Monday, 21 September 2009

Photography and Memory (5): TAFOS

This is the fifth in a series of posts on photographers whose work is concerned with issues of memory in Latin America. One could argue all photography is 'about' remembering, in that photographs show us images from the past and are so often used as part of memory work. I'm interested principally in photographic images that are more explicitly concerned with political violence in twentieth-century Latin American and its aftermath. Some of the photographers featured will lean more to the 'arty' side, others to the field of 'photojournalism'. Post one is here, post two here, post three here, post four here.

Photography and memory (5) focuses not on one photographer, but on a collective. TAFOS - Talleres de Fotografía Social/Social Photography Workshops - was founded in 1986 in Peru by German photographers Thomas and Helga Mueller. Their idea was quite simple in theory: to give people the chance to document their lives photographically themselves, rather than relying on professional photographers from 'outside'. Their understanding of social photography was:
Por un lado, las imágenes que, superando su origen muchas veces comercial, llegaron a ser armas en la lucha contra la violencia e injusticia y generaron denuncias y reivindicaciones. Por otro lado, un grupo de fotógrafos que no son ajenos a lo fotografiado, sino partícipes directos del entorno. (TAFOS n.d., emphasis added)

On the one hand, those images which, superseding their origin, which was often commercial, became weapons in the struggle against violence and injustice and encouraged reports [of abuses] and claims. On the other hand, a group of photographers who are not distanced from what they are photographing, but direct participants in their environment [trans mine]
They set up workshops with basic training, cameras, and development opportunities. The first workshops were in El Augustino, Lima, and Ocongate, Cusco; by the time the project came to an end in 1998 there was a total of 28 in different regions. The TAFOS archive is now housed in the PUCP (Catholic University in Lima), which also has a good, bilingual website with background and low-resolution images*.

TAFOS has the advantage of being an unusually wide-ranging project with thousands of images from hundreds of different practitioners, which provide insight into a whole range of different aspects of life. It did not focus solely or specifically on Peru's internal conflict, but this does come out in several of the workshops; for example, the pro-Sendero grafitti covering the public Universidad de San Marcos, or the murder of a village mayor, or, as seen here, the aftermath of a Sendero attack on a farming cooperative:

I chose this image because it seems to highlight a moment of industry in the midst of horror, rather than the crises often focussed on by professional photojournalists. The scene is one of cooperation, groups of people intent of their work among the ruins. TAFOS is particularly valuable in the memory of how political violence fitted into - and, of course, destroyed - people's everyday lives, as well as commemorating their collaborative efforts.

Other resources:

El taller piloto de fotografía social de El Agustino (1986 – 1988): un caso de sistematización
A thesis by PUCP student Angel Enrique Colunge Rosales is available in full on the web (follow link from blog to PDFs).

La memoria de la ciudad en TAFOS: antropología visual cuando el otro tiene la cámara (portafolio fotográfico con breve prólogo) - Daniel Ramírez Corzo N. (PDF)

TAFOS images from the CVR image bank

*which apparently only open properly from the Spanish language site, try switching language if the English version is causing problems.

No comments: