Koen Wessing's 'Indelible Images' on Display

For the first time, Koen Wessing’s shots of Chile in 1973 are on show in situ at Centro Gabriela Mistral, near the very streets where history unfolded that September. As one of the few photographers to capture the events during the coup d’etat of Salvador Allende’s government, the late Dutch photographer offers an exclusive window on that crucial event in Imágenes indelebles ("Indelible images"), on display until April 30.

 Photo by Haylee Magendans
Photo by Haylee Magendans

Including shots cataloging the massacre following Archbishop Romero's assassination in Nicaragua in 1978 and the Sandinista revolution in El Salvador in 1980, the award-winning collection of Wessing’s most iconic photos focuses on the abuse of power in Latin America. Wessing died February 2 this year, 38 years after he recorded his photographic account of Chile’s coup. He was involved throughout with the project to bring this exhibition to Santiago and has posthumously achieved this goal.

 Photo by Haylee Magendans
Photo by Haylee Magendans

Wessing had managed to obtain access to the prisoner camp at Estadio Nacional, allowing him to capture events as they unfolded. Upon entering the prison camp, Wessing throws a packet of cigarettes to a prisoner. The prisoner fumbles and drops it. As the cigarettes fall, a guard leaps. His gun is lifted -- not to shoot, but because he has forgotten about it in a shared moment of human weakness.

Humanity, history and honesty are all on show in Imágenes indelebles. However, the lack of any information posted for each photo limits the impact to a superficial level. A recorded interview with Wessing sheds a refreshing light on the photos, not as works of art but rather as testimony to the events and subjects. Wessing resists the temptation of the interviewer to claim unnecessary depth to his work, pointing out that one woman, staring directly through the lens at the observer, is doing so simply because Wessing was holding a camera.

Take the guided tour, available on the hour every hour, to avoid missing out on key background about the works in the exhibit.

Imágenes indelebles
Closes April 30, 2011
Free entry
Centro Gabriela Mistral
Av. Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 227
Sala de Artes Visuales (Building B)
Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 8pm
Sunday, 11am to 8pm
Metro: Universidad Catolica

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