What should a good photograph accomplish? In my opinion, a good photograph should make the viewer feel something. It should make the onlooker feel happy, sad, angry, shocked, excited, or curious. That’s exactly what photographer Gustavo Germano’s photographs accomplish. They tell a story, and they tell it with emotion.
In the late 1970s, early 1980s, Argentina had a dictatorship/military-run government. During this 7 year period, over 30,000 people were “disappeared.” Disappeared, meaning kidnapped, tortured and murdered, all for being suspected of plotting against the government of the time. People were disappeared based on rumors, suspicion, and in some cases based on nothing at all. The country still feels the pain of that horrible time in their recent history. Photographer Gustavo Germano captures some of the horror and loss that has been felt by family and friends of the disappeared in his photography series “Ausencias” or “Absences.”
“Ausencias” takes old snapshots that feature friends and family in a normal setting: on vacation at the beach, having a picnic, getting together for a meal at a friend’s house. Germano took the original photograph and then recreated the same scene, but with one important thing missing: the disappeared loved one.
In the first photograph you see two brothers with their girlfriends in 1973. The second shot was taken many years later and you’ll notice that Raul is not present. Germano not only photographs the remaining loved ones, but he also recreates the scene down to the position of each person, facial expressions and body positioning. This creates a very moving image that really demonstrates the absence of the missing person.
Argentina’s military dictatorship ended only 30 years ago. It is a part of history that is still very fresh for most Argentines. As a foreigner, it’s difficult to truly understand what it must have been like to live in Argentina during this time. One of the reasons I found these photographs to be so moving is because they really make you feel the absence of these people. One can’t help thinking of their best friend, their sibling, their child or their parent when looking at the faces of the remaining loved ones.
Here Clara Atelman de Fink is pictured with her son in 1974, and then alone in 2006.
Brothers in 1975 and 2006.
A young couple in 1975. Both were disappeared, as you can see from the haunting photo of the empty beach in 2006.
A missing sister.
Laura lost both of her parents to the military dictatorship. Many babies were kidnapped from their mothers during this time and adopted by affluent families who supported the government. There is a strong movement in Argentina to reunite these missing, now adult, children with their surviving family members.
Here Germano is pictured with his brothers. Perhaps the loss of one of his brothers was the original inspiration for this photo series. Either way, his photos represent an important and tragic part of Argentine history. Through his work we get a glimpse of the loss that was experienced during this dark time and is still felt today.