Ivan Santiago graduated from Florida International University with an MFA in Photography in 2016. He earned his BFA in Time-Based Media and Anthroplogy from FIU, during which time he began working with medium format film cameras to document the paradoxical urban tropical landscapes he grew up around in Miami, FL. He has been included in shows at Dina Mitrani, Dimensions Variable, The 6th Street Container, The Martin Z. Margulies Collection, The Art & Culture Center of Hollywood, The Box and Objex Art Space among others. Primarily focusing on austere landscapes; his interests include homes, abandoned storefronts, urban disposal, warehouse façades and termite tarp-wrapped buildings.


Artist Statements


“The Story About This Place” is part of an ongoing series that depicts outdoor areas and plazas somewhere in and around Miami, FL – “home” for Santiago. – he focuses on moments of serenity and intimacy found in architectural emptiness within the busy Miami suburb. Overall, this series questions aesthetic choices made in the often haphazard build-up of suburban sprawl “by way of real estate ventures and natural flora coincidences” as Santiago writes. In an effort to examine these choices, he documents scenes through photography and creates a satirical reverence generated by the story of concrete monoliths, car culture, benign signage, and other invasive agents. It is here at “home” that Santiago provocatively writes he has “reluctantly discovered an instability that operates beautifully and is at the same time horrifying.”


“Twentyfourseven” is a series that takes place around outdoor areas and plazas close to where I live. It is an exploration of structures that operate and coexist with the cities insatiable appetite to consume at all hours of the day especially that of the night. Night brings a negative black void in film and a darkness to the image which cannot be removed nor is appealing photographically. Nonetheless in an effort to understand architectural aesthetics, naïve street lighting and the way urban sprawl has diminished natural landscape, I have discovered an instability within urban life that like a secret might be made clear by staring just a little longer.


“Not Here” is a series of stills collected  from screen captures sourced from several unique oceanic surveillance websites. The primary concept is to re-appropriate these images into a layered and author free experience. The original intent of these websites are to inform boaters and the fishing community to the ever changing weather conditions throughout South Florida “in real-time,” however the latent effect is much more provocative. Primarily these non- threatening reconnaissance cameras create a unique experience resonating photography’s incapacity of documenting “reality” or “beauty.” These automatic machine-made panoramas create an unmitigated ideal seascape without any prejudice and therefore showcase an unrestricted vantage point of nature and the atmospheric elements that no “man” could have ever had the time or imagination to conceive. This series launches out of my life long fascination with the ocean. It also becomes very much stimulated by the overwhelming behavior of people looking out and reminiscing on the life they left behind an ocean away. Cuba for many of us is an island of nostalgia and lost memories, a memory I haven’t even experienced first hand. The water connecting us is the only real position of contact we have. The shape-shifting water responds back apologetically to the individual standing in its shoreline’s vanishing grasp. The image is composed as a triptych of the screen captures collected over a period of 5 years.


Staring at the Sea,” are photographs of the land and people set in various oceanic communities near bridges, jetties and piers around South Florida. Rather than photographing them in action catching fish or jumping off a bridge, he captures the subjects doing what they do most of the time—waiting. One of the things that attract him to fisherman is the fact that, not unlike photographers, most of the time they are waiting and contemplating the environment. The idea of doing nothing becomes a metaphor for meditation and bliss. An infinite landscape of ocean and sky allow them to patiently stare out into the horizon, echoing a notion of the sublime. In this landscape when individuals are out by the ocean they are transported to a community that goes beyond race, religion, and social status. An important aspect of the Staring at the Sea series is the contemplative atmosphere, which allows the viewers to picture themselves within the scene alongside the sea gazers and imagine the sound of waves breaking gently on the shore, the cries of seagulls, and perhaps even the conversations carrying over the water.


“Habits & Habitats,” deals with the curiosity of the notion of a “Habitat” as a shape derived from our internal psychology.  Looking from the “outside-in,” these dwellings start to take on anthropic forms dealing with issues of confined spaces and shelter. Utilizing a dawn-out exposure, the viewer is allowed a calm sense of architectural emptiness and an intimate observation of the suburban landscape.


“Muted- Wall Series,” The plain beauty of the common wall is favored over the archetypical “scenic” landscape. Descriptions of street scenes are elevated to a heightened sense of importance through a simple and minimalist approach. These photographs do not manipulate the image through clever angles but instead seduce the viewer into the photograph with razor sharp reality and the calm of blank architecture.  The end product provides the viewer with an intimate observation of the urban landscape. Muted light, head on framing and the use of a grid reference the industrial facades of Bernd and Hilda Becher. The formula for a “pretty picture” is here despite the subject’s seemingly un-pretty façade.