Art and Labor in the Framing of Guatemala's Dead

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Abstract

In Guatemala, how did photographers work to represent atrocity? Did they think of the images of death they produced as art? As work? In Guatemala, visual narratives provided by the camera were often more successful than the bullet at creating a sense of political clarity that actively obfuscated the disruptive and destructive force of political violence. Graphic reporters, as photographic journalists called themselves, actively worked to give images of violence their own aesthetic narrative: a narrative they had to negotiate with their editors, print reporters and, most importantly, the intelligence and public affairs arms of the Guatemalan Armed Forces. In staging and orienting their images – defining what story they would tell and what characters and motivations they would allow into their frame of vision – graphic reporters consciously engaged in the production of a complexly authored narrative aesthetic that came to represent both atrocity and their own work as artists.

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