This September 13 marks 49 years since Martin Chambi left this world. The most illustrious Peruvian photographer of the 20th century, whose work was declared Cultural Heritage of the Nation in 2019 for being the biological and ethnic testimony of the Peruvian population, had his first encounter with a camera in a mine. Since then, he has been in charge of adding a legacy with a magnificent photographic production that achieved universal renown.
The peruvian artist He was born on November 5, 1891 in a town called Coaza, Carabaya district, very close to Lake Titicaca, in the department of Puno. Nevertheless, Everything changed when his father died at the age of 14 and he left to work in the gold mines of the Peruvian jungle., the Santo Domingo Mining Company. There, in a chance encounter, he met some English photographers who worked for the mining company.
It was a harsh context in Peru where, on the one hand, the people of the mountains, the indigenous people, only had misery, discontent and exploitation. On the other, there were the landowners. With that scenario, Chambi begins to immortalize that scenario thanks to his enormous talent.
After falling in love with the camera, he travels to Arequipa, where he learns the trade from his teacher and guide: Don Max T. Vargas. After learning and practicing in the workshops of the Portal de Flores in the Plaza de Armas, he ended his stay in Arequipa exhibiting, thanks to the sponsorship of his teacher at the Artistic Center of that city, on October 12, 1917.
Already accompanied by his wife Manuela López Visa and his children Celia and Víctor, he travels to the city of Sicuani where he sets up his own first studio and workshop. He establishes himself professionally and then decides to move to Cusco, a city he arrives in 1920 attracted by its splendor and history, it is in this city that he develops his most important and dazzling work until his death, achieving a national and international dimension for his work. worked. This is also where his children Angélica, Manuel and Mery are born.
In life and in person, he exhibits in various rooms and galleries of Lime and Arequipa, he also shows his works in La Paz, Bolivia in 1925 and in Santiago de Chile in 1936. He was also a photojournalist for various media, including Diario Peruano, La Crónica and magazines Variedades and Mundial, as well as La Nación de Buenos Aires. Aires during the years from 1918 to 1930. Also publishes his photographic work in the North American magazine National Geographic in February 1938.
In June 2017, writer Mario Vargas LlosaNobel Prize for Literature, he was able to enjoy the collection of books with his snapshots as well as sign the visitors’ notebook. He was accompanied by his wife Isabel Preysler and both were amazed. The author of various novels had outstanding words at the time for Martin Chambi.
“Without a doubt, in his images Martín Chambi undressed all the social complexity of the Andes. They install us in the heart of mountain feudalism, in the haciendas of the gallows and knife lords with their serfs and concubines in the colonial processions of contrite and drunk crowds, marriages, parties and first communions of the wealthy, and the drunkenness and miseries of the humble, and the public acts that one and the other shared, the sports, the walks. But he also transformed that world that he photographed tirelessly, ”he described.
“He imposed a personal stamp on it, a serious order, a ceremonious and somewhat ironic posture, an immobility that is disturbing and eternal. Sad and harsh, but also sometimes comical, when not pathetic or tragic, the world of Martín Chambi is always beautiful, a world where even the extreme forms of helplessness, discrimination and vassalage have been humanized and dignified”, he wrote. the.
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Martín Chambi, how the indigenous photographer managed to portray the majestic Andean world