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Fernando La Rosa. Source: Andina.com.pe
 


Fernando La Rosa. Frame, New York, 1983
 

 
Obituary
Fernando La Rosa
1943-2017

31/January/2018




Fernando Castro



Fernando La Rosa (1943-2017) was a seminal figure in Peruvian photography in the last quarter of the 20th century. He was the founder and director of Secuencia (1976-1980), the first art gallery and school in Peru dedicated exclusively to photography. Secuencia opened its doors in 1976, when Peru was governed by a military dictatorship. At that time and place, only he possessed the conjunction of personality traits that were needed to undertake the Secuencia project: charisma, diplomacy, work ethic, talent and generosity. In order to cultivate the taste for photography as an art form, he brought to Lima exhibits of American masters like Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan. He also showed talented young Peruvian photographers like Billy Hare, Mariel Vidal and Javier Silva. Finally, the resurrection of the work of two great historical photographers, Martín Chambi and Sebastián Rodríguez, occurred on Secuencia's walls.


Having trained with the American master Minor White, La Rosa was an intelligent and rigorous teacher of the craft of photography. Artists like Roberto Fantozzi and Mariella Agois learned their craft with him. La Rosa taught the zone system and how to produce quality archival prints, the skills with which photographers of that generation would enter the major leagues of world photography. 


But in addition to his visionary leadership qualities, La Rosa was a talented, exacting, and meticulous master of the medium. His work awoke a whole milieu of neophyte viewers to the qualities of the beautiful print, and to the transfiguration of the commonplace into poetic objects and shades (zones). His was the most and best collected work of Peruvian photography, in Peru and the United States.


In 1979, La Rosa emigrated to the United States. Almost as soon as he arrived in New York, his work became more experimental. Although fascinated by photographing windows, he stopped looking for actual windows. Instead, he built his own "windows" placing sheets of acetate in which he had cut "windows" in front of the negatives of his 4x5 camera. The resulting series of works he called "frames." 


However, life was to take many turns for La Rosa. In 1984, he found himself teaching photography and doing his work at the cultural enclave called Altos de Chavón, in the Dominican Republic. There he met the North American painter Frances White Long, and after a short courtship, they married. Theirs was a life-long love. During his Caribbean period, Fernando continued his experiments with Frames, although applying them to landscape more than architecture. However, he also returned to straight photography, poetic, suggestive and enigmatic, as is the case with the 1987 image titled The Folly, shot in Jamaica. La Rosa went on to teach at Tulane University and at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. In 2008, the Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano in Lima hosted a major retrospective of his work. In 2014 the Georgia Museum of Art had a major exhibit of his archaeological work. Even as I finish writing these lines the exhibit "Seizing Life Through the Lens of a Photographer: Fernando La Rosa 1943-2017," curated by Frances de La Rosa, is taking place at Wesleyan College, where he continued to teach until a few weeks before he passed away. The book Fernando La Rosa, fotografías 1968-2007 is a fine compendium of his work.


 





 


 

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