Rydel Cerezo’s latest series examines “the drama of the home” during lockdown
Back of My Hand reconsiders Rydel’s relationships with his family, poetically assimilating portraiture and still life photography to do so.
- Ruby Boddington
- 10 June 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
As the Graduates 2020 applications are now open, it seemed a good time to check in with one of last year’s class: Rydel Cerezo. A photographer who bowled us over in his application due to the way he explores complex personal and universal themes such as race, religion and queerness in such an astute and beautiful way, it’s no surprise to hear that the last year has been a big one for Rydel.
“The past year, I gratefully have been part of the Delirious Cities exhibition with Aperture Foundation, Vogue Italia’s Photo Vogue Festival and came first-runner up for the Lind Prize facilitated by the Polygon Gallery,” he tells us.
Rydel’s work often features his own family members, who appear in an extension of a self-portrait, representing Rydel but also a more ubiquitous experience. His latest series Back of My Hand is no different, however this time, their presence allows Rydel to reconsider “the knowledge I assumed to have of my family and the systems we lived in.” With three generations living under one roof during lockdown, the series poetically assimilates portraiture and still life photography to examine what the photographer describes as the drama of the home. “I am interested in the ways this global experience has affected our relationship to intimacy, protection and imagination – perhaps a reimagining of what the world may be after this is all over,” Rydel adds.
The series, which is quiet and contemplative, began during the first day of lockdown in Vancouver. “Quickly realising the severity of the situation, I knew I would be spending a great deal of time with my family as well as finding a means to make work and a sense of the pandemic,” Rydel recalls. He therefore saw making work with his Lola (his grandmother), parents and siblings as a chance to observe the dynamics at play, witnessing how Covid-19 has affected each one of them. But, it transpired, the series has also provided a chance to “reevaluate what I thought I knew of each member and how much change was consequently overlooked,” Rydel continues, describing this intense time spent together as a “private vacuum”.
All this is succinctly summarised by the series’ title. “The reason why I chose ‘Back of My Hand’ as a title is because of its elasticity as an idiom that connects a personal assumption of knowledge to the body,” the photographer explains. “I am interested in the second-guessing of my knowledge of my family, the slow labour it requires to unlearn and the physical intimacy I share with them.”
One image in particular which Rydel feels drawn to is titled After Work; it shows his mother washing and sanitising her hand and feet in her work clothes. “Her essential work requires her to leave the house, so it is crucial that she carefully handles her coming and goings as a means to protect those most vulnerable at home like my grandmother,” Rydel explains. In reality, he continues, she heads straight to the shower upon returning home but when making the image, Rydel was “invested in constructing a depiction of my mother and those employed under essential services with the notion of labour and care,” and so chose to depict the process in this way. “Additionally with the way this pandemic has progressed over Easter, I couldn't help but think of religious crossovers,” he continues. “There is a large significance of washing in the Bible and famously in the Book of John, a moment where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. This parable is meant to demonstrate selflessness, humility and love.”
Reflecting on his time in lockdown and how he intends to continue this body of work, Rydel says: “We are all blindingly entering a new social landscape, that being said, I’m just appreciating the slowness of the process and trusting in it blindly. I have been considering deeply about the systems in place that have brought us in this position of peril and fragility. I obviously don’t foresee how this pandemic will resolve itself, but what I do understand is that this is a time of reflection where transformation must happen for ourselves and the world. So in regards to this body of work, I am more motivated in seeing it develop as a transitional precursor to future works.”
Because of the pandemic, Rydel’s first solo exhibition To Be From The Same Tree as part of Capture Photography Festival in Vancouver has been postponed indefinitely. So his next steps are currently uncertain. That body of work, he tells us, focusses on his Belgian partner’s family “and the historical crossovers we’ve uncovered.” So, he concludes, “once this has all passed I look forward to sharing that body of work with the public.” And we look forward to seeing it.
GalleryRydel Cerezo: Back of My Hand
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.