claire harbage – i sometimes dream of devils

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Claire Harbage

I Sometimes Dream of Devils

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The young adults of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico are navigating a thin line between hope and hopelessness. They strive to leave the poverty and inequality that faces their society, yet are constantly exposed to a barrage of wealth with the influx of tourism and American expatriates. For these young people, engaging in formal employment will never allow them access to the lifestyles they see. Often they are consumed by their own ambitions and desires. Some make it out. Others are attracted to overindulgence and escapism, seeking easy money and brotherhood through gangs and cartels.

On good nights in San Miguel de Allende the air is heady with laughter, music, lights, parties. Worries drown in the overwhelming beats of the clubs, flashing strobes, energizing and uplifting drugs.

 

Some nights the darkness is too deep to escape.

Teeth grind and shatter as the devils haunt their dreams.

The lives that were taken by force return on these nights.

 

The sweet song of the drug cartels sounded good once.

Money, wealth, power, friends.

Happiness.

 

The dreamcatcher

the cross

the amulets

even the gun

can’t save you from the dark.

 

The night is all-consuming.

 

This essay was photographed from 2012 -2013 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It captures the experiences of a number of different young adults ages 19-28. I prefer not to share their names for their own privacy and safety and so not to implicate all of them in the same deeds and experiences. I see this piece as a document that describes a lifestyle not so far from many American young adults, and yet with much more dangerous choices. I would like people to understand more about the difficult decisions that young people are faced with, while still maintaining hope for the future. There are no captions for added anonymity of people and places.

 

Bio

Claire Harbage (b. 1986) is a visual storyteller. She currently works as a teaching assistant at Maine Media Workshops in the summer and an Adjunct Instructor at Ohio University’s Department of Visual Communication during the year. She recently attended the New York Portfolio review in April 2014. She was awarded a number of fellowships at Ohio University while completing her dual MA in Photography and African Studies for studying the Wolof language of West Africa. The university also funded her field work for upcoming multimedia project Dakar: Rap-city which is still in progress. Claire plays the banjo poorly and wishes she was more musically talented.

 

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13 Responses to “claire harbage – i sometimes dream of devils”


  • The first half feels very detached and distant and doesn’t really engage. The second half moves in a lot closer but feels very safe and stylised. My main sense is that these are just fairly OK pictures of young people busy being young people.

  • Very nice work. It’s a pleasure to see San Miguel with a fresh perspective. I’m sure that John has spent some time in San Miguel and is aware that the city works hard on its image to be another Santa Fe south of the boarder filled with rich happy Americans. Again, great job.

  • ?????
    Why the pointless dig?

    I’m just commenting on the work as I see it and how it relates to the text telling me what to expect in the essay.

  • …… because he is drinking beer and has the ammo to bait you

  • Congratulations on being published here Claire.
    Some really exquisite images here. I especially love your opening photograph, as well as 13, 15, 17, and your closing image suggesting early morning. #15 is amazing, what a beautiful youthful, mysterious, sensuous image. I’m inspired. Thank-you for these.

  • @Claire Harbage – you must have heard of this famous saying “If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough” by Robert Capa. I think the narration isn’t really working for a lot of images. I feel the words should actually be depicted in the images. When i see an image, i see everything including the title or description (if any) and try and relate from the photographer’s perspective before i look for my own way of seeing. For example the image of the bride in gown does not really depict the age group 19-28. This is just my view. I liked few images though. Cheers.

  • Problem is the devil is somehow missing in these images. What is so shocking and different here from most cities? In fact the nightlife images could be straight out of any Southern European tourist resort. I’m sure the dangers do exist in San Allende but the images just don’t manage to express it.

  • Great work. Intimate and beautiful and often haunting. Thanks for sharing!

  • Unfortunately, I too feel that the lackluster approach to some of these images defeats the premise laid out in the description. The text called for a much deeper uncomfortable look at the youth and their daily lives, surrounded by the current chaos down south. As stated by someone else, these seem more like pictures of a resort town and not photographs of the situation. Just my opinion though.

  • These images are beautifully seen. I love the mood. It feels quiet and thoughtful while somber…a different perspective than I have seen for this kind of subject matter.

  • I’ve listened to the same refrain over the years here on burn; people complaining that the images presented do not illustrate literally what the artist’s statement suggests. This is unfortunate. This series brings a different perspective to this popular theme. Instead of the typical photographs of sleaze, drunks acting badly, and people fighting and doing drugs, we have a more poetic approach. There are definitely several photos I would have left out, but overall I like this very much.

  • I believe the point of this essay is that this could be almost anywhere, young adults adopt similar lifestyles all over, however the reasons and escapism involved with these kids just happens to be more pointed. I think it is a beautiful essay. I liked the wider edit on Ms. Harbage’s website as well. She has a very unique look to her imagery with a very interesting tone to it. Kudos!

  • Hey, I just wanted to say thanks for the comments from everyone. I appreciate all the feedback and critiques of the work. I’m really excited to be published on Burn and am interested in different ways that people understand these images. Thanks again everyone.

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