Thursday, March 15, 2018

Jesusa Vargas reviews James Rodriguez

James Rodriguez graduated from UCLA in 1996 with a degree in Cultural Geography. In 2004, James    was a human rights observer in Guatemala focused on documenting post-war issues, human rights abuses and social conflicts. Some of his recognitions include:
2016 Scholarship recipient for International Center of Photography
2016 NPPA Best of Photojournalism: Honorable Mention
2015 1st place in POY Latin America
2015 Latin American Fotografia 4: Selected for "Los Diez" Exhibit

The 3 photos below highlight the after effects of the brutal Guatemalan civil war (1960-1996) that have resulted in efforts of locating the victims and identifying the bodies so that they may be returned to family for proper burial. This was not only a healing process but also a testimony and evidence of the horrific crimes of genocide committed during this time period.

In the photo below, the photographer focuses in on a woman awaiting for the return of the remains of her deceased relatives killed during the war. The dark black shadow surrounding the central focal point is a stark resemblance to the realities of death and dark news. The light casted on her face from above, the face of another person waiting behind her and on the clenched hands of yet another person waiting for the sad arrival, present the subtle sadness of the grim event as they patiently stand by. Choosing to display this strong contrast between the strong highlights on the subject matter and the dark black surrounding them conveys a strong sense of loneliness and hope.
Nebaj, Quiche, Guatemala, 2017.

It is difficult to discern, at first glance, the event that is being photographed below without the caption given. The vibrant colors that we associate Guatemala culture with and the assembly of Guatemalans capture our attention and demand that we visually take in all that is occurring in the composition. We must evaluate the faces closer of those standing and sitting. No smiles, no laughter or captured moments of joy are presented to us. This juxtaposition of the situation and the vibrant culture is disheartening. The people in the photo are awaiting for forensic anthropologists to return the remains of relatives murdered.

Nebaj, Quiche, Guatemala, 2017.

In the deadpan approach taken in the photo below, we are confronted with a Guatemalan woman sitting on the edge of her bed, staring directly at us. A sadness comes over her face, we are left to evaluate the surroundings and her body language to draw our own emotions about the subject. We are left with a direct relationship to the woman as we look at her and she looks back at us. This person witnessed family members taken away during the massacre and never to return. It is likely that her family members were exhumed from a training center where they were murdered.

Pacux, Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala, 2016

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