The exhibition currently showing at the Luis Arango Library on the late photographer Hernán Díaz (1929-2009), Revelado: Retratos, Sesiones y Hojas de Contactos, provides an opportunity to explore approximately 80 photographs of one of the most renowned Colombian photographers of the twentieth century, perhaps most widely recognized for his emblematic portraits of such well-known figures such as Fernando Botero and Jaime Garzón, Beatriz Gonzalez and Luis Carlos Galán, amongst many others. The library, which inherited over 1000 images from Díaz´s body of work in 2012, presents an exhibition which simultaneously allows us to witness a great variety of Díaz´s work, as well as to gain insight into his creative process and his identity as an artist.
Díaz, born in Ibague, became interested in photography from an early age and undertook his formal photographic education at the Connecticut School of Photography. His works were displayed in such prestigious publications as Time and Life magazine, as well as in the Colombian newspaper El Espectador. In addition, he published a number of photographic books such as Cartagena Morena (1972), and Diario de una devastación. Carta abierta a un bogotano (1979). He was a contemporary of other recognized photographers such as Leo Matiz and Nereo López and friend to many contemporary artists and political figures.
The exhibition takes us on a tour of Díaz’s work, from his most famous portraits of Colombian artists, and political figures, to his unique documentation of Cartagena in the 70s -before its days as a thriving tourist mecca-as well as various natural and industrial landscape photos. While each section of the exhibition possesses its own charm, its easy to see why Díaz was most known for his portraits. He had an undeniable talent for capturing his subject in a way which was neither forcibly postured nor falsely natural. His subjects look directly at the camera unself-consciously and as an observer we somehow feel unwittingly privy to an intimate conversation. Díaz himself said “My love and admiración for humankind drives me…to battle against its extinction and death”, and this interest is wholly evident in his work
Amongst other elements, what enriches the exhibition, brought to us by curator Santiago Rueda, are the various juxtaposed quotes from Díaz which pull us closer to the artist’s personal perspective and add a kind of intimacy to the experience. Another striking aspect of the display are the numerous contact prints displayed which provide us with a rare window to the photographer´s creative work flow. Contact prints were part of the development process in analogue photography, where smaller versions of the negatives were printed onto a single sheet in order to decide which photos were deemed worth printing in a larger format. Some might argue that this selection process is as creative at the action of taking the photo and in the instant digital camera world we now inhabit, the chance to observe this careful process of selection is a rare moment and exudes an undeniable romanticism.
The exhibit will be on tour for a period of five years in various cities of Colombia. However, those residing in Bogotá who are short of time at the moment need not fret, as the exhibition, which opened in March of this year will run until February 2016 at the Luis Arango Library. A lengthy period of time for a temporary exhibition, which surely demonstrates the deserving respect the library holds for this significant Colombian photographer.
Luis Angel Arango Library
Calle 11 No.4-11