In her photographs, Mexican artist Koral Carballo, born in Veracruz in 1987, not only explores visual narratives as they relate to identity, violence and territory; she also expands the frontiers of photography towards journalism, visual arts and documentary. Her project We Were Always Here (ongoing since 2017) is dedicated to Afro-descendants in Mexico and aspires to depict everyday life and what persists of Afro-Mexican traditions and identity. To this end, she uses documentary photography, family photos and visual interventions. We spoke with Carballo about her project.
C&AL: When and how did We Were Always Here emerge?
Koral Carballo: Initially, the project developed in a very unconscious way. In 2014 I was working as a photojournalist and one day I decided on impulse to visit Coyolillo, a town in the north of the state of Veracruz, in Mexico. Once I arrived and began to talk to the people in the town, I also began asking questions about myself, getting to know and understand myself and my identity. Five years later, I am starting to realize that the impulse that led me to Coyolillo came from an urge to search for myself. For me, this has meant uncovering Afro-descendancy, something that had always been with me and my family, but was never talked about.
In Coyolillo I find very familiar references, and, in a sense, myself. I come from a humble family where we didn’t have access to photography and in fact we don’t even have a family album. So when I take pictures of the people of Coyolillo I feel like I’m photographing all the things I was never able to see. My symbolic family.