Leonora Vicuña (1952) is a Chilean photographer and professor of photography, living and practicing in Santiago, Chile. A graduate in visual arts and photography from the Escuela Foto-Arte, Santiago, in the 70’s, Vicuña left Chile for a few years during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), to work and live in France and earn a degree in Anthropology from the Sorbonne University in Paris. A key figure in the development of the arts in Chile, Vicuña stands as one of the original founders of AFI, the seminal association of independent professional photographers in Chile that fought for the restoration of democracy between 1981 and 1990.
Vicuña’s photographic practice is characterized by her thoughtful observation of urban culture. Her images powerfully capture nocturnal scenes in Santiago, Paris and Barcelona, the bars and restaurants she frequented and the people she came across: musicians, waiters, transvestites and vagabonds, amongst other characters. In doing so she brought a sense of life and conviviality to the underbelly of these urban settings. From 1979 onwards, Vicuña started to intervene on the surface of her silver gelatin photographs with colour pigments and pencils attempting to recreate the atmosphere of the original scenes. Contrasombras, published in 2010, beautifully illustrates Vicuña’s unique practice that imbues her work with a nostalgic aesthetic, giving it a timeless quality.