How Photography Can Build Peace and Justice in War-Torn Communities

We did this in Colombia. This is a country that has been at peace for more than fifty years, with left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries fighting alongside government forces.

The people of two villages in the northwest of Mexico, San Jose de Urama and Las Cruces, were asked to describe what they saw as everyday indicators of peace and justice in their community. We call these “everyday peace indicator.”

A group of villagers selected some of these indicators of justice and harmony to photograph through workshops that used a research technique called ” Photovoice.” The villagers then displayed their personal and collective photo stories in an outdoor community exhibition.

These communities were interested in using photography to not only document the aftermaths of war and violence but also to promote peace actively.

Photos about justice and Coexistence

People in San Jose de Urama were looking for justice and wanted to know that the government and armed groups would tell the truth about war and that former guerrillas could build families. The truth would bring peace, reparations, and rest for victims and end the violence.

Former guerrillas are building families.

Francy Yulieth Manco Ferraro is an 18-year-old photographer from San Jose de Urama. She believes that the ability to leave her home at any given time is a crucial element in coexistence. She wrote about this photo: “In a time of uncertainty and doubt, we can rest assured that we won’t hear guns when we leave our house to work on our land or harvest our harvest. We will be free to walk around our community without fear.”

People can be on the streets at any time. 

Leidi Johanna Agudelo-Higuita is one of many photographers who used their work as a tribute to the older members of their community, who survived the war and helped keep their communities alive.

Truth brings victims peace of mind, relief, and reparations: “I had to endure a war I didn’t choose. The truth will free us, I think. I will never forget that I was a captive in my own country. I will never forget what I am today, a survivor and a dignified farm worker.’ Leidi Agudelo Higuita CC-ND

Three generations of the family attended the Las Cruces photography workshop together. A grandmother, mother, and daughter. The mother, Yenifer Yuliana Higuita Bedoya, stressed the importance of family unity.

Families now have more time together: “These moments are ideal for forming lasting bonds, which help you overcome adversity and teach you the principles and values you need to be an effective member of society.” Yenifer Yuliana Higuita Bedoya, CC BY-ND

Yuliana David Hidalgo (15) also drew the attention of other photographers to the importance of children being able to play without fear. She describes her photograph as follows: “Before when gunshots were heard, people would hide under their beds or in a safe place within the house. Now, kids hide under their beds or in safe areas because they are playing hide-and seek.”

You don’t have to hide under your bed to be protected from bullets. Yuliana Andrea David Hidalgo, CC BY-ND

Paula Andrea Pino Sarrazola is a photographer who hails from San Jose de Urama. She highlighted the importance that their culture of mountain farming places on collective work. She explained that “Grandparents say, ‘You only need one hand to clean the other and both hands to wash your face.'” “That is what a minga means. People who don’t have enough money to pay for day laborers ask others to do it, and they are then repaid. Many farms and businesses were saved from bankruptcy in this way. “A minga, or collective workgroup, saves lives, protects land and democracy, justice, and peace.”

Community members help each other with important tasks, like tending to livestock. Paula Andrea Pino Sarrazola, CC BY-ND

The way people treat street animals and the state of the roads are also indicators that coexistence is possible.

The state maintains Urama’s access roads. Tatiana Durango Rincon, CC BY-ND

In one of its collective photo stories, the group from Urama captured the dilapidated condition of their cemetery. The caption read: “The decay of the cemetery is testament to the way the dead are neglected.” The weeds are eating away at the tombs, just as our memories are being eaten by our minds. It would be a good thing if we all worked together to keep it clean and beautiful, to honor the memory of those who have passed on.

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