Dark clouds gathered in the late afternoon sky in anticipation of the last storm of the summer. Inside, a DJ set the needle down on the 45-rpm version of a Jorge Ben classic just as the rain began to fall. Flecked by the light of a disco ball on the circulation desk, a convivial crowd had gathered to chat, snack, and enjoy the fact that it was almost Friday. The occasion was Field Notes, the fifth annual LLILAS Benson student photography exhibit and competition, held in the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection on the third Thursday in September.
Photographs from a summer of study, both abroad in Latin America and in Latina/o communities in the United States, hung in the Benson’s first-floor corridor, and visitors took in the images with interest and curiosity. The photos themselves expressed the range of experiences, viewpoints, and settings encountered by the student photographers: Ruijie Peng’s prize-winning photograph, taken in Ecuador, depicts Chinese and Ecuadoran workers standing in hard hats among rocky debris at the site of a hydroelectric construction project; the other prize winner, by Mariana Morante Aguirre, was snapped in Guadalajara, Mexico, outside a hostel along a railroad route used by Central American migrants and transient Mexican nationals alike.
In Mario Mercado’s photo, a trumpeter plays on a San Juan sidewalk in front of exuberant graffiti that invokes the instrument’s brassy sound. In a lovely image by Charles Wight, a lone boat floats on the Rio Negro near Manaus, Brazil. Our gaze turns skyward via the lens of Felipe Fernández Cruz, who photographed airplanes flying in formation against a clear blue sky above the Christ statue in Rio, the wings in identical posture to the outstretched arms of O Redentor. (A history student, Fernández went to Brazil to study how the twentieth-century state built air routes to colonize the interior.) A stunning black-and-white image by MFA film student Álvaro Torres Crespo shows two boys fishing from a pier under a cloudy sky at dusk in Puerto Jiménez, on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific Coast.
Some student researchers encountered roadblocks both expected and unexpected…