“If we lived in gardens, religion would not have been possible. Its absence has driven us to long for paradise. The space without flowers and trees impels the eyes to look to heaven and reminds mortals that their first ancestor made a brief stop in eternity and rested fleetingly in the shade of the trees. History is the negation of the garden.”
Emil Cioran, ‘Breviary of the Vanquished’
The truth is, I’m reluctant to talk about parks because for me, they have always been the same. That is what I wanted to photograph or rather what I wanted to build. A single innocent and beautiful park made of pieces of parks from all over the world.
I started this project in 2013 in Bolivia. After a rather demanding commercial photography assignment I found myself walking in a park in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra on the last day before returning home. I started photographing couples at a safe distance, I didn’t want to disturb them but got carried away by the number of couples kissing in that park. It was June and the afternoon was beautiful – walking and photographing. I still thrive on the pleasure of doing those two things together.
Months later, in Maputo, Mozambique, where I had been sent by one of the big Spanish dailies, I found myself photographing in another park. When I returned home I put these images together with the ones from Santa Cruz de La Sierra and that is how the project began. I kept photographing various parks to create a single, fictitious mosaic made up of fragments of many parks.
Walking and photographing in parks continues to be a great pleasure for me. Parks are public spaces that perform a similar function around the world. They are communal spaces which are free to use but if we didn’t have them, we would struggle to live in cities. We go to parks to do sports, to communicate, to breathe, to love each other. These are the things that sustain the parks and these are things define us as citizens and as people.
I always like to say that in Nouakchott, in Mauritania, there is a small park. It’s tiny, barely the size of a flat in a wealthy part of London. But when you enter that park you realise that things work just like in other parks. Wherever you put a bench and there is a tree, people stop and rest.
I like to put photographs together, to make collages, and this was the source of this project. I’m reluctant to indicate where each picture is taken. I would prefer to have just the name of the park written below the image, leaving the viewer to guess the location. That is the beauty of the great ‘park of the world’.
Alfredo Caliz, 2022