The photographs of Sady González occupy a unique place in the history of Colombian photojournalism. On April 9th 1948, an infamous date which many Colombians still remember with certain regret, Sady González was caught up in the turmoil and violence of the ‘Bogotazo’ sparked by the assasination of the Liberal candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, as he walked near his office in downtown Bogotá.
Passionate about street action photography, González became a visual historian overnight, capturing machete-wielding workers as the Colombian capital, with its Vienna-style trams and Republican storefronts, went up in flames.
While many evacuated the capital to the countryside escaping the rampant “violencia,” González, armed with a two tier Rollei, captured the riotous breakdown of life as he knew it. As bodies were carted off to city’s main cemetery and nuns sheltered women and children from the stray bullets of soldiers and snipers, González and contemporaries, such as Manuel H. Rodríguez, worked their “centro” never missing the Capa-esque moment; and on a day which marked an indelible change of course for their nation.
In the 1940’s, Foto Sady evolved into the first independent photo agency in the land and worked closely with magazines such as Cromos and Semana and newspapers, El Tiempo and El Espectador, in offering LIFE-inspired photo essays. In an age of photojournalism awakening, pioneers such as Carlos Martínez, Carlos Caicedo, Daniel Rodríguez and Ignacio Gaitán, remain much revered by contemporary image makers.
González was a versatile photographer taking portraits of Bogotanos from all backgrounds to “society” events, which included weddings at country clubs and glamorous gala receptions. He was also a talented sports photographer due to a love of long distance cycling having won back in 1929 the national championship race from Bogotá to Tunja and back.
With pictures published in Life and Time, Gonzaléz was appointed official photographer of the Colombian Presidency, a position he held for 16 years. He also established in 1950 the so-called ‘Circle of Photographers’, an organization which continues to represent Bogotá-based photojournalists.
Many of the 100 photographs on exhibit were published in the more influential media of the times, while others have never been displayed, or seen before.
The show “Memories of Reality” also chronicles his life from the well-trained eyes of two close curators: his son, editor and writer Guillermo González Uribe, and journalist Margarita Carrillo. From 9,000 carefully looked after negatives by his wife Esperanza Uribe, 100 images were selected for the archival selection of the Banco de la República.
All images delve into Sady’s uncompromising love and respect for the craft of picture-taking. Many images are quiet, everyday scenes of life in Bogotá, and far removed from the “violencia” which catapulted him to frontlines of documentary photography. This important collection housed at the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango will no doubt be a rich source of consultation for Colombian photographers and visual historians in the years to come.
Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango / Calle 11 No. 4-14