By Mercedes Abella

Exhibited at La Galería Rebelde (Guatemala City – Los Ángeles), Distensiones is a story, a metaphor of life, of technology versus nature, of the symbiosis and juxtaposition of the evolution of the human being. Within this series there is also a personal narrative of travels, experiences and connections with past generations and personal visions.


With his and his grandfather’s photography, the artist JJ Estrada takes the viewer through a labyrinth of contemporary themes regarding religion, money, the economy, the countryside versus the city, the age of information, the distinction between social classes, and the nostalgia that exists at the moment we connect to the grand network of data and the form in which it has evolved in our conscience.

In your work you capture a round trip to the past and the present, you even hint at future premonitions. How do you formulate a process that achieves these travels within photography?

I have always been interested in the study of nature and its four main elements -fire, water, air and earth, in parallel to the history of man since its remote beginnings as homo erectus and its evolution, with an emphasis on the liberal approach to the individual in the last 200 modern years that has brought humanity to where we are today. I have also worked with technology companies for more than 10 years and being immersed in this sector has allowed me to investigate and see first-hand the latest technological advances and trends which I seek to present in the works.


In the exhibition you mention your grandfather, whose photography catalyzes your work. Can you tell me a little more about him and how is his time-space related to yours?

A few years after I started as a photographer, I was given a box that contained hundreds of negatives taken in the 50s and 60s by my grandfather of construction processes and landscapes in the interior of Guatemala. He was an engineer and had a precise and inquiring eye for photography, always maintaining not only a narrative of the constructions but also seeking to establish a framed aesthetic. I found other files over time and this motivated me to study his gaze and find congruences of conceptual and visual values ​​in his works with mine, thus seeking to establish a visual dialogue through time in my work.

Within the range of topics addressed by your work, the one that stands out the most is that of the human vs the natural. How do you reconcile these two aspects and what message do you communicate through it?

A philosophical axiom that has always intrigued me is whether there really is a "human" quality in objects themselves or whether simply everything that exists is "natural" from a point of view where everything in the universe is composed of same mind/matter elements. In the latter case, the concept of "human" would exist only in human thought, not as a quality of the object itself. My position is to leave the debate open and generate a visual tension between these two concepts, making the viewer question the important of the proposed contrast without necessarily solving the debate.

Where does the title of your exhibition -Distensiones (Strains)- come from in relation to the oxymoron present in your photographs?

I started from the initial sketching processes where I was playing with the idea of​​materializing the works by placing two opposing images, thus creating a short visual narrative. At the time my son underwent an medical intervention and the doctor said that a distention in his appendix had caused the problem which had led to the operation. This got me thinking about the concept of being "strained" and from there came the connection with the sketches.

JJ Estrada (Guatemala, 1982) is a multidisciplinary artist and photographer. He began his photography studies in 2005 while living in Barcelona and has participated in various group and solo exhibitions both locally and internationally. Among them are Galería Griskon Art, Barcelona, 2007; NY Photo Festival, 2010; Carlos Mérida Museum of Modern Art, Guatemala, 2012; SPEOS Gallery, Paris, 2014; Zona Maco 2020 Mexico City; and, in September of this year, Art Paris 2021.

Estrada was co-founder of different companies such as the Contemporary Photography Center "La Fototeca" and the GuatePhoto International Photography Festival. In addition, he has judged several photography contests such as the GuatePhoto Festival, Photoville, Photolucida Critical Mass, and Houston FotoFest.


La Galería Rebelde

Km. 7.5 Carretera Muxbal, Plaza Empresarial Muxbal Suite #3,

Guatemala City, Guatemala 01052