Revisa el siguiente artículo escrito por Sarah Dunn* acerca del artista Sebastián Castañeda quién recibió el primer premio en la categoría festividades, tradiciones y religión del Pictures of the Year Latin America contest organizado por la National Geographic. (Devotion At a religious ceremony in Ayabaca, Peru, pilgrims often crawl on the ground seeking penance. The photo won first place in the holidays, traditions & religions division).
A Peruvian native born in Lima, no one would guess that Sebastián Castañeda actually graduated from law school at the University of Lima in 1999. However, since 2002, Castañeda has been unwaveringly dedicated to photography, specifically photojournalism. Earlier this year, his report on Iraqi refugee children was exhibited at the Visa pour l´Image festival in Perpignan. This past week, he was awarded another pretigious award at the Pictures of the Year Latin America contest, held in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The annual award ceremony recognizes photographers with Latin American origins, or who are living in Latin America today.
According to National Geographic, the number of applicants for the contest has grown from a few hundred to 1,500 since its first contest in 2011. Its an important event, as it facilitates conversation about the future of journalism and photography in addition to drawing attention to Latino photographers. According to the producer of this year’s contest, Janet Jarman, the contest “draws attention to a very important and dynamic part of the world, at a time when the media still tends to focus on other regions.” In addition, Jarman believes the new feature of streaming the judges’ conversation and debates about the photos are now streaming online will facilitate more participation from aspiring photographers around the world.
Sebastián Castañeda took home the first place award for his series in the “Fiestas, tradiciones, y religión” category. The images he submitted were of the annual Refuge of the Soul festival that took place on October 13 in Ayabaca, the Northern Andes of Peru. Every year, groups of Pilgrims who call themselves “the Brotherhood” travel to the region from Chile and other corners of South America with nothing but a cross they carry on their back and a backpack with supplies for survival. Some have been making the pilgramage for six months, while others recieve special permission to get out of prison temporarily to fulfill their promise to the “Divine Captive.”
Other pilgrims travel 80 kilometers on foot over the course of three days, following the statue of Señor Cautivo that is brought to the church. The festival attracts fifty to eighty thousand people each year to ask for forgiveness, innerpeace, or even miracles. During the festival, flowers, candles, and incense align the street to welcome the pilgrams.
The series brings the viewer on the spiritual journey depicted. The photos portray the intensity of the pilgrimage and how the trials of the journey contribute to the emotion and desperation felt when they arrive. Some of the pilgrims featured are dragging heavy crosses, or crawling desparately towards their destination. All the photos are black and white with high contrast, which seems to be what the photographer has prefered throughout his career.
According to Castañeda himself, “I think colors distract, they lead the eyes astray… With black and white, our attention remains on the picture.” When asked about his attendence at the festival, he said because he was raised Catholic, “I feel a deep admiration for these people and their faith. For me, all religions are equal. I’m only here to document certain religious rituals.” Castañeda manages to maintain objective detachment from his subjects while simultaneously capturing the emotion of them. Clearly, Castañeda understands the power of photography as a means of documenting and celebrating culture.
Castañeda hopes to publish a book about religious rituals throughout Latin America.
* Sarah Dunn is a writer, photographer, and actor who explores the intersection of politics and art. She has published several articles and makes short films in her spare time.
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