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For someone lost in pitch darkness, a flicker of light can make a huge difference. Wednesday at CGIS South, the Andes Initiative at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies is organizing an opening reception of a photography exhibition with the artist Santiago Escobar Jaramillo, a Colombian photographer who uses this metaphor of light and darkness to represent in his photographs the hope of a better future for the Colombian people.
For the past five decades, many Colombians have suffered from violence and forced displacement due to political turmoil and a power struggle within the country. The artist says he lost his uncle-in-law as a child. This personal history inspired him to launch an art project in support of the people of Colombia.
Founded in 2010 by Escobar Jaramillo, Tierra de Luz is a project whose name means “land of light” in Spanish. The artist was inspired while travelling across the country for Villegas Editores, a Colombian magazine. “I could see not only the [Colombians’] sadness but also their spirit, their hope, and beautiful landscape,” Escobar Jaramillo says. This drove him to organize a symbolic show of support for his people through the medium of photography. “Light does not only give evidence to how space is constructed or how things look,” Escobar Jaramillo says. “Light is also a powerful metaphor of hope, family, heat, about protecting each other. Light it is there to fill up our souls, dreams, and happiness with a bright future.”
As an architect-turned-photographer, he thought photography could be a powerful tool in the project. “Being a photographer gave me new perspectives on how we could change [things],” Escobar Jaramillo says. According to him, photography serves as a direct witness to reality. At the same time, it also has the capacity to present a solution. In one of the series, for example, Escobar Jaramillo installs light in empty post-displacement villages to symbolize repair and healing.
“To give support to victims—it is not only to give them a house or write down laws,” Escobar Jaramillo says. “But we also have to think about symbolic acts—metaphor, art, culture, education as means of expressions to get to the heart of the victims, to heal wounds.”
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