Introduction to the Project

There is a Colombia left out, ignored. To meet her, most of the times you need to take some muddy tracks deformed by the hooves of the mules or embarked on a tiny little rowboat and then, travel several hours. This Colombia doesn’t know what are the effects of the growth. It’s still waiting for the next visit of a health brigade or the coming of a schoolteacher. But this Colombia isn’t only poverty and misery. It is also the liveliness, the ingenuity and the passion from those who learned to survive and to construct a world far from anywhere. You can meet it in the course of a vallenato refrain, on the rythms of a cumbia, or when you let yourself drive by the incredible stories of a local ranchera song. This is the other Colombia, out of the cities far away from the decision-making centres, living in the countryside at the pace of the harvest, the rainy period and the moon cycle. It built herself on some strengthening community ties, with reciprocity and solidarity’s strength, looking at the consumer society and its middle class with desire or disgust.

This Colombia experienced mistrust, harshness and violence too. Some people say it was born on April nine, 1948, when Jorge Eliécer Gaitán the popular liberal presidential candidate was murdered in Bogotá. The fights between conservatives and liberals give the first moments of the internal war and lead part of the liberal opposition to find a shelter in the countryside. Then the guerrilla emerged, like the FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Peoples Army). A first block took shape gradually: the South Bloc in the Caquetá region. Based on a Marxist-Leninist approach, the guerilla set up in the countryside all along its history. Today, the other Colombia is the main stage of the armed conflict, while in the big city the effects of the war on daily life are rarely felt.

The project presented here is constructed around three distinct parts. The first one will present the other Colombia I meet in the Caquetá department. The second one introduces the FARC-EP combatants during unilateral ceasefires declared by the guerrillas. And the third one would document the concrete construction of peace in the territory, from the beginning, with the first public meeting with the guerrilla, to the return to civil life.

It’s an ongoing project and the main purpose is, beyond the unique military feature, using a social and political focus on this six decade internal war and its possible aftermaths. The project intends to photograph the attempt to find peace in these areas, where war was born and imposed itself day after day on the territories, the bodies, and the spirits of the people living there.

 

The project received a Emergency Fund 2016 from the Magnum Foundation
and the Prince Claus Fund

 

The reportages contain more pictures, please contact me if you need to see more or, well, If you want to support!

Part I | The Other Colombia

The Caquetá and Putumayo departments where the reportage takes place are an example of these territories marked by the war. These areas begins in the Andes mountains in the north and finishes with the Amazon jungle in the south. It’s also one of the borders of the agrarian colonization. The farmers came, cutting paths through the jungle with their machetes, some of them escaping from political persecution. Today, the younger generations have very little means with which to change or think about the future. It is difficult to go to school and most of the time, children start to work very young, at age 11-12, helping their family and then, searching a job in other farms. Military presence is a constant and, since it is considered a hotbed of guerrilla activity, the entire territory is stigmatized, while most of the soldiers are young and come from peasant families. A large portion of the region is under the control of the FARC-EP since several decades. They have a local political power that make them "law" as they say. This part of the global project will contextualize the Other Colombia.

This part is still in progress…

Part II | The FARC-EP Combatants

After four years of negotiations at Cuba, the FARC guerrilla and the Colombian government signed a peace deal at the end of 2016. The insurgent army had more than 8.000 fighters. This part of the project presents an intimate point of view about the daily lives of the FARC guerrilleros to seize their identities. Most of them come from peasant families. They lived nomadic lives for years. The series present members of the Southern Bloc FARC-EP and some others from the guard of the commander Carlos Antonio Lozada.

The first series, Between Peace and War, shows the daily lives of the guerilla. The pictures were taken between May 2015 and September 2016. Most of the guerrilleros come from the same region and have other family members in the guerilla. Some of them joined the guerrilla while still very young, escaping from a dysfunctional family or a history of violence and repression. All of them abandoned their old identities and took up new names when they joined this new family. It is difficult for them to imagine or believe in a peaceful future. But all of them also tells they will continue with the movement, even without weapon, waiting the commander’s guidance. “I’m in the line, and here, I have to stay”, says one of them.

The reportage gives a particular focus to women’s situations.Female combatants represent between 30 and 40% of the FARC’s members. The extent and nature of women’s participation during conflicts is frequently underestimated, and therefore their own place in the implementation of a peaceful state

The second series, From the Shadows to the Light, is a portrait series made between September 2016 and February 2017, at the time they left their confidential refuge into the jungle, until now under the protection of its green shadows. They let behind them their clandestine life to appear in the broad daylight. The series tries to figure this transition from the shadows to the light, inspiring by the tenebrism style of the painter Caravaggio. It lets appearing their singularity after years in the insurgent army, yet under a stringent military discipline.

 

Between peace and war

 

From the Shadows to the Light

Caption: 01/25/2016. Meeting in a little village of Putumayo department, Amazonian jungle. At the right side, Joaquín Gómez, permanent member of the peace delegation and chief of the FARC southern block on the stage with his commandants facing hundreds of people coming from peasant and indigenous communities. During the meeting, he explained the distinct points of the peace talks and the four agreements reached (about an integral rural reform, the politic participation, the illegal crops and their substitution and the justice and reparation agreement). He also answered questions from the public about concerns for the post peace agreement.

Part III | Waiting for Peace

During all the time of the negotiations, several events took place on the Other Colombia to spread the peace process and the content of the agreement. Meeting with the people, vigil for peace, the last trip of the FARC-EP as an Army to the transitional zones where they handes over their weapons… several events during the two last years, testimony of the peace construction.

This part is still in progress…