The history of photography is filled with the names of great artists who captured the spirit of a moment in single frames that somehow speak with a power beyond words. They are figures like Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Robert Capa — and unsurprisingly they are almost exclusively from the US and Europe. Of course, that doesn’t mean that other countries don’t also hold their own claims to artistic genius, and there is perhaps no clearer example of this than the Colombian photographer Sady González.
Born in Bogotá in 1913, González is revered as one of Colombia’s preeminent photographers and has left an indelible mark on the national imagination through his rigorous and beautiful documentation of La Violencia, the social upheaval that racked his country from approximately 1948-58. While many Colombians versed in the history of their national culture will recognize the importance and artistic value of González’s work, his limited reputation in the international arena still does not do justice to the man’s genius.
Thankfully a new documentary entitled Sady González: una luz en la memoria has recovered the photographer’s legacy through in-depth interviews with friends and family who reflect on the power of his images, the historical significance of his work, and his gregarious character. Directed by Margarita Carrillo and his son Guillermo González, the doc allows us to meditate on the the photos that defined González’s vision and captured the unrest of mid-century Colombia. In truth, little more is needed than the melancholy poetry of his photographs to understand that we are in the presence of one history’s great masters of the still image.