This 2006 documentary about the photographers of Santiago, Chile is yet more proof of the power of photographs and film. Margaret Thatcher’s old mucker, Augusto Pinochet, presided over one of the worst periods in Chile’s history : his military regime regularly killed innocent people entirely unconnected to politics or any sort of protest. This in turn led to a revolution which inspired photographers to form their own association in 1981.
The Independent Photographers Guild Association (AFI) was born out of a shared need for accreditation and some sort of protection for people taking photographs of the demonstrations. They became the official witnesses to the violence and regular disappearances which had become the norm, gradually becoming part of the protest themselves. Despite the protection their accreditation and cameras afforded them, the band of photographers regularly visited the hospital with injuries and they lived their lives in the constant thrum of adrenaline and fear.
A number of the men and women undertaking this dangerous task spoke of their individual experiences during the documentary, how at times they themselves became a symbol of protest and how it affected their lives for the worst. The violence took its toll on them mentally and physically, one man remarking that seeing the constant violence had turned them into machines, another young photographer losing his life in the pursuit of the truth.
Directed by Sebastian Moreno, this documentary is a powerful one and by the end of it you will feel drained as if you were part of their band of maverick photographers. It’s subtitled but as with any good film, you forget you’re reading the speech not long after the start. An important story told well.
Maryann has awarded The City of Photographers four Torches of Truth.