Fotofest follow up ~ Erika Diettes

I am back from Houston, where the Fotofest venue started in 1986. The festival was cofounded by Wendy Watress and Fred Baldwin, photojournalists who have changed the photographic world with their vision. There are now numerous spin offs of the festival of light, a collaboration involving twenty-three photography festivals from over 20 countries around the world. And there are numerous festivals in the US too, Photolucida, PhotoNola, Santa Fe Review, and Filter Photo (Chicago's own).

One of the many benefits of having participated was seeing some really great work. I thought I would share the work of a few artists. I only saw a very small sampling of what was there as my visit was short. What I did see was truly inspiring.

Erika Diettes is a photographer from Columbia. I had a brochure of her work in my packet but it came to life in the installation she did at the Trinity Episcopal Church. It was deeply moving and something I will never forget.

The following description of the exhibit is drawn from a report in the Columbian newspaper El Tiempo by reporter Melissa Serrato Ramírez, who wrote about the exhibit last year when it was installed at its permanent home, the Museum of St. Clair’s Church in Bogotá:

"Erika Diettes’s show, Sudarios, depicts twenty women witnesses to violence of the "disappered" in Columbia. Diettes realized that the sorrow of these women was so intense that there was always a moment in which they closed their eyes. “It was a gesture that demonstrated that still, and probably forever, they would live closed within the world of their sorrow.” This is the moment that she captured on film."

"Sudarios, or “Shrouds,” is a term which also alludes to the artist’s desire, impossible to fulfill, of covering and wiping the sorrow away from the faces of all of those women. "Although at times I think that they don’t need that,” she says. “After looking at them for so long, I discovered that in the midst of their sorrow, I can see a certain resignation.” In deciding how to mount the photos in this show, Diettes decided not to print them on paper, but rather on a delicate silk and cotton blend fabric, black and white, and in large format, to hang in the Museum of St. Clair’s Church in Bogotá, a space that used to be a women’s convent and in which, in an interior of stunning gold leaf, a number of images of saints and martyrs from the colonial era are displayed. In that venue they are left to hang from loose, almost invisible threads; they hang loose, the bottom unattached and moved by ambient air, which gives them an ethereal character."

“Although to a much lesser degree than these women, we’ve all experienced moments of such strong sorrow that gives us a feeling of such fragility that it feels as if our body leaves the earth, leaving behind only the weight of what can’t be undone,” she comments. Diettes opted to leave them like this because she wanted to show how Columbia is inhabited by ghosts, or souls in pain, as “violence leaves people in an intermediate state, unable to ever trust in anything ever again.”