Negative Space, installation view, Inkjet Print, 63.5 x 91.4 cm, The Bonnier Gallery, Florida, May 13th - July 29th, 2023. Photo © Alian Rives' StudioThere are many definitions of negative space. According to the Photo Workout Website, “Negative Space refers to empty areas of a photo–areas where the eye rests. Negative Space generally balances out positive space in an image, which are areas that have lots of weight and attract the eye. Note that negative space does have weight, but it takes a lot of negative space to balance out a small portion of positive space” [1]. Negative Space is also the title of this photographic series based on found portraits of ten children killed by drowning in 1994 by the Cuban government coast guards. The boat (tug) known as "13 de Marzo," which had 72 persons on board, was sunk by the Cuban coast guard at 3:00 am on July 13, 1994, according to report 47/96 of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [2]. The Cuban government sentenced to death a group of rafters who left the country in quest of liberty. Of 72 people, 41 died during the incident, including the ten children portrayed in this series. There could be no way to reconstruct what had transpired. Thus, the bodies were also not to be returned. Using a minimalist aesthetic in each picture as plain hues like the Color Field Painting, this series is composed of sky photographs from 3:00 to 5:00 am, known as the Blue Hour in photography, recreating the same timeframe when the incident happened. In popular Yoruba religion, blue is the color associated with Yemaya, queen, and mother of the oceans. Many rafters make an offering to Yemaya before crossing the Straits of Florida. The positive space contains the fussy black and white victims’ faces positioned on the lower register of the composition and the date and year of every victim. Negative Space takes the “Hysterical Document” format in the sense that they are not based on any person’s actual memory but on “traumas erected from the material of collective memories” in the aftermath of an illegitimate by the Cuban official media historical event. It deviates from the convention of documentary photography or what Eyal Weizman refers to as the “Dark Epistemology” of a post-truth media environment.
[1] Negative Space in Photography by Jaymes Dempsey[2] Journalist Mamella Fiallo recalled the event in the panampost website