Artist's Statement

Eléonore Simon

I moved to Valparaíso on a whim. I needed a fresh start and decided to spend time with my family who had settled in Chile the same year. I didn’t speak a word of Spanish and I was only planning on spending a few weeks there before returning to New York. Valparaíso’s charm and grittiness instantly captured my imagination and whenever I thought I might be ready to leave, it pulled me back in.

The Chilean seaport has lost some of the splendor and hardships that defined it in the early XXth century, but it has maintained the vitality and poetry that has drawn artists and writers in search of inspiration. Traces of the decline of its industry and port activity are still palpable, but Valparaíso responds to the challenges of its economy with unwavering energy and adaptability, in a culture where improvisation has become an art form tangible throughout the city. Beyond the historical tourist neighborhoods is a mosaic of shapes and colors, a succession of houses made from recycled materials, abandoned buildings in the center of town turned into temporary shelters, and new residences intended for investors from Santiago and from abroad.

Inhabited by the characters that symbolize it - fishermen, street vendors, stray dogs, pelicans - Valparaíso still evokes those who photographed it, Sergio Larrain in the 50s and 60s, and closer to us Anders Petersen and Alberto Garcia-Alix. The Jewel of the Pacific never ceases to fascinate and challenge me. In a city that seems made of a succession of endearing characters, unlikely collages and picturesque scenes, I look for geometric constructions, abstraction and compositions that impose a structure and order in the clutter and chaos of the seaport.

When I began this photography project over four years ago, I couldn’t have imagined the draw that the city would continue to have on me, that I would build a new life to continue exploring its endless mystery.