The world is my base and my curiosity my compass. Moments are the fundamental target of my camera. During my journey around the world, I have had lots of different moments but this one was particularly memorable.
At the time, I was studying digital photography in Bogota. As part of the documentary class, we were asked to deliver a project about the presidential election that was held in Colombia in May 25, 2014. I was not particularly inspired by the topic and decided to treat the subject/theme/issue of blank vote as I noticed a big political discontent amongst the Colombian citizens.
I still hadn’t found a convincing project, when I came across a few hundred people who had set up a camp on the Plaza de Bolivar in front of the mayors’ office of Bogota. They were the so called “desplazados” (IDP – Internal Displaced People)
The armed conflict and the massive scale of human rights abuses by illegal armed groups in Colombia had resulted in extensive loss of land by internally displaced people (IDPs) over the last decades. Upon re-locating to or within urban centers, IDPs encountered less access to basic necessities such as housing and livelihood opportunities than their im-poverished neighbours.
When these people saw my camera, they asked me to take photos of them to show the world the desperate situation they had been for years. They thought international pressure would finally lead the Colombian government to fulfil the rights of victims to reparation and property restitution. They decided to make another attempt while the presidential elections were taking place hoping to make the society aware of their case.
I took the first photos on May 16, 2014. On May 19, 2014 one of them called me at 23.30 pm to tell me to come fast as the police were about to clear them away. I was lucky to live around the corner and was able to get there in time. The police had surrounded them and were pulling them out of their provisional camp, tearing down the tents and placing the material into the garbage truck. They resisted and were beaten by the law enforcement. The violence escalated when the officials took their children away from them and put them on a bus.
Government forces also took their mobile toilets away forcing them to do their necessities on the street. Without their tents and under pouring rain the people were forced to take shelter underneath plastic sheeting and used anything they could find to soften the hard stone of the Bolivar Square. On May 22, the police surrounded them and wouldn’t let anyone inside in order to make them give up by depriving them of food and water. It was only on May 23, 2014 that they accepted to leave the square upon signing a document, which acknowledged them as internally displaced people.