Category Archives: colombia

Violentology: Stephen Ferry Documents the Colombian Conflict

Photographer Stephen Ferry has spent ten years documenting the ongoing internal armed conflict in Colombia — a situation that, he says, is often overlooked or miscast as a ‘drug war’ outside of the country. In his recently-published book, Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict, Ferry presents a comprehensive look at this incredibly complicated and brutal conflict with the use of his own photographs, historical imagery and text.

Printed on heavy newsprint and produced on the rotary press of the Bogota daily newspaper El Espectador, Violentology’s physicality references the tradition of print journalism  an industry which has played a central role in shedding light on many of the atrocities committed in Colombia.

“The point here is not just to present photographs but also that they be accompanied by an investigation that is very serious,” said Ferry. “And all of that really detailed and important and dramatic information is information that came from the Colombian press. So, I wanted the design to reflect my respect for their practice.”

The book’s outsize pages are the width of magazine spreads, another nod to print journalism, but also, Ferry said, a way to get readers to spend time with the tome.

“The topic is a very serious one and its not necessarily a topic that is in the headlines, so I wanted to use whatever visual and design strategies I could in order to slow the readers’ down and keep people’s attention on the subject,” he explains.

Ferry’s Violentology project was awarded the inaugural Tim Hetherington Grant in 2011 by World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch. Additional support from the Open Society Institute has helped to make the book available in both Spanish and English versions. Selected chapters are also available as downloadable PDFs.

Stephen Ferry is a photojournalist whose work has received numerous honors from World Press and Magnum Foundation among others. See more of his work here.

Violentology was recently published by Umbrage Editions. See more about the book here

Medellin Snapshots

I’m leaving Medellin today after a nearly six week stay. I’m dying to get my medium format rolls developed. In the meantime, here are some snapshots with my digital camera from my wanderings around Medellin.

The city sits in a narrow valley with neighborhoods climbing both sides, quite high. After the flatness of Buenos Aires, I find the topography of the city fascinating.

Metrocable to La Aurora

This is a very postcard-y picture of the cable car leading to La Aurora on the eastern side of the city. A lot of the neighborhoods climbing the hillsides are impoverished and have difficult access. Medellin is the first city in the world to use cable cars as mass transit (Caracas, with a similiar topography, is now also using them). I had to post this picture because as a child I used to fantasize about cable cars being used as mass transit (I was a very geeky child). These cable cars are probably the coolest thing about Medellin.

Overhead noon-day sun in Medellin

The hottest thing about the city is the noon-day equatorial sun. Being at 5000ft. above sea level does take some edge off the heat but the sun striking directly down from overhead is intense. The city is just 6 degrees north of the equator and I find there’s something odd and not at all photogenic about the way things look in this kind of light. Trying to find interesting ways to photograph under these conditions has been a challenge (one that I’ve mostly failed).

Botanical garden on a sunny day

Like most places I go, I like the regular architecture and decoration of houses in middle-class neighborhoods.

House in Las Granjas

House in Belen

The rich neighborhood is called El Poblado. It’s one side of the valley with brick apartment high rises climbing far up the side of the mountain. It’s sort of this neo-liberal hell whose residents think they’re in heaven. It’s all mega-apartment complexes meant to be driven into or out-of but the road infrastructure is so poor that you spend 30 minutes in traffic just to get to the supermarket. Still, the views are interesting. You’re often somewhere in the middle with buildings above and buildings below with no clear sense of where the ground is. I like that.

El Poblado

And finally, I’ve been photographing a lot at dusk. I’ve been taking two pictures of the same view separated by 15 minutes, like I did for my Pulmones project in Buenos Aires. It’s a really simple device but I like the effect. Plus it’s been a good goal to try to find myself someplace interesting every night at 6:20pm (the time of sunset doesn’t vary a lot. We’re close to the equator).

Dusk, La Aurora

Dusk, Calasanz Alta

Dusk, Las Esmeraldas

And here’s the full set on flickr.

Valentina Canseco & Daniel Carvalho – Medellin al sol y al agua

Valentina Canseco is a French artist who draws. (What’s the word for that? drawer? illustrator? draughtswoman?). Anyway, she has a great show up currently in Medellin called Medellin al sol y al agua done in collaboration with Colombian urbanist Daniel Carvalho.  Canseco is showing a number of prints based on simple line-ink drawings of houses and simple street scenes in different neighborhoods around the city, covering all social classes and “stratuses” as they say here. She’s drawn to simple but idiosyncratic details of modern vernacular architecture and details of the cityscape. These are things that interest me greatly for my photography, so it’s really interesting to see how the artist evokes these elements with ink and pen.

Valentina Canseco at Centro Columbo Americano in Medellin

Valentina Canseco at Centro Columbo Americano in Medellin

Valentina Canseco at Centro Columbo Americano in Medellin

Valentina Canseco at Centro Columbo Americano in Medellin

The show is currently at the Centro Columbo Americano in downtown Medellin. They’ve also put together a great group on facebook, where they post news and invite users to submit photos of their neighborhoods. They’ve even got coffee mugs.

Luis Carlos Tovar – Silla Rimax

I’m in Colombia now,  Medellin to be exact. I figured I should blog about Colombian artists, although truth be told, I discovered Luis Carlos Tovar’s work while I was still in Lima in March.  Tovar’s series Silla Rimax deals with those cheap, ubiquitous white plastic chairs that infest the entire world. His approach is very clever. He gently presses their forms in wet sand on the beach and then photographs the impressions. It almost looks like they excavated a new room at Pompeii and discovered that the Romans too used these cheap plastic chairs.

Luis Carlos Tovar – Silla Rimax

Luis Carlos Tovar – Silla Rimax

These photos are from the French website Photoquai, which looks interesting. They do periodic features on photographers from around the world. The name Silla Rimax, refers to the company in Colombia which makes most of these chairs.

Pictures of the Week: May 11 – May 18

From violence in Colombia and a huge fire in Manila to soccer championships across Europe and the presidential handover ceremony in France, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Milena Bonilla – Transitory Map

The last post on Bruno Dubner reminded me of work I saw by Colombian artist Milena Bonilla. I first discovered her work about a year ago when, upon arriving in Bogotá, I googled “contemporary columbian photography” and found her name on a list of people exhibited at a show in England a few years ago.

Milena Bonilla – Transitory Map

I liked this work called Transitory Map and she describes it thus on her site:

The project consists in to take randomly several buses in Bogotá city and to sew the holes that appeared on the damaged seats. (seats are made of foam and synthetic leather or fabric). The size of the hole defines the time used to travel along the city sewing the damaged seat. After finishing the tour, the path taken is transferred to a map, using as a convention the same thread color as the one used to sew the seat. During the whole project twenty five tours were made from which there are sixteen documented.

I’m really taken with the simple beauty of the photos; their color scheme and soft lighting. The gesture, too, is symbolic of healing and alludes to the country’s violent past (and present).

Milena Bonilla – Transitory Map

Milena Bonilla – Transitory Map

2011 in Review

I spent a lot of 2011 traveling, being a bit of a vagabond in different places.

During January, February and half of March I was in Colombia. I discovered fantastic artists and took a ton of pictures, none of which have been properly scanned. The negatives have been sitting with a friend in New York since late March. Eventually, I’ll get to them.

3 guys in Bosa, Bogotá, February 2011

After Colombia, I went to the Peruvian Amazonian city of Iquitos. I spent just over a month there photographing people and places. I’m pretty happy with the work I did so far there and, in fact, I’m planning on going back there in just a few weeks. I’ve been sitting on the photos because I’m not sure what direction the work will ultimately take. Here’s a few pictures that I’ve uploaded to flickr so far:

Iquitos, Peru

Iquitos, Peru

Diego in Iquitos, Peru

I returned to Buenos Aires in late May, mostly to finish my Ochava Solstice project. I was a lot more methodical this year (see post), and set myself a goal of 50 street corners for the whole series.

Preparing to photograph a corner for my Ochava Solstice project

In the end I think I got about 60-something corners, which I then edited down to 49. I even published a little dummy book on blurb, which is really cool to have and to hold.

Ochava Solstice dummy book

Meanwhile I continued to work on another series, Riverbank | Barranca, which I started in 2010 and published on my site this year. It was just featured on the blog, New Landscape Photography.

Riverbank | Barranca

I also continued to add slowly to my collection of Chalets and Contrafrente views.

Since last year I’ve been thinking about pursuing an MFA. While the classes and workshops I have been doing in Argentina have been great, I’ve been feeling that I’d be well-served by spending a couple of years of intense study in North America. To that end, I was just on a six week road trip in the US visiting schools. I covered 8000 miles in just under a month, driving from LA to Boston and back again. I’d like to say it was epic but traveling in the US is kinda easy. There were days when I woke up at dawn and drove for 12 or 13 hours straight, subsisting on junk food, podcasts and 5-hour energy drinks. Those days were my favorites.

West Texas

I’m super-excited about 2012; the travels that I have coming up and the mystery about where I will end-up come August.

Photographer #321: Ruven Afanador

Ruven Afanador, 1959, Colombia, is a fashion and portrait photographer who also focuses on personal projects. In 2009 he released the book Mil Besos, a collection of images of Flamenco dansers from Southern Spain. Strong, fearless and fierce women of various generations are portrayed in high-contrast black and white photographs, twisting pre-conceived notions of beauty. The book Sombra contains images using nineteenth century techniques of erotic male nudes in poses inspired by classical ballet. Ruven has seen a vast amount of celebrities in front of his lens, from Britney Spears to Al Pacino. His fashion shoots are larger than life, creating fantastical, dreamy, classy and powerful imagery. The following images come from the book Mil Besos, his portfolio Celebrity and the book Sombra.

Website: www.ruvenafanador.com