The Adventures of Guille and Belinda by Alessandra Sanguinetti - whynow

‘The Illusion of an Everlasting Summer’


Time Flies, 2005: Alessandra Sanguinetti, from ‘The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Illusion of an Everlasting Summer’ (MACK, 2020). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

In the late 1990s, Magnum photographer Alessandra Sanguinetti was photographing on a farm in rural Argentina, near her parents’ home, working on her project On the Sixth Day, which explores the human relationship to animals. Playing nearby, there were two kids – the grandchildren of the owner of the farm – but Sanguinetti would often ask them to move out of the frame. It was only when they were a couple of years older that she started to notice them, and instead of shooing them away, she asked them to stay.

Guille and Belinda are cousins. When Sanguinetti first met them, they were ten and nine years old respectively, and she recalls how it was their conversations that first drew her in: Belinda’s ‘high pitched sing song voice’ and Guille’s ‘thoughtful mumbling’. Captivated by their play, she started proposing ideas for playacting, allowing the girls to take her ideas and adapt them, making them their own. In this way, Sanguinetti steered the project visually but the girls became her collaborators.

Alessandra Sanguinetti, from ‘The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Illusion of an Everlasting Summer’ (MACK, 2020). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

“We’d pretend we were on a TV show and I would film them while they interviewed each other,” says Sanguinetti. “They’d dance and sing and ask each other about their favourite fruit or animal or singer. I’d often whisper to them my own questions.”

Then, as well as filming, she began capturing images on her Hasselblad. Although she didn’t set out with the intention of making a project, Sanguinetti quickly accumulated enough material for one. She’s now been documenting the girls’ lives for more than five years. Leading on from her much-acclaimed monograph The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Enigmatic Meaning of Their Dreams (2003), which chronicles the girls’ coming of age, her second volume The Illusion of the Everlasting Summer – published this year by MACK – captures their transition into adulthood.

Noon Feed, 2009. Pablo feeding the black bird Belinda and him found fallen form a nest after a storm. Alessandra Sanguinetti, from ‘The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Illusion of an Everlasting Summer’ (MACK, 2020). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

Reflecting on why she’s drawn to children in her work, Sanguinetti says: “Maybe it’s just that I’ve always been more comfortable photographing with kids and a bit afraid of adults. Maybe I’m trying to go back to that time in my life when I was the truest version of myself.”

There are many ways people try to hold onto memories; we collect precious objects, write journals, take photographs and share our stories to keep them alive. Photography transports us visually to a specific moment in the past and is often alluded to as a tool that freezes time. We treasure a photo because we know that moment is irretrievable.

Sixteenth Birthday, 2005: Alessandra Sanguinetti, from ‘The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Illusion of an Everlasting Summer’ (MACK, 2020). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

When you’re nine years old, time feels frozen. Days draw out like an everlasting summer, passed in the cocoon of an insular, magical world from which the future seems distant. It is also perhaps the only time we live truly in the present. Our vision is sharper, our senses more alert – and as a result, our experiences are richer. 

Through Sanguinetti’s images, we’re forced to confront the passage of time, and incidentally, the loss of our own childhoods. Through the early photographs of Guille and Belinda, we can vicariously experience their carefreeness and freedom and re-enter the imaginative worlds we used to inhabit as kids, but photography – as we all well know, cannot freeze time.

Alessandra Sanguinetti, from ‘The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Illusion of an Everlasting Summer’ (MACK, 2020). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

Behind the lens, the girls continue to grow. They have children themselves and their own childhoods become a distant memory. It’s why photography is the ideal medium for this project, because we’re compelled to fill in the gaps between the photos. We witness the leaps in time more clearly than film. 

Sanguinetti is also part curator in this process. She reveals the girls’ daily existence punctuated by anniversaries, births and deaths. Traces of the girls’ inner struggles and desires are seen in their far-away gazes that Sanguinetti often captures on camera. But we can only wonder what they’re thinking. Are they happy? Do they dream of more—of a different life?

Alessandra Sanguinetti, from ‘The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Illusion of an Everlasting Summer’ (MACK, 2020). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

Perhaps the most striking image from the early series is one in which the cousins are playacting, masquerading for the camera as adult women (The Necklace, 1999). Perched on a bed, Guille is absorbed in the necklace Belinda wears, while Belinda casts a glance over her shoulder directly into the lens, with an air of self-assurance that seems beyond her years. The tones and the composition – like many of the photos from this series – have a painterly quality evoking the fairy tales Sanguinetti devoured as a kid, such as Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.

Finding beauty in the ordinary, Sanguinetti catches moments that would otherwise go unnoticed. In An Everlasting Summer, portraits of the girls are interspersed with images of doorways and windows, which tempt our gaze outward. A road covered in swirling dust reflects ambiguity, the unknown. A river photographed at dawn and dusk becomes a metaphor for the passage of time. A double rainbow reawakens childhood awe.

As much as this is a book about the passage of time, An Everlasting Summer is also an exploration of the timeless, universal language of female intimacy and friendship. The fact that the pair remains as close, almost inseparable in some images, attests to the strength of their sisterly bond. But while they’re still surrounded by the familiar backdrop of their childhood, their lives are not so carefree as in the earlier days, and they have their own kids to look after now. 

Throughout the book, Sanguinetti’s presence is always felt. In fact, she’s very much part of the scenes she photographs. The girls invite her willingly into their lives, sharing their intimate moments with her and as a result, she becomes a part of their worlds just as much as she is of theirs.

Alessandra Sanguinetti’s book The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and The Illusion of an Everlasting Summer is available to preorder now from MACK

Rampa  They Will Be