My talk explored Paul Strand's black and white photo, "Church Gateway, Hidalgo, Mexico" (1933). Aside from digital film work, I'm not a visual artist in the slightest, but I pay close attention to the stories embedded in an image. As someone who acknowledges the personhood of land, water, and sky, I've always wondered why photos of places aren't considered portraits. So when I encounter Strand's image, I think of it as a portrait of a place and time that tells a story. This story acknowledges the human relationships with place without privileging that humanness. "Church Gateway" offers a narrative of relating to life and land from a space of humility; it encourages us to view this gateway as something beyond architecture.
Still, we could politicize this architecture, which is in the Spanish colonial style, noting how it's weathered and darkened by shadows, whereas the clouds and the spirit of the land (which is also the spirit of the Otomí people) remain boundless, and cannot be contained by colonial structures.