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The Time I Have Left

Constanza Hevia H. | Chile

Hugo Küschel, the oldest man in the town of Las Cascadas, spends time sitting in his couch watching how the wind moves the trees on his farm on a cold winter day on July 25th, 2016.

“The witches have said I will live a long time. I have till the year 2013 or 2014. I will live 108, 109, 110 years. I still have a lot to do, a lot ahead… I am a little tired sometimes.”

Hugo Küschel, August 8th, 2017.

The Time I Have Left is a documentary project about addressing end-of-life issues. I followed Hugo Küschel; the oldest man in my grandparents’ village of Las Cascadas, Chile. The images portray the last year of Hugo’s life, the relationship with his wife, and his battle against aging and memory loss.

The project explores the point of view of a person who only had contact with the outside world peering out the windows, watching television and looking at photographs. This project documents how Hugo created his own world to keep his remembrances alive.

The Time I Have Left explores memory and time, and how these two concepts interact as they relate to mortality. Hugo died on September 7, 2017. This is his story.

I spent my childhood weekends at my grandparents’ farm in the town of Las Cascadas in the south of Chile. In that place, I created most of my childhood and youthful memories. I remember that I often fell asleep on the trip from Osorno where we lived, and woke up when the car entered the gravel road that led to their house. I never knew my grandfather; he died trying to put out a fire at his sister’s house on August 16th, 1978. All I know about him, is the stories my mother told me about him when we looked at old photographs. On July 20th, 2007, my grandmother passed away and I have only been on that road once since her death. My grandparents' house had changed, the place was different, and it no longer belonged to our family. I turned around, left, and have never gone back since her passing.

In July 2016, my aunt introduced me to Hugo Küschel, her godfather and a good friend of my grandparents. Hugo was the oldest man in the village of Las Cascadas, where my grandparents had lived. From 1941 to 1943, Hugo was a Navy crewman aboard the Chilean battleship Almirante Latorre. After he completed his mandatory Navy service, Hugo had to go back to his childhood town because his family needed him to work at their farm. I instantly felt the need to document his life, his time and his waiting to die, using the photographic medium to understand his perspective on the life-death relationship. At the same time, this project became the means for me to return to my roots, and reconnect with the land that saw me grow.

Through my photographs, I display a narrative about old age and mortality that usually is not represented in society. Through the vulnerability of my subjects, I provoke the viewer, and force them to reflect on their own point of view about end-of-life issues, and the approach of death.

I am still not able to visit that gravel road that leads to my grandparents’ house, but thanks to this project, I have been able to get closer to that land, and who knows, maybe someday, I will be able to take that road again, and go back to what was their farm. The Time I Have Left is a commemoration of Hugo's life and memories, and my reconnection with my own memories and sense of place. The images for this project were captured between July 2016 to October 2017.

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