At a road junction on the edge of a village, two nuns walk past three patrolling soldiers. The road surface is shattered and the houses show no signs of human habitation. The eyes of nearly all the people appear to be focused on the photographer, making him part of the picture. These gazes and the dynamics of walking lend the image an undeniable tension, an almost theatrical character. These qualities and, above all, the photographer’s visible involvement in the event that he is capturing are typical features of Koen Wessing’s work. This picture is part of Wessing’s 1978 report about the city of Estelí in Nicaragua, which had been bombed by President Somoza’s army in an attempt to put a stop to the Sandinista offensive. Wessing also photographed in other Latin American countries in the 1970s and 80s – Chile, El Salvador – capturing situations in which the abuse of power, repression and the resulting misery played a role. The French semiotician Roland Barthes felt that this photograph contained the essence of the documentary image. However, the context of the photograph and Wessing’s position in the narrative, which he created in order to provide insight into a harsh social reality, are of at least equal importance.
© Koen Wessing 2005


Translated title

From: Nicaragua 1978



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30.8 x 40.6cm.


gelatin silver print on paper

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