The format is familiar; books are grouped into themed sections and described through key images and notes on how and where the photographer fits into a broader social, cultural and visual history of a region. And while many of the names are familiar (Testino, Sanguinetti, Calderon, Larrain), the vast majority will be new to all but the most dedicated photobook aficionado.
The themes tell the story; visual discourse mixes with literary discourse, brash colour rubs up against low-rent bure bike, and revolutionary fervour meets military oppression.
The city, political violence and social discord are dominant. "If I denounce and condemn injustice, it is because my obligation as the pastor of an oppressed and humiliated people," begins the introduction to The Forgotten Ones, a quote from Monsignor Oscar Romero, the priest assassinated by an El Salvadorean Death Squad in 1986. Photobooks on urban poverty, psychiatric institutions and the disappeared are shown. Sara Facio and Alicia D'Amico's Humanario details Argentinian psychiatric institutions, but it was a book 'condemned' to 'the black market and back room sales' due to the military coup of 1976.
The Color and Contemporary Photobook sections move things forward. Books on wrestling, farming, football and living life to the full appear, bringing us to current developments in Latin American photography. And in addition to the visual feasts of cover shots and the full gamut of layouts, there are insightful commentaries that fits them into overarching social and cultural contexts that reach out into the big, wide world beyond photography.
Colin Pantall is a UK-based writer, photographer and teacher - he is currently a visiting lecturer in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales. His work has been exhibited in London, Amsterdam, Manchester and Rome and his Sofa Portraits will be published as a handmade book early next year. Further thoughts of Colin Pantall can be found on his blog, which was listed as one of Wired.com’s favourites earlier this year.