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40,000 photos of Martín Chambi? Yes, it is a reality. Large archive has been protected for posterity

After a process that began in 2021 and will officially culminate in August of this year, 40,000 photographic plates from the Martín Chambi archive have been recovered, digitized and catalogued. This has been possible thanks to the execution of the project “Rescue and safeguard of the Martín Chambi photographic collection”, created by the Martín Chambi Association, which two years ago won the award from the United States Ambassador’s Fund for the preservation of Cultural Heritage. .

Roberto Chambi, president of the association and grandson of the photographer, tells how this process developed: “Since we organized ourselves in 2019, we have managed to have his work recognized as Cultural Heritage of the Nation, we made an agreement with the National Library of Peru and we won this fund. With the money obtained, we formed a work team of technicians and professionals led by the photographer and curator Mayu Mohanna, and we began the rescue and recovery work first, to then digitize and catalog the work”.

To work with the archive, they had the support of students from the Diego Quispe Tito University, for which Roberto Chambi points out that a group specialized in photographic conservation has been formed. “TOAdditionally, we have acquired equipment and tools that are stored at our premises in the city of Cusco, where we have also conditioned a heated vault to preserve the salvage. We still need more investment so that the vault is in perfect condition, but the environment is regulated in terms of temperature and humidity. The 40,000 negatives, glass and flexible material that are over 70 years old, are safe, and when their cataloging is finished they will be put online to support research on the inspiring work of Martín Chambi“, Add.

However, the work does not stop there. The recovery came hand in hand with an educational project focused on recovering the memory of the place, which is why at the end of April an exhibition was inaugurated in Andahuaylillas (Quispicanchi province), which runs until June 25. There are 60 unpublished photos, recently rescued, that depict Martín Chambi’s passage through that area. The photographic memory, then, feeds the memory of the population by showing them the testimony of their past.

reinterpret the teacher

At the age of 14, Martín Chambi (Puno, 1871–Cusco, 1973) left his home in search of a destiny. Although the purpose of his departure was to find a way to survive, it is not unreasonable to say that the young Martín was also looking for a purpose in life. And he found it in the photograph.

Students from the Colegio Fe y Alegría 44 in Andahuaylillas learned about and reinterpreted the work of Martín Chambi in an educational work that favored the recovery of the memory of the community based on the work of the master of photography.  (Photo: US Embassy)

On his tour, Chambi portrayed the society of his time, both rural and urban. But it is his passage through southern Peru that brings us together today, since the project that worked on the rescue, digitization, and cataloging of his archive also contemplated memory recovery work with the community of the Quispicanchi province. For this reason, 55 students from the third year of secondary school —the majority of whom are 14 years old— from the Fe y Alegría school in Andahuaylillas, participated in workshops in which they learned about the work of Martín Chambi, specifically the one that includes the photographs that he took in this area. , and they had the opportunity to reinterpret them. The result of these workshops is exhibited until June 25 in that town, along with 60 works by Chambi. This kind of group exhibition is the first to show the photographic work of the master in the heart of southern Peru.

Walk forward

Roberto Chambi, director of the Martín Chambi Association, says with evident emotion that the exhibition in Quispicanchi marked a milestone in his organization. “Our fundamental purpose is to disseminate the work of Martín Chambi through educational and research projects that promote the preservation of the visual memory of the Andean region. After finishing the workshops in Andahuaylillas, we will start new workshops in August with a school in Ocongate“, Add.

Mayu Mohanna, head of the recovery project, highlights the work with schoolchildren: “Not only did they get to know Chambi’s work, but they also worked based on their family and local references, creating photographic products that reinterpret his work, giving it a new meaning.”.

When the exhibition was inaugurated – and as this plan was financed by the US Ambassador’s Fund for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage – the US ambassador to Peru, Lisa Kenna, said: “The educational program is as important as the preservation of the original Chambi plaques. Spreading the importance and significance of his work among the youth of Cusco is what will give continuity to his legacy”.

Thus, in the eyes of a new generation, Martín Chambi is reborn in the heart of Cusco.


Visit the exhibition in Cusco

The exhibition is held at the Cenecape Ccaijo premises, in the theater of the San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas parish. It goes until June 25. Admission is free.

Source: Elcomercio

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