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PORTFOLIO

07.05.2020

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Time and again, dead bodies in the Colombian Río Magdalena get caught in the nets of fishermen from the communities along its banks. The villagers have come to terms with this never-ending phenomenon, and are creating resting places for the deceased. With gentle yet haunting images, the photographer Felipe Romero Beltrán documented the fate of the people living by the river.

Rio Magdalena is said to be “the largest cemetery in Colombia”. How did you get onto this topic?
Felipe Romero Beltrán: It started because, when I was a child, I used to hear this saying almost every day. In the news, within my family, on the radio… At the time I didn't understand what it meant exactly. Years later, in 2016, when a peace agreement with the FARC was signed, this saying came to my mind again; so I started doing research for a couple of years, without taking any pictures, because the topic is really sensitive and it is hard to visit the places (for security reasons). In 2018 I started to take pictures.

Did you have any specific photographic approach in mind?
Yes, I was worried about how to deal with this topic. It is a sensitive issue, not only in the area itself, but also in the whole country. Guerilla war in Colombia was a subject I didn’t want to work with, but the peace deal was a historic moment specially for my generation, for people who were born during war and lived to see the peace agreement. So, photographically speaking, I wanted to make a gentle project, without all the expressive tools of classic photojournalism.

What is the most important thing you learned during this project?
First of all, I learned a lot about my own country, and I understand a bit more about the complexity of the war. Photography is always a great way to investigate any subject. The project also taught me a different approach to issues related to war and violence. Aware of the crisis of documentary storytelling, I am trying to find different ways of seeing.

All images on this page: © Felipe Romero Beltrán
Equipment: Leica Q2, Summilux 28 f/1.7 Asph

Find out more about the project Nomen Nescio in LFI 4/2020.
© Felipe Romero Beltrán

Felipe Romero Beltrán

Born in Bogotá in 1992, Beltrán now lives in Madrid and works as a documentary photographer. He has lived in Colombia, Argentina, Israel and Palestine and specialises in social, political and interpersonal themes, for which he hopes to offer new narrative perspectives. He is currently working on a Phd program on documentary photography at the University of Madrid.

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