A boy’s funeral procession in Puerto La Cruz, a man sucking on a bone he found in a garbage bag, a woman wiping tear gas from her face, a nursery inside a women’s prison, hundreds standing in line, waiting for hours for something to eat. These are some of the images that are portrayed, alongside the testimony of the men and women that made putting a face to the crisis possible.
Yesterday, TIME turned the focus around and spotlighted the work of those who risk their lives and equipment to capture moments that sometimes words fail to fully do justice to.
Here’s more on the piece:
They are in the streets with the protesters and the officers, breathing in the same tear gas. They are in the lines for food and other basic goods, watching the same citizens who arrive empty-handed before sun-up leave empty-handed as night falls. They attend the funerals, and hear the wails of the parents of the dead.
TIME asked eight of them to select an image from their archives. Their tales, which have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity, offer a window into Venezuela’s reality.
The stories are heartfelt and give a broad glance at the trade. For example, according Alejandro Cegarra, who had to cover Gabriel’s funeral, a five-year-old boy who died from a grenade explosion in 23 de Enero, photographers are beyond mere witnesses:
I felt the need to try to help his soul to find some peace. The camera wasn’t a shield. I didn’t want it to be a shield and I was crying just like everyone else. To this day I still think about Gabriel and his mother, and this encourages me to talk to the people I photograph and try somehow to understand and make other people know the pain and the grief of losing a loved one.
For Oscar B. Castillo, it’s a snapshot to a bleak, repetitive reality that through weariness has become accepted. A moment in the middle of chaos when the camera allows one to stop, look around and let the viewer wonder how we ended up in this abyss:
“They think about how long a minimum wage salary lasts when there is rent and school tuitions to pay. And what about the transportation, the uniforms, the supplies? They haven’t yet purchased medicines, nor paid for the electricity, the water, the phone, the clothes, the food.
I see the scene and wonder how it is possible to be so indolent. How can the leaders play with the food of a whole population? We will see if they will be able to stop the anger that follows the hunger—a brutal thing, like these endless lines.“
Being a journalist is dangerous profession, but being a photojournalist takes it a step further. Journalists can rely on themselves to report, but photographers will always depend on their equipment, something security forces are well aware of.
Yet, despite the risks, they still go out and do their best. They immortalize the expressions, the wounds, the chaos and, on top of that, some of them manage to find, against all odds, some semblance of beauty. Or as Adriana Laureiro Fernández shares in the piece:
“If I ever have to explain my country to other people, it is under those terms: people in a terrible situation always find these little places that make them forget about how terrible it all is. I so often find myself in the middle of a terrifying setting and the breeze blows, or the sun sets, and I am left in a purgatory: between heaven and hell, between beauty and terror.“
Have a look at the images and read about the people who made them possible.