Panama’s place in the collective imagination is frequently limited to its famous canal, exotic scenery and recent political history. Mexican photographer Arturo Soto (born 1981), however, is not interested in reproducing clichés; his work looks for unexpected traces of everyday sociopolitical life in urban spaces.
With this new volume, the photographer offers a subjective vision of Panama’s urban landscape, interrogating how personal experience influences the ways one negotiates, and ultimately represents, a landscape. As a consequence, the vibrant country found in travel brochures to sell prepackaged experiences is purposefully absent. Soto trains his camera on Panama’s more banal spaces, not the colorful tropical paradises of the tourist bureau. Capturing views of Panama’s socially stratified cities and the disparate social values at play there, Soto contradicts simple visions of progress and economic growth with a much more nuanced portrait of a place and its people.