My Argentinean photographer friend, Enrique Ahumada, shared this with me and I found it very powerful:
“Last March I went to Buenos Aires for a few days to supervise a TV spot. I managed to see friends, family and photography exhibits. My daughter Julieta and I visited Recoleta Cultural Center to see Adriana Lestido’s retrospective. But we were a couple of days ahead of the opening.
We started wandering around to see what else was there for us to see, as the Cultural Center is famous for having simultaneous exhibits. We entered a gallery that had several photographs set in pairs that looked similar but seemed to be taken at different moments in time. In the more recent pictures, the same people looked older and someone was missing.
At that moment I couldn’t rationalize what I was seeing. But I started having difficulty breathing. I felt like a powerful hand was choking my throat. And I couldn’t see clearly anymore. Memories of old friends and relatives came back to my mind like it was yesterday. I had to leave the room as quickly as I could to catch up my breath. Julieta gave me a big hug; I regained control and then I went back in again.
It was Gustavo Germano’s The Absent – Ausencias. The show was an homage to the 30,000 detainees that disappeared and were murdered by the Argentinean Military Dictatorship between 1976-1983. Most of the dead bodies were never recovered. One of Gustavo’s siblings was among them.
Gustavo contacted relatives and friends asking for a photo taken before their loved one went missing, photos that included the missing person. He had them get together in the same place where the first picture had been taken. The remaining relatives and friends posed for him in a similar picture where the presence of the absent person is glaringly apparent. A simple and extraordinarily powerful idea to have us remember a tragedy that we cannot afford to repeat again.”
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