Hershey: Another Space
By: Julia Portela Ponce de León
Hershey is the name of the place that forms the focus of Alfredo Sarabia’s photographic essay Pueblo Modelo (Model Town, 2013).
The idea behind the series of images centres on a space of interchange, of the beginnings and endings of destinies, where the journey is no longer a mere physical displacement but also evokes the unknown, the uncertainty of stories. So it projects itself as a place fixed in space and time, an irreducible landscape of plots of land dotted with springs.
The history of this community is inextricably linked to Milton Hershey, the North American businessman who brought with him to Cuba his experiences of developing model towns in Pennsylvania. The Cuban model town was founded around the sugar plantation that formed its centre, with a support infrastructure built around as is typical in model towns of the era. Today, as a location, this dynamic space encompasses the time it is anchored in.
The series was produced using both film and digital techniques. Colour is conceived as a construction of the image, a set where the scene is staged. Black and white photographs are captured on the go, more like traditional documentary photography.
The lighting design is crucial, generating a perspective that on different levels. Light and shadow, objects shaded and illuminated, create a spacial architecture where time sets the challenge.
The project is composed of four sub-series: Vía regia (Royal Way), Estación (Station), Primera y último (First and Last) and El olvido vendrá a tocar tu puerta (The Forgotten Will Come Knocking). This fragmentation reflects the disparate gazes the photographer establishes, to delve into different instances in time. Each one defines its own timeline to cement a space that in reality doesn’t exist.
The first collection, Vía regia (Royal Way), 2013, circles around the presence of the electric train as an axis of communication between the town and its surroundings. Its route is transformed into an imposing thoroughfare in the midst of the loneliness of the countryside.
This idea of abandon establishes connections with the following groups of images in the series. Estación (Station), 2014, and Primera y último (First and Last), 2014.
The series culminates with El olvido vendrá a tocar tu puerta (The Forgotten Will Come Knocking). The title is taken from a story by the US writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft. It is the story of a watchman who has a strange relationship with the Pole Star. The malevolent star prevents the protagonist from waking up and saving his town from destruction.
In these images, Sarabia captures the diverse types of houses in Hershey, reflecting the town’s social condition.
The photographs are similar in concept to Bernd and Hilla Becher’s work capturing the small factories common in Germany in the 1950s, with its interest in the expressiveness of the setting at nighttime, and the feeling of absence invoked by a childhood object, as the detonators of two stages of man.