Ariana Cubillos' grip and grin picture of representatives from Venezuela and Russia posing for the media after signing documents on joint oil operations is saturated with many meanings. The image shows the ministers of two countries dwarfed by a larger-than-life poster of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, who is suffering from cancer. The curious juxtaposition of Chavez staring passed the smiling dignitaries and into the glaring media spotlight provides a glimpse of the man's omniscient presence in the country, even as he nears the end as some claim.
Chavez's oversized mug acts as a panopticon -- the 'all-seeing' eye of power. Michel Focualt describes the panopticon as having the ability to induce a "state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power."
Photo by Fernando Llano
As Chavez languishes in a Cuban hospital after cancer surgery four months ago, the extreme blowups attempt to keep his likeness front and center in the Venzuelan consciousness. The pictures act as surrogates forming a collective cultural memory of the leader, a prescienct reminder of Chavez' present suffering.
The ever-present presence of Chavez in the news cycle represents a link in a chain of associations imposed upon the public -- a rhetorical strategy not uncommon in the ceaseless need to establish a national mythic narrative as well as maintain power and dominance.
Between 1987 and 1996 I documented displaced and repatriated communities in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Chiapas, Mexico. This album represents some of the images made in more than a dozen trip to Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s.
I having been writing about visual culture, ethics, photojournalism, and social media. In 2006, American Photo Magazine named this blog a "Top Innovator" for writing on photography. My work has been published in more than 8 languages and has been included on many websites, online magazines and in books. The opinions and views expressed here are my own and I am solely responsible for the content. In addition, this is a non-profit and educational blog and with no commercial interests.
Please contact me at email@example.com