SAN SALVADOR – The true stories of armed conflicts take place in the post-war period, but that phase doesn’t interest photographers or journalists, who leave the scenes of carnage when the fighting is over and a peace accord has been signed, prize-winning photographer Gervasio Sanchez told EFE in an interview.
“A post-war period doesn’t interest journalists – when the war is over, everyone takes off. I, on the other hand, stay and keep working. I’ve had it with journalists and photographers who think what’s most important about an armed conflict is their involvement in it and what it means to their work,” Sanchez said.
Surrounded by 40 photos that are part of his exhibition “Vida” (Life), being inaugurated this Tuesday at the Cultural Center of Spain in El Salvador, the Cordoban Sanchez recalled his trip through a Central America at war, and noted how important it is to be once again “a photographer in a post-war period.”
For that reason Sanchez, who has stacked up multiple prizes for his work in conflict areas around the world, returns to those places when the stories of the war victims are forgotten, as in the case of Central America.
The photographer said that every time he comes back to Central America, “it’s a reason to recall my first years as a reporter, because I was very young, just 23 years old when I came to this region plunged in civil wars, and I learned to be a photographer and a journalist.”
“Being here (in Central America) fills me with satisfaction now that I’m almost 60 years old with some 40 years of experience in conflict areas...it was here I learned that the real stories are after the wars end,” Sanchez said.
The winner of the 2019 King of Spain International Journalism Prize in the Radio category for his part in the SER Network team in the serial “Vidas Enterradas” (Buried Alive), said his experiences in Central America, especially in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, taught him “how tough wars are, and that their civilian victims are the only unquestionable facts about them.”
For Sanchez, “war victims are not numbers, they are unfinished stories, people who have died because of the indecency of war and the business of conflicts.”
“The dead and the survivors are not numbers, they are unfinished stories. When I see a child , a teen or an adult that dies, I don’t think of that person as an unknown, I think of what their lives would have been like if they hadn’t been killed or wounded,” he said.
Sanchez believes that wars only end “when the consequences become so monstrous that a review of the past is made so as not to repeat the mistakes that have harmed so many civilians.”
Some of those consequences are portrayed by the Spaniard, who has also been a spectator at internal conflicts in Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Peru.
The work of the photographer, who has received many honors, among them the 2008 Ortega & Gasset Prize for Photography, includes entire books of very powerful photos of the conflicts where he saw many people, many friends and colleagues die.
His latest work, the photo exhibition “Vida,” is a mix of little-known images with others previously displayed that distinguish him as an artist.
Sanchez has also been working for 24 years on a project he calls “Vidas Minadas” (Mined Lives), in which he documents the harmful impact of mines on civilians in 10 countries.
He started the project in 1995 before the war in Bosnia was over and where the Spaniard was also on hand as an observer. His intention is to present it in November 2022.
The exhibit will also include victims of different countries that include El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Mozambique.