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Tierra de humo, Imagenes Fotograficas 1882/1950/Claudio Perez, Imagenes Fotograficas 1984/91.

Publishing books in Chile is not difficult if you have the money. Vanity publications about the most arcane subjects abound. Publishing good books without any money is however more difficult. Publishing honest photography books is as hard as a banker's heart.

There is limited space for photographers in contemporary Latin America--their work is usually relegated to the closed walls of galleries or museums. Even then, it is reluctantly exhibited, for photography doesn't sell and is regarded as a minor art. Newspapers and magazines are often interested in either artless straight news photographs or glossy advertisements that have little bearing on everyday reality. In short, photographers who want their images to reach beyond museum audiences have a bleak future in Latin America.

A new initiative by three young photographers hopes to overcome this state of affairs by offering a collection of inexpensive pocketbooks. The new series called "Mal de Ojo" published by LOM Ediciones in Santiago, Chile, is loosely modeled on Mexico's prestigious Rios de Luz Series published by the Fondo de Cultural Economica under the direction of its brilliant and dedicated director, Pable Ortiz Monasterio. The series aims to publish monographs of individual photographers and books of historical photographs of Latin America.

The first two titles are a monograph on the young Chilean photographer Claudio Perez and a book entitled Tierra de humo (Land of Smoke) a collection of historical photographs of Patagonian Indigenous people in the late nineteenth and twentieth century. The editors of the collection have made an intelligent choice for their first books in choosing a young photographer with a future and a people who have recently totally disappeared. These indigenous people (the Alacalui, Yamanas, Selk'nam and Aonikenk tribes) living in the extreme southern part of the Hemisphere in one of the most inhospitable climates of the world were exterminated by disease, systematic murder and alcohol. The images have a melancholy and wistful quality. It is not necessary to read the text to realize that these are the images of a people doomed to extinction. Along with scholarly papers, these photographs are all that is left of these people at the end of the earth.

Claudio Perez is one of the most gifted, young photographers in Latin America. Born in 1957, Perez started his career as a graphics designer and eventually turned to photography in 1984. His initial work was as a photo-journalist for a Brazilian magazine in the waning days of the Pinochet government. His photographs of some of the turbulent days of national protest are direct, literal and elegantly designed, something that is usually absent in this fast genre. But if that were all there was to them, one would be in the presence of another intelligent action-junkie photojournalist with a good eye. Perez uses the language and iconography of photojournalism to find a lyrical subtext that is both timeless and universal.

With the clear voice of "straight" photography, Perez has documented his family, friends, neighborhood and country, endowing each image with a patina of mystery and formal rigor. They are images that breathe with tremendous presence their day to day vitality. The lesson is evident: friends, family and the familiar objects that accompany us throughout our years are the things that matter most.
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Author:Montecino, Marcelo
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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