Sunday, 8 June 2008

Photographs and Memory in Peru

Two different perspectives on photographs and memory in Peru:

La Republica features an article on post-mortem images, in particular of children. These intimate and poignant photographs show a dead child carefully posed in their best clothes, sometimes with their family around them. One can imagine that at a time when most people did not own a camera or possess large numbers of images of their offspring, such objects would have held a huge sentimental value.

At first thought, photographs of the dead may seem somewhat macabre to us nowadays, but we can surely empathise with the desire to embody the lasting memory of the loved one in an image. In any case, it seems to have been quite widespread in the nineteenth century, and not just in Peru (see, for example, Meinwald's Memento Mori: Death and Photography in Nineteenth Century America, and Goldberg's Photography View: Death is Resurrected as an Art Form). La Republica points out that some of Lima's most renowned photographers were engaged in this particular type of memorial photography.

Para que no me olviden (La Republica)

On a different note, weekly magazine Caretas commemorates the twentieth anniversary of the murder of one of its photographers, Hugo Bustios Saavedra. Ayacucho's prosecutor believes that the reason for Bustio's assassination was the shot that the photographer snapped of the local army commander at the time, Victor La Vera Hernandez. Bustios surprised the military leader with a camera in 1988, at a time when the number of forced disappearances in the area was very high, and the army didn't take too kindly to the monitoring of its activities. Photographs of the commanders were important in enabling local inhabitants to identify the perpetrators of human rights abuses. Five months later, Bustios was ambushed and killed. Last year, La Vera was sentenced to 17 years jail for his involvement in the murder.

La foto que le costo la vida (Caretas)

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