Gabriela Téllez

6x6 North and Central America Talent: Gabriela Téllez, Costa Rica

“Gabriela Téllez’s work is especially sensible for color and places, making her photography unique and rich in texture. Téllez found her voice by documenting the situations in her country. Her work is not well-known outside of Costa Rica. Cases such as Téllez’s are evidence of a reality that desperately needs solutions: women photographers in Central America need tools to build and project their narratives.” - Joana Toro, Colombia, photographer, and 6x6 nominator.

Gabriela Téllez is a photographer living between France and Costa Rica, developing projects in both countries, but also around Central America. She is currently part of the Colectivo Nómada, a group of Costa Rican photographers creating an alternative visual communication platform. 

La 30

La 30 is an exploration of the #30 bus line route in San Salvador, marked by the latent violence in the country. According to an article published by The New York Times in November 2016, transport companies are particularly vulnerable to extortion by street gangs, stating that “In El Salvador, it is more dangerous to drive a bus than to fight against gangs: in the last five years gang members have killed 692 transport workers.”

Through a narrative inside buses, Téllez shows the workspace that bus drivers have appropriated as a way of safeguarding themselves. She chose to shoot in two different times: right before drivers start their uncertain workday and at the end of their shifts.
Bus Line #30 station is located in Zacamil street, San Salvador. This route has a total of 41 bus units; each one should do a two hours round trip shift. Many of the bus units are filled with religious items, such as phrases, crosses, or Jesus portraits, which provide a "spiritual protection" to the bus drivers who deal with security risks driving in San Salvador. 29 November 2016.
Manuel, known as “Chimbo,” has been working as a bus driver for 16 years. His bus became his home since he separated from his wife. He says that for him it is better to live on the bus than to deal with the loneliness of a rented room. 2 October 2018.
Each bus driver decorates their unit with their style. They use different objects such as hanging ornaments, fluffy toys, religious stickers and prayers, rosaries, and colored lights. 29 November 2016.
Manuel (left) and Oscar (right) take a short break in the bus terminal to check their phones and spend time with their colleagues at the end of the day. 22 July 2017

Brother Simon

The colonization of Central America originated cultural constructions rooted in the denial and repression of native customs by the Spanish and the social and religious aspects imported from Europe. In Central America, and especially in Guatemala, Brother Simon, who is worshipped as a saint, is an example of religious hybridization of indigenous and colonizing beliefs.

Each year on 28 October, hundreds of people celebrate Brother Simon’s birthday. In Cuyultitán in San Salvador, there is a small church dedicated to Brother Simon. Through prayers and cigar offerings, parishioners make a plea for Brother Simon to do something for them. Most of the petitions are related to improving luck in love issues and material blessings. Brother Simon documents the cult to the saint in San Salvador and Guatemala.
Brother Simon’s altar in Cuyultitan’s temple, San Salvador, on 27 November 2019. At the foot of the structure, there is a crucifix and portraits of the temple’s founder.
Before starting each bonfire, prayer is performed to bless the offering. The most common elements used for the fire are flower petals, candles, herbs, a liquor called 'guaro,' and cookies. 28 October 2018.
A healer performs a ritual of purification by spitting a liquor called Aguardiente on the face of a young man, on 28 October 2018. Each year, the celebration activities are open to the whole family, including children, despite the high consumption of alcohol.
Brother Simon’s birthday celebration includes live concerts with bands playing bachata and ‘corridos.’ 28 October 2018.