Q&A with Gustavo Germano
Argentinian photojournalist and graphic media editor Gustavo Germano began his practice in 1986 whilst traveling around Latin America. He tells us about his PHOTO 2021 work Ausencias (Absences)—a powerful series about the victims of enforced disappearance of the Latin American dictatorships.
I was a “viajante” (travelling salesman) of school books for two years in Patagonia. The southernmost point I reached was the city of Ushuaia. I was 20 years old.
It will be a small presentation of three diptychs from three series of Ausencias (Absences):
– Argentina carried out in 2006 on victims of the illegal repression of the dictatorship from 1976 to 1983
– Brazil held in 2012 on victims of the dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.
– Uruguay from 2016 on the dictatorship from 1973 to 1984.
The work will be presented on billboards outside The SUBSTATION.
The idea is that it would be possible to understand (not explain) the devastating effect that disappearances had on the people around them, in addition to what was done to the victim themselves. The permanent presence of absence, a common phrase in my mother’s home, is perhaps the clearest way to explain it.
Concealing the truth is a constitutive fact of forced disappearance. As the poet Juan Gelman said, “The word disappeared is tricky because it hides four processes: illegal detention, torture, murder, and concealment of the body.” All this is denied and hidden.
As a process, it is long and requires many “complicities”. A small team in the field works on the investigation and recovery of photographs with the relatives and with those linked to the disappeared. By the time the photographs are taken, we have already had many months of contacts and coordination both in the selection of the images and in the logistics to create the image. Finally something very powerful connects me with the protagonists after having shared that moment of high emotional tension. Many of them had not returned to those places in 30 years. A statement is made with their presence and a space that should be occupied by a loved one.
I would like people to feel emotion and empathy.
It would definitely be ‘Desapariciones’ (‘Disappearances ‘) Rubén Blades. It is an iconic song in Latin America.
I have twins who are 15 years old at the moment, so I can tell my 15-year-old self the same thing I tell them; study hard and get to know the world soon! Ha ha.