dinsdag 11 oktober 2011

the Anguish of War and the Price of Revolution Nicaragua Susan Meiselas Antiphotojournalism Photography

Monimbo, Nicaragua, 1979

Barefoot and in a bright red dress, she has the body of a young woman, but her face is older and worn. She looks left, out of the frame, holding the handle of a wooden cart on which is roped a figure primitively wrapped in dirty burlap, a foot barely visible. Her name is Nubia. She is 14. The figure is her husband’s body. The photograph has the grace and mystery of a piece of art, but goes beyond art to the heart of the anguish of war and the price of revolution on a very personal level.

"Nicaragua: June, 1978 - July, 1979". Photographs by Susan Meiselas; edited with Claire Rosenberg; Pantheon Books; #0394512650; c1981; est. 105 pages. The work has been reprinted in various formats, with various pagination; it was just reprinted c2008 as, "Susan Meiselas: Nicaragua", by Aperture Press: #59711071X, and this edition includes a bonus DVD interview with the photographer on her work in Nicaragua.

Meiselas is responsible for some of the most recognizable images of the early Sandinista Revolution. Her work was adapted (without permission) by both sides in the conflict. Later, her images, particularly those from Esteli, were the subject of several well-known infringement/illegal use cases in the U.S. and abroad (one such example is depicted in a fairly recent Harper's Magazine article, On the rights of Molotov Man, named after one of the most recognizable images from Meiselas.

The work is divided into three broad sections: "June 1978 - The Somoza Regime"; "September, 1978 - Insurrection"; "June, 1979-July, 1979 - The Final Offensive". The work also includes a detailed section of captions, quotations, and an historical chronology. Even if you don't believe a "picture is worth a 1000 words", the images stand on their own merits. It is an rather impressive time-capsule look at Nicaragua.
Though small when compared to some of the Latin American image collections that followed (there are just over 70 plates in the volume), it has had lasting impact. Meiselas later won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for outstanding courage in reporting, as well as the Cabot Prize Photojournalism from Columbia University for her extended coverage of Latin America. Her Nicaragua work later led to her inclusion in Adam Weinberg's "On the Lind: The New Color Photojournalism" (unlike most other photographers there at the time, Meiselas was not shooting traditional b&w news stock films).

Meiselas is represented by Magnum Photos. Their archive includes samples of her work, and their one will find much more than the Nicaragua project reviewed here. Those interested can use the "Photographer" link at the top, then her name, then the portfolio link in the lower left corner of the Magnum page. Additional information and select audio commentary can be found on her homepage - though not all aspects of the web page were functioning as of this summer. She is also often featured on The Museum of Contemporary Photography.
Of particular interest is that years later, Meiselas, with this book in hand, went back to Nicaragua to learn what had become of the people she photographed. This was the focus of the documentary film, Pictures from a Revolution, not another book, as if often said on the internet. The film is quite interesting regardless of whether or not you have seen the original collection of images, are interested in documentary photography, or the role it plays in historical works and/or journalism. There is an extended comment here on, TV Guide, aNew York Times story/review on the film, and a note mention of it, here on this site.

Other works by Susan Meiselas include the exhibition catalogs and book-length efforts: "Carnival Strippers", "El Salvador: The Work of 30 Photographers", "Pandora's Box", "Chile from Within", "Encounters with Dani", "Learn to See", and, "Kurdistan - In the Shadow of History". She has also been included in "Witness in Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers" & "On the Lind: The New Color Photojournalism". She has co-directed (w/ Richard P. Rogers and Alfred Guzzetti) two documentary films: "Living at Risk: The Story of a Nicaraguan Family" & "Pictures from a Revolution: A Memoir of the Nicaraguan Conflict", and co-created the multi-media project, "Mined in China". She also did the associated photographic work for one of the better autobiographical accounts of life in Central America, "Don't Be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart - The Story of Elvia Alvarado" (as told by Alvarado, translated and edited by Medea Benjamin. Harper Collins, #006097205X, c1989, a reprint of the same, formerly printed at least twice by, The Institute for Food and Development).

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