‘Fotografos Argentinos’ is an innovative series of books that provide a new space for the country’s contemporary photographers, the latest four of which were released last month. Dario Lanis and Gabriel Díaz, co-founders of Dilan Editores, launched the series back in 2007 with the aim of showcasing the abundance of styles and objectives within Argentine photography.
Preceded by years of investigation, their independent project evolved over time, with an intention to help to diffuse artistic barriers and form a ‘collection’ in the true sense of the word, making the books available in cultural centres and libraries with this objective in mind.
Valeria González, renowned in the field of Contemporary Photography, celebrates the collection, and suggests that a simple idea such as this, carried forth with conviction yet discretion, can do great things.
Part of the charm of the collection is that a new artistic dialogue is articulated between photography and literature as the analytical prologues run alongside the works. An unassuming interaction visibly takes place between the photographer and the subject, each of these works a testimony to this collaborative relationship.
Having reached a cult status in the world of political photo-reportage, Sara Facio’s work is among the most renowned of the collection. Founder of publishing house La Azotea which publicised the pioneers of Latin American photography, this selection of Facio’s work chronicles her varied subject matter.
Not aligning herself with any political party, Sara Facio’s political analysis “steers clear of undue emphasis”, and is thus subtle, if existent at all. Her mildly detached attitude has enabled her to witness and document the rise and decline of Peronism without falling into common traps of attaching stereotyped attributes to the subject matter.
The title ‘La Mirada’ (the look) reflects the theme that is predominant in her work. As María Moreno writes in the prologue, Facio’s snapshots appear to record the instant when the camera “alerts the (human) subject of its presence”: the subject engages with the photographer and in this way the barrier between the photograph and the viewer appears to dissolve.
A perfect example of this is the portrait which decorates the cover: ‘Los Muchachos Peronistas’. The collection of young Peronistas grouped together reflect Peron’s wide appeal through their suggested differences in class and gender. They each hold a fixed and focused gaze, not just looking through the lens of the camera, but directly into the eyes of the photographer. An exchange is shared transcending a space and moment that no longer exists, timelessly haunted by the tragic significance that one of the group was among the desaparecidos.
Presenting candid honesty of the urban warfare in Colombia’s Medellín, Alfredo Srur’s photographs document his stay with Geovany, a Rambo living in Comuna One. Photographing up to 15 assassinations per day, Srur depicts the vicious cycle that is Geovany’s violent existence, a man who, according to Christian Alarcón, wanted only to be a cobbler.
Srur presents the mundane realities of showering and shaving alongside the stark violence of the killings. Among the most emotive of these is the photograph of a seated corpse slumped in front of a wall stained with blood, his parents beside him turning away from the tragedy.
His most vivid and moving depictions of this period, however, are in his shots of Geovany, where the viewer glimpses the range of emotions that preoccupy Geovany’s thoughts. Srur catches these varied expressions, etched into Geovany’s face indelibly within the photograph. The images present both his calm and pensive stance as he looks through the window contemplatively. Yet in another he appears distracted and anxious, biting his nails or sheltering his baby daughter in his arms as he fearfully watches the street below, aware that violence is in the vicinity.
Remnants of the former prosperity of the Salta province is tangible in the faded decadence and elaborate interiors within Florencia Blanco’s photographs. In a place where the memory of a previous affluence is “deeply rooted” within the local elite, as articulated within Christian Ferrer’s prologue, ‘Salteños’ depicts a sense of listlessness, in amongst the buoyant colours and spirited subject matter.
Cafes are plastered with ocean vistas akin to fantasy escape routes in a province where the lack of sea has always been of political and economic concern. These repeated images of open water emphasise the underlying tone of stagnation within Blanco’s work, a delicate sensation of constraint and anticipation is imposed on each image. The expressions resemble those of Martin Parr’s works, the figures looking on with a strained facade of ease.
Despite the subtle humour Blanco evokes, each portrait is blemished with an edge of stagnant curiosity. This dormant restlessness is evident not only in her works depicting sedentary domesticity, but also of a seemingly refreshing holiday by the waters edge, betrayed by the trace of discomfort apparent in the face and posture of the child.
‘Desapariciones’ exists to alert us to the tragedies suffered within the Dirty War, Helen Zout’s lens as “unforgiving” as life was during a time when disappearances were commonplace. Her collection reads as a visual testimony of the injustice of this era, Osvaldo Bayer’s poetic prologue following suit, summoning named assailants to be brought to justice.
Zout’s images are truly haunting, among them repeated images of Julio Lopez, a name which stands apart for having been disappeared during the era of democracy. Her figures are frequently mere whispers on the page, phantom-like and not quite real. Slightly out of focus, as though her hand may have been shaking as she stood back and snapped away, often the figures appear so faintly that it is as though the viewer is squinting, trying not to look in an attempt to avoid the reality.
Zout’s record of an “Escrache”, where the group the ‘Hijos’ of the disappeared expose a former “asesino” in a public and palpable outcry, is among the strongest of her works. Paint is splattered on house walls to resemble blood, demonstrating in a space where democracy has failed. This, the penultimate photograph within the emotive collection, by comparison is sharp and defined. The black and white image is a striking contrast to the blurred ashen faces of victims and family members peering from the shadows. The strength of the image brings the historical truths to the forefront of our memories, the promise of a reappearance, at least of justice.