Alejandro Olivares

Living Periferia


How many times can a person face death in their lives?
Sense it. Feel it. Smell it. Maybe once? Twice? Four times?

The people captured in “Living Periferia” live with it every day of their lives. The violence, the drugs, the weapons, the lost bullets, which take dozens of lives every year… The fights, the battles with the police. Some barely escape. Others fall in the street law and to save them from oblivion their friends and family draw enormous pictures of them on the walls of the shantytown. It’s a posthumous tribute to their courage, their way to remember them as local heroes.



This work dives in a forgotten world, where many times not even mailmen are allowed in. It’s a world that goes beyond poverty. Wide ghettos in the further corners of Santiago where the State has managed for years to dump what they would rather not see. What investments must never see. What rich people should better keep ignoring.

Chile is now one of the richest countries in South America. The government celebrates the 4.4% economical growth in the last year and everyone claps when they say the international crisis hasn’t reached yet. But no one looks at this face of Chile when they receive the applauses. Derelict that generates more derelict. Violence that generates more violence. The toughest and more efficient school of crime. A society inside the society whit their own codes and mechanics that result inconceivable for the rest of the world. The order inside the chaos, where only the one who yells louder, the one who hits harder or the one who shoots faster can emerge. Or survive.

These photos are a personal puzzle about fragmented social representations. The foreign eyes of someone that, of all the going round, ended up being a local. But who’s look reflects the beauty of an ugly and shocking world to the eyes of whom looks from across the street.




Alejandro Olivares (1981) is a Chilean photographer currently living in Santiago, Chile. He is the photo editor of The Clinic Magazine; correspondent for foreign agencies, several international agencies and photographer for “Felicidad” Design Agency in Chile. His work is divided between press coverage and documentary essay.

He has won multiple awards including; National Hall of Press Photo (Chile), Photo of the Year in the bicentenary version of the National Hall of Press Photo (Chile), Photo of the Year in Querétaro Photo Fest in Mexico, along with the second place in documentary essay in the same festival. He was nominated for the Rodrigo Rojas de Negri award in the years 2009, 2011, and 2012 and he was selected for the briefcase visionary PhotoEspaña 2011 in República Dominicana.

His work has been featured in exhibitions in Chile, Spain and the United States and has been published in several Chilean magazines and journals including “Qué Pasa”, “Joia”, “Pound”, “Guamá”, “Artishock” and “La Nación”. He has also published in foreign medias like “Soho” (Colombia), “Internazionale” (Italy), “Focus” (Italy), “10×15” (Spain), “Piel de Foto” (Spain).

He has been honorably mentioned in the Zoom-In Poverty Contest, from the Agence Xinhua, China.


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28 thoughts on “Alejandro Olivares – Living Periferia”


    Excelente imagenes! Very good PHOTOjournalism, showing the story with great pictures. Photographing outskirts of a city is already done, is the same in every big city in Latin America… but I’m touch the way you put in images this essay. Well done, excellent color treatment.

    PS: Alejandro, take a look to the edit… I think it could be stronger changing place some pictures. #26 has to be the last one.

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  3. I was ready to pass this over as yet another misery essay, but the imagery is too powerful to ignore. I’m glad that you played with the sequence. That first photo with the dog carcass is just so bizarre and disturbing. The theme here is all too familiar, drugs, prostitutes, kids growing up with violence, guns, and so it goes.

    I’ve just spent a long time looking through your site, and at the amazing dog blog. I must say, I’m a bit shaken by the tone throughout. Such a dark undertone. Gonna stick my head back in the sand now.

    Congratulations Alejandro. Take the lack of response here as a compliment. I think people are stunned.

  4. Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    Some frightening and compelling work. The physical tonality of the work informs the subject so thoroughly, the viewer can only guess at what’s unseen in the deep, dark shadows. Remarkable commitment by the author and no sense of sensationalism or condescension. Respect.

  5. I second Gordon and everybody above.
    Top quality photography and as grim a subject as there is. Respectful too in my opinion.
    What else to say?

  6. “Excellent. Just pure excellence. Grim and beautiful. I am rendered almost wordless.”

    And then what?

    “He imagined the pain of the world to be like some formless parasitic being seeking out the warmth of human souls wherein to incubate and he thought he knew what made one liable to its visitations. What he had not known was that it was mindless and so had no way to know the limits of those souls and what he feared was that there might be no limits.” All The Pretty Horses

  7. Jim:

    ‘and then what?’

    well, the irony of quoting my beloved McCarthy is that you forget that, HIS answer to his question was:

    ‘to write upon it’…and so he did and so he has continued to this day….should McCarthy have stopped at Outer Dark…or Blood Meridian…or Suttree…should he have hung up his spurs with ATPH and not got to The Crossing (the best of his trilogy)…or the Road….you forget the birth of his son spawned the Road….

    Sing on it…to paraphrase McCarthy…

    Alejandro Olivares:

    Powerful, committed sensationalism-less work, committed to the ushering up of the shadows in up of titling some light….as strong an essay on this grounding as I’ve seen in a while…nothing to say, but this:


    oh, and this:

  8. “Well, Art is Art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.”

    Julius Henry Marx, 1890-1977 American philosopher

    words to live by, I think.

  9. STRONG work..
    the color..
    combined with
    your vision…
    what an intense opening shot!!!!!!!!

  10. I, too, like this work a lot. I like how much deeper it goes than the typical photojournalist parachuting in to a foreign local typically manages. I like the lack of theatricality in the colors. The old S curve to give it a pop too often obscures the deeper levels.

    I hate, btw, Cormac McCarthy’s writing and Jim’s quote is a pretty good example of why. Prose as totally fucking meaningless as it is pretentious representing thoughts that no one remotely like any character in that book would ever think, unless maybe he dropped out of the cowboy life and got a mail order PHD in psychology and took too much peyote. Epic takedown here.

  11. …and I really like the framing here: very confident without being fancy pants. Much like Mr. McCarthy’s writing.

  12. mw:

    wow, i would politely suggest you re-appraise…1) his prose is NOT about the character’s thinking..(with the exception of SUTTREE)….the characters’ thoughts in McCarthy are contained or rather spoken by their action…the prose in McCarthy is about something much much different…and yes, it is true, that ‘bad McCarthy’ can border on the verbose, the pretentious and the boastful challenge (name me a writer worth their weight in salt who doesn’t, its the nature of the way words pour out of one’s head and body)…but if you take the time to read, beginning with The Orchard Keeper and go straight through to Road, you’d be hard pressed to find an American novelist who works the vein of breaking apart language and the land as beautifully and sloppily and, in the end, as redemptively…I dare you to read Suttree, Blood Meridian, The Crossing and the last paragraph of the Road without not only admiration but respect……some of that takedown was cross-bowed against ‘sometimes a great notion’ as well, i’m sure you’re aware…;)…

    give me the writer, the musician, the photographer, the singer, maker of things (including gardeners) who doesn’t over-reach in their attempt to wield all that is inside them with the redevenging sunset of all that is around…

    find me another moment in any 20th century novel from the states that evokes as much as the dead babies hanging from the trees or the vampire bats of blood meridian…and call that meaningless….my lai anyone?

    with gentle loving suggestions…

  13. Jim Powers: Thank you – I have never read All The Pretty Horses, or even Cormac McCarthy and now I realize I must put it on the list of books I haven’t read but must, yet probably never will. Just too damn many, too little time. Still, I will put this one on the list and as I know you, David, Bob and MW have all read it, this will give me more incentive as I just hate to feel like a luddite when you all get to discussing photography in the context of literature.

    Right now, I am reading “The Eskimo and the Oil Man,” by Bob Reiss. Here is a quote relevant to the discussion, selected at random:

    “But the lines played out fast and inexperienced watchers misinterpreted the signals. The divers had loaded on too much weight. By the time they were hauled to the surface they were dead.”

  14. BILL (frostfrog):


    that’s a gorgeous summing up of things…and so now, thanks, i will hunt up Reiss’ book as well :)))

    as Akaky likes to chime: ‘and now folks, back to our regular scheduled programming’ (photography)


  15. Hey Bob, I’m not really in a position to engage with you much deeper about McCarthy at the moment, but as for writers who don’t overreach in their prose, taking a quick glance at my bookshelf I see Calvino, Borges, Vargas Llosa, LeGuin, Bowles, Vonnegut, Hesse, Gardner, Cortazar and (very arguably) Saramago which suggests there are quite a few.

  16. Fantastic in your face images and reminds a lot of Nachtwey style and that’s a compliment and not a criticism. Real honest sincere work round here without gimmicks.
    Regarding Cormack McCarthy I must admit I discovered his work two years ago on Burn and the Destino essay and the intro from “The Crossing”. Frostfrog forget any other author you’ve got on our list and start reading McCarthy his work is absolutely amazing. I’ve just finished , never read such anything like it in my whole life. Absolutely amazing book.

  17. MW…

    I thought that article you linked was a bit unfair with Stephen King. It’s seems like its the “in” fad at the moment to bash King. Sounds more like our grapes to me :)!

  18. Well shit, I was just impressed that Jim quoted McCarthy, one of my favorites. Think less of me if you will.

    Seriously, while it may be just me, I feel regret, nostalgia, sadness, no, but something akin, that powerful work like this doesn’t have a large printed venue that I can hold quietly. It deserves this. Much does. I am aware within the swirl of my disbelief, my astonishment, of the apparent “fact” that no one can marry the best of the written with the best of the visual languages in a gloriously rich print product and at least make the whole endeavor a liveable wash in the end that I may, in fact, be getting old. Or turning into Jim. But I don’t mean to be redundant.

    I think though that if print is not in fact dead and a clear vision prevails to produce what I can only believe is not just within my own imagination, that such an endeavor would be wise to turn the whole thing on its head and begin with the personal visions presented by photographers and give the followup assignment to the writers. Likely, yes, I overreach.

    Thanks to Alejandro for this work, and to BURN for presenting it. Now I want to hold it, quietly.

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