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ONE PHOTO – ONE STORY

23.06.2022

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The silent killer – this is the name given to the type of chronic malnutrition that leads to physical and cognitive limitations, to sickness and to death. In her sensitive and expressive documentation about the Mayas, the Spanish photographer Lys Arango pushes the issue of hunger to the forefront – thus unleashing a debate about societal ills.

“I have chosen the photograph of Petrona as she sits on a wooden bench inside the "chuj", a Mayan steam bath. Night has covered the sky of Suntelaj, in the highlands of north-western Guatemala, where electricity has not yet arrived. The 10-year-old girl holds a candle in her hands, illuminating her face and, as I take the portrait, I hear her empty stomach growling. No corn or beans remain. Over the last two years, her family has seen near-total crop losses, as the effects of climate change take hold in the region. Their only means of subsistence is seasonal work on the coffee plantations, where Petrona has been employed since she was five. Asking about her dreams yields a single, resounding answer: migrate to the United States.
She is not alone. Three of her stepbrothers are already in the US, as well as her aunt and cousins, who joined the migrant caravans that begun in 2017. Even if most reporting declares that gang violence is the main reason for the Central American exodus, the reality is that hunger and the threat of food insecurity, are also sending thousands of families out of the country.”

Text and image: © Lys Arango
Equipment: Leica Q2 with Leica Summilux 28 f/1.7 ASPH.
© Lys Arango

Lys Arango

...is a Spanish photographer and writer. She lives where she works, but is currently based in Paris. A graduate in International Relations and with a Master's Degree in Journalism, she develops long-term documentary stories exploring photography, text and sound. Alongside her personal practice, Lys has worked on assignments for international NGOs, the UN, and several magazines and newspapers. Between 2016 and 2019, she worked in 17 countries immersed in deep food crises. Now she tackles humanitarian issues from a new angle, exploring how they converge in a historical and cultural context. Driven by research-led, self-initiated projects, Lys seeks to fully understand the lives of those she captures, in order to portray them as truthfully as possible.

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