24 May 2010

Ausencias: Empty spaces in the photographs of Argentinean families

On March 24th, 1976 a military junta deposed former president Isabel Peron and took power of the country of Argentina. What followed was a seven-year period of unprecedented human rights abuses, in which approximately 30,000 people were abducted and murdered by the perpetrators of the military regime (Crenzel 2008; Duhalde, 1999). The narrative created by the military junta leader was sustained by a discourse on war which mentioned the non-conventional methods that the enemy (e.g. armed, political organizations) was using in order to destabilize the status quo (Duhalde, 1999, Robben, 2005). The enemies identified by the military included not only people who carried out violent acts against the armed forces (e.g. members of guerrilla movements), but also ideological subversives, such as teachers, professors, students, factory workers, journalists, and lawyers (National Commission of the Disappearance of Persons, 1984). A large proportion of the bodies of the victims of the military dictatorship were never found. Hence, the victims of the military regime became known as the desaparecidos (missing people).

On December 17th, 1976, Eduardo Raul Germano was abducted at the age of 18 in Rosario, Argentina. Following the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the 1976 coup d’ etat, Gustavo Germano, Eduardo’s brother, began working on the development of the photography exhibition “Ausencias” (Absences). Ausencias has been on the running since October 2007 and it has being displayed in Spain, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, France, Italy, and Switzerland. Auscencias consists of seven sets of two large scale photographs. The first one is usually a photograph taken a few decades ago –prior to March 24th, 1976 – and the second one is a photograph taken recently with the same people and similar background, except that the desaparecidos are absent. These seven large scale photographs contrasting the old by displaying empty spaces which connect the past and present in the here and now.

In one of the set of photographs displayed in “Ausencias”, entitled The Germano Brothers, the first snapshot was taken in 1969. In this snapshot Gustavo Germano appears on the left, next to his brothers, with his eldest brother at the extreme right. In 2006, Gustavo Germano took the same picture. He is still on the left, standing next to his brothers, but there is an empty space. The eldest brother, Eduardo Raul Germano, is missing.

These are two photo sets of Ausencias:

Gustavo Germano’s phtotography project Ausencias (Absences) was produced by Fundaciò Casa América Catalunya (American House Catalonia Foundation), sponsored by Registro Unico de la Verdad de la Provincia de Entre Ríos (Argentina), Memorial Democràtic (Spain) and Direcció General de la Memòria Democràtica de la Generalitat de Catalunya (Spain) . Ausencias was also supported by the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (Argentina), Diario Página/12 (Argentina) and the Instituto Ramón Llull (Spain). For more information see www.gustavogermano.com.

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