their colours and thoughtful in their composition, they are a rumination on what it means to live within a community, and the identities we forge for ourselves within these communities. Without imposing too much, Pablo’s work instead hopes to shine a light on what makes each of his subject’s unique.

This want stems from Pablo’s experience of growing up as a redhead in Barcelona. “When I was in primary school, it happened that some kids would neglect me because of being different,” he recalls. “Maybe it was my red hair, maybe it was that I had another perspective or other interests, but the point is that is was a very hard time for me although I didn’t really tell people about my struggle.” It’s this early experience which is channelled into every photograph Pablo took in Colombia. Despite depicting a group of strangers, the series feels like an exchange between friends thanks to Pablo’s considered photographic approach.

“I decided to take this negative experience of my past and transform it into a positive and creative discipline,” he explains. “I am really fascinated by the idea of appearance, identity, community and being different, especially in the context of youth. Now I can confidently say that no matter the circumstances, you can find beauty in every person you meet throughout your life.”

Although his time in Colombia is over, Pablo aims to continue exploring the themes throughout his photographic practice. “This exploration of ideas will be part of me for a long time,” he concludes, “I am currently arranging a new photographic project that will tackle this issue in another context and scenario but that’s all I can say for now.”

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