Fine Art Photography Daily

Fran Antmann: Maya Healers – A Thousand Dreams

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Lidia Santizo Gonzalez on the shores of Lake Atitlán. ©Fran Antmann

Maya Healers: A Thousand Dreams explores the ancient healing practices of the Maya people of Guatemala. Over the course of a decade, photographer and writer Fran Antmann gained the trust of families and native healers in mountain villages surrounding Lake Atitlan. She was allowed to visit sacred places and witnessed a tradition in which healers are believed to have connections with the supernatural and to derive their power and knowledge from dreams. These rituals survive today, despite being forbidden during a genocide of the Maya people committed over several decades until 1996 by government forces. Antmann captures this history of healing, documenting it in 100 black and white photographs woven together with moving, personal stories in her book, recently published by Nirala Publications.

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Lake Atitlán with the volcanoes San Pedro and Tolimán. ©Fran Antmann

Fran Antmann is a photographer, writer and educator. She teaches photography at Baruch College, CUNY. Her photographic work has focused on the lives and culture of the indigenous people of Guatemala and Peru as well as the Dene of the Western Canadian Arctic and the Inuit of Baffin Island, Canada.

She has received grants from the Fulbright Commission, the Ford and J. Paul Getty Foundations, the Puffin Foundation, the Social Science Research Council and five NY State Foundation for the Arts fellowships in Photography and Non-Fiction Literature. For over a decade she worked on Maya Healers: A Thousand Dreams with yearly trips to Guatemala. A fiscally sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts, the book was a finalist for the 2017 Lucie Foundation Photo Book Prize and received Honorable Mention from PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris Juried Awards 2018.

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Pascual Abaj, sacred Maya site in Chichicastanengo. ©Fran Antmann

My book Maya Healers: A Thousand Dreams explores the ancient healing practices among the Maya people of Guatemala. The photographs taken over a period from 2006 to 2017 evoke the life and culture of the indigenous communities that live along the shores of Lake Atitlán. I have recorded their daily lives but also evoke their underlying world of mystical and religious experience —the rituals that give continuity and permanence in the midst of disposable culture.

My work focuses on indigenous healers, many of whom are women who are believed to have connections with the supernatural. They use ancient Maya practices and derive their power and knowledge from dreams. Western medicine is often inaccessible to the Maya population for both geographic and economic reasons.

I was privileged to be included in these intense and intimate healing rituals and to see firsthand how healers, bonesetters and their patients are part of a sacred process that is both individual and communal. These rituals survive despite the genocide of the Maya people perpetrated over several decades until 1996. The resurgence of Maya identity in the renewal of formerly suppressed Maya practices celebrates the endurance of indigenous cultures. -Fran Antmann

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Pascual Abaj shrouded in smoke from the ceremonial fire. ©Fran Antmann

“Fran Antmann’s work in Maya Healers, years in the making, is imbued with the depth and texture only great photography can achieve; where the images transcend being mere documents but reach great art. Many of the images, especially of the people in their daily lives, are transcendent and absolutely gorgeous, revealing an empathy and visual perception that is timeless.”  — Ed Kashi, filmmaker and photographer

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Berta Navichoc, bonesetter, healing Pedro Mendoza, Santiago Atitlán. ©Fran Antmann

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Patient from distant village after being seen by a healer in San Pedro. ©Fran Antmann

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Funeral procession, San Pedro. ©Fran Antmann

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Pedro Mendoza attempting to walk after a healing with the aid of his mother and a friend, Santiago Atitlán. ©Fran Antmann

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Juan Mendoza, Maya priest in ceremonial room, Santiago Atitlán. ©Fran Antmann

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Healer Josefina Vazquez de Gonzalez, San Pedro. ©Fran Antmann

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Rising waters of Lake Atitlán. ©Fran Antmann

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Villagers waiting to be seen by a healer, San Pedro. ©Fran Antmann

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Tata’ Xuan, shaman, with the ritual Maya calendar. ©Fran Antmann

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Sebastián Ixmatá bathing in Lake Atitlán. ©Fran Antmann

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Vicenta Gonzalez Ixmatá in the mirror with her grandson, San Pedro. ©Fran Antmann

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