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Raul Valdivia (ILAS)

Through Subaltern Eyes: Photography and Self-Representation at the Margins in Peru.

In 1986, at the height of the economic crisis and the internal armed conflict in Peru, a documentary photography project began in a deprived neighbourhood of Lima called El Agustino. The brainchild of a German photographer and his wife, the Talleres de Fotografía Social or TAFOS constitute one of the most important and still under-researched examples of social documentary photography in Latin America. TAFOS worked with a group of young adults who were given the task of documenting their reality using point-and-shoot film cameras. Their images celebrate the life of the Peruvian subaltern in the capital, the so-called cholos, who had almost no visual reference in the picture of the nation. My research explores how this form of vernacular photography contributed to the formation of cultural and political identities in this marginal area. The study of Latin American culture and society has traditionally put an emphasis on the literary production in the region, often ignoring cultural practices outside the domain of the written word.

My research places the image centre stage and brings together various elements from within Cultural Studies to flesh out what these photographs are trying to tell us about life at the bottom of society during troubled times. I believe that by focusing on photographs made by poor and disenfranchised people, in most cases women, my research is also challenging the predominance of Latin American Boom authors whose work is often the point of departure for an academic commentary on the region.

Supervisor: Dr Luciana Martins

Image: Yolanda Crucinta - TAFOS (1990)