Reference Code

Reference code

Partial shot of Llano de los Viejos at the Monte de las Mercedes, where can be seen, on the foreground, the shapes of three girls and, on the background, several men chatting sitting around a table. Reference code CFH-00320.

This is not a poem. It is the concise description of this picture made by the documentalist when he filed it. The title, Girls Playing, could have also been Men Chatting or Man Looking at the Camera and Girls Running, but someone, we don’t know who, must have chosen the first one.

Other interesting facts are the date: between 1930 and 1940; the photographic object: positive copy on gelatin paper DOP for chemical development; the geographic descriptor: Spain, Canary Islands, Tenerife, La Laguna and, finally, the author: unknown.

We don’t know anything about the photographer or his intentions when taking the picture. The framing seems trying to show an angle on a recreational area, but if we were to remove the girls from the shot the picture would end up out of balance, too much ground on the foreground with the focus of attention on that group of men in the back. One of those men seem to be looking straight at the camera, may be surprised, intrigued or annoyed by the presence of the photographer. An enthusiast of conspirathy theories might say this group was up to something dark, that the photographer surely wanted, with skill and craftiness, to try and get proof of the meeting. That might be the reason why we don’t see any women on the shot, were those men looking after the girls? Maybe that’s the reason why the man is looking at the camera. It could be. Maybe the presence of that strange glaze on the left side of the frame is the photographer’s finger, that got into the picture when he tried to compose the movement, with the incontrolable complicity of the young girls. We don’t know what kind of camera he used either. In those years the new light gadgets that allowed the advance of the press photography already existed and the technique that was used, with the gelatine film, seems to point to one of those machines. What we do know is that the depth of the field was noteworthy and that the focus point is the group in the background; that the shutter speed wasn’t too quick, maybe under 1/50 second, maybe a bit more.

Up to this point these are the guesses of the conspirathy enthusiast. If we look into the work of the documentalist we might discover the mystery of the shot. The title gives us the most important clue: Girls Playing. In fact the person taking the picture might have been one of the girls, playing with her dad’s camera, who’s seen in the background looking intensely at what the girls are doing with such a precious object. The glaze on the left might not be one but it might be just the sleeve of the person playing with them, telling them, surely, to be careful with the camera they are borrowing, that it is not a toy.

The documentalist couldn’t find out this information, that’s what happens with anonymous pictures. We couldn’t either, but that anonymity allows us to ramble wandering with our eyes over this take of a strange, intriguing beauty. We are fascinated by the composition, even if it was just by chance, the identities of the characters, their movements, their laughters, the girl who seems to be falling as she runs after her friends or sisters, the buzz of the trees, the murmur in the background amongst the men, the quietness of the place, that still exists nearby La Laguna, Tenerife, where thousands of pictures like this might have been taken. The passing of time, the beauty of the unknown, a title and a reference code.

Reference code CFH-00320. This is not a poem. It is the concise description of this picture made by the documentalist when he filed it. The title, Girls Playing, could have also been Men Chatting or Man Looking at the Camera and Girls Running, but someone, we don’t know who, must have chosen the first one.
Girls playing

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