This Agency Empowers Latin American Photographers to Tell Local Stories on Their Own Terms

A boy eats Brazilian farofa, which is made of toasted manioc flour, Photo by Joao Castellano/Native Agency

Photojournalism has long been the realm of white men ­– which puts it in league with virtually every other institution on the planet – but with a technological revolution democratizing access to both equipment and platforms, it was only a matter of time before all that started changing.

Yet even with growing visibility for photographers hailing from regions like Latin America or Africa, their style and subject matter is still very much conditioned by the legacies of those same white men. Even today, otherized images of poverty and violence dominate representations of non-Western countries, and photographers from within those regions can often feel implicit pressure to reproduce this external narrative.

Inside a house for rituals and dances dedicated to Yemanjá, a female water god of Orishá Afro-American culture. Andaraí, Brazil, Photo by Tamara Merino/Native Agency
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“Photographers from Africa and Latin America think the western gaze is how you make it in the industry, that poverty and blood-drenched photos are the ones that are going to sell because it’s the one that is portrayed the most,” summarized Colombian photo editor and curator Laura Beltrán Villamizar. “This is what makes it to the news. This is how western photographers get their stories.”

That’s precisely why Beltrán teamed up with Colombian documentary photographer Federico Ríos to form Native Agency: a collective of visual storytellers from across Latin America and Africa that seeks to empower local perspectives and help talent from underrepresented regions break into the highest echelons of photojournalism.

Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or F.A.R.C., build tents for guests who attend the group’s conference, Photo by Federico Rios Escobar/Native Agency
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First dreamed up in 2014, Native now counts 16 photographers from 15 countries among its ranks – many of whom are women – and provides an important platform for innovative, non-Western storytelling. Throughout Native’s portfolio, photographers break free of tired clichés while offering a fresh, novel take on familiar themes: FARC rebels, Afro-Brazilian religions, and Ecuadorian indigenous traditions, among others. Take a look at some of the most stunning images below, and be sure to visit Native Agency’s website for more information.

A girl bathes in a river in Peru, Photo by Musuk Notlte/Native Agency
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Benito Ramirez from Rojochique community. Sierra Madre, Chihuahua, Mexico, Photo by Lujan Agusti/Native Agency
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Photo by Emilia Lloret/Native Agency
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