Pedro MeyerMa. Angela CifuentesDiego CifuentesHugo Cifuentes


Hugo Cifuentes
Hugo Cifuentes © Pedro Meyer

Hugo Cifuentes, was a very enigmatic figure. A great photographer, a highly recognized painter and graphic artist, known mainly in his own country, Ecuador. A very stern and demanding task master, very much in the “old school” tradition of seeing the world and those around him. However, his images are strewn with humor and light heartedness. His demeanor in life and his images, did not share many things in common.

Cifuentes was a very generous man. I had a very interesting experience one day when Hugo and I went out to take pictures together in the outskirts of Quito. It was late in the day, and we had been taking pictures all day long, and I just ran out of film. Hugo looked at me just standing there waiting for him to conclude the pictures he was making. He asked me why I did not want to take any more pictures. I explained that I had run out of film.

Hugo turned around and looked in his camera bag, and pulled out his own last roll of film and gave it to me. I declined knowing, as a photographer, what it meant to give your last roll of film away. But he was so insistent that I reluctantly accepted. He apologized though that the he did not know how many pictures were available on that roll, as it was one of those cassettes loaded from bulk film. As luck would have it, one of my favorite and now classic pictures was to be recorded on the last frame of that roll of 18 pictures.

This incident told me so much about the generosity of this man, and his willingness to share. There are of course many other such moments experienced in his company, but this one was special, as it was sealed with a photographic gift that essentially he had given me.

As the years went past, I returned several times to Quito, however the last time I saw Hugo Cifuentes alive, was when I went to visit him at his home, he was already a very sick man, but that did not stop us from having a wonderful meal, prepared by his wife, with most of his children in attendance. After the meal, I asked if I could see some of the drawings he was talking about, work that he had been doing over the recent past, now that he could no longer go out to make photographs. I had my digital camera at hand, so it was easy to make some recordings of these drawings, which today are shown for the very first time.

Two of his children, Maria Angela who now lives in Germany and Diego who lives in Quito, where asked by me when we decided to put together this homage to their father, to write about him from their personal vantage point of someone who was as close as they were to the artist. We wanted to get the full dimension of the man behind the lens. Their enormously moving portrait of their father, is filled with pain and hurt as well as admiration and in the end a great deal of love. We found that both of them had to bring up a lot of courage to confront their own demons in facing the loss of a parent, as well as the experience of facing the parent he no longer was. We all can learn from the dignity with which they have confronted such an intense experience. It took them many months in overcoming their own reluctance to do so, and to share it with the world. I am glad that in the end they were willing to do so, and that we are the richer for it. As with all great artists the individual behind the work that is left behind is always a multi faceted reality that only adds depth and dimension the more we learn about the person who did the work.

Hugo Cifuentes, was a complex man, and a very talented artist who was self taught in photography, we are very pleased to bring to you the work of this outstanding photographer from Ecuador.

Pedro Meyer .
May 2002.

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