LIMA – The War of the Pacific was not only one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of Peru, but also an open wound for almost 50 years, as long as the occupation of its southern provinces remained occupied, according to the new book by journalist and researcher Renzo Babilonia.
“Guerra y Fotografia” (War and Photography), to be presented next Monday at the Lima International Book Fair (FIL 2016), is a compilation of the research and photographic documentation done over several years by Babilonia, one of Peru’s leading experts in war photography.
This is a graphic and documentary study of several of the most significant phases of the conflict between Peru and Chile that broke out in 1879 and which, though it formally ended in 1883, kept simmering until the first decades of the 20th century, as long as the occupation of the southern provinces of Tacna and Tarata lasted.
“This isn’t so much a history book about the War of the Pacific, it’s a book about the history of war photography, a war understood through images understood visually, it’s the Peruvian point of view about what happened,” Babilonia told EFE.
The researcher, who has published two other books on the War of the Pacific, notes that his new work shows “the war and post-war in pictures.”
“For a country with some of its territory occupied, the occupation does not exist in time alone, but in all that happens there. That can be tougher than the war itself,” he said.
The book contains photos from the Couret archive, the best known in Peru, and from Chile’s Spencer archive, plus pictures from other collections such as that of Jamaica-born British-American Walter Runcie, who took photos of Tacna’s attempted plebiscite in 1925 and of Peruvian war heroes growing old.
In his research, Babilonia applied the thesis of British historian Peter Burke, who said that understanding a photo requires “an individual interpretation, because not all that one sees is true.”
Right, says the Peruvian, because in a photo, particularly of the 19th century, “there’s a lot of theatrics.”