Ximena Echagüe, Trapped, Daylight Books, 2023

Trapped: Troubled Souls in Eerie Times

Photography by Ximena Echagüe

Foreword by David Campany

The pandemic serves as background to this story of human life and dynamics in a period of great individual and global uncertainty. From self portraits taken at the height of the lockdown to street photography in New York, Europe and Argentina, Trapped seeks to capture human feelings during these challenging times of social disruption and personal anxiety.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781954119321
ISBN-10: 1954119321
Publisher: Daylight Books
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2023
Pages: 112
Language: English


Is the worst of the Covid pandemic far enough behind us to contemplate it without losing our minds? I hope so. We have felt suspended long enough. Our senses of time and place, of history, of purpose and planning, and memory were all scrambled. Maybe they still are. Sometimes 2020 feels like yesterday. Sometimes it feels like a decade ago. Sometimes I feel as if I have no memories of that time. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by memories, vivid and insistent. I don’t know what to make of it all. Are photographs ways of making sense of our lives? Yes, they can be, but it might not be the kind of sense we think we want, or need.

I moved to New York City on March 1, 2020 and walked straight into the pandemic. The door slammed behind me and I was not able to return to London for fifteen months. New York entered a severe lockdown. I had joined the International Center of Photography, on the Lower East Side, to curate exhibitions, but all galleries and museums in the city were forced to close. ICP launched a hashtag, #ICPConcerned, inviting our followers to make and upload images of whatever was going on in their lives around the world. This is when I started to see images by Ximena Echague.

It was clear to Ximena straight away that she was a smart, playful and empathetic observer of life around her. She had a hungry eye and it was learning to see this new pandemic world with all its strangeness, fear, and anxiety, along with its unlikely moments of hope and humanity. ICP began putting together an exhibition of the hash-tagged images. I chose one by Ximena that touched me so deeply I was tearful.  A night shot of a lone figure in a high-rise building, in silhouetted profile, in a room bathed in red light, looking out across the silenced, blackened city. In the distance, red light atop the Empire State Building. Ximena had written a caption. ‘Street photographer without streets / The new plague has confined us all indoors, allowing only for introspection. Imagination and symbolism to capture the new fuzzy reality, the invisible risk, the permanent fear.’

New York is always a theatrical city, performing itself, for itself. During the pandemic a sense of the theater of everyday life seemed at times subdued and other times more intense. An empty city can be as dramatic as a full one. A faced made blank by confusion can be as dramatic as joy or anger.  Ximena’s photographs seemed to be responding to all of it, in the moment, without judging. The great thing about photography is that you don’t have to know exactly what you think about what you are looking at, what you are photographing. Ximena seemed to be able to compose her frame and press the shutter at moments when mixed feelings were at their most acute.  Her images are not ‘messages’. They are occasions to revisit the confusion, the not knowing, the doubt. They make me feel as if the pandemic, as we lived it, was like a photograph: frozen and silent, explaining nothing but full of clues and possibility.

David Campany

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