Daniel Henández Salazar’s evoking imagery
Posted on August - 24 - 2016
History can only be understood backward, but it must progress forward, yet some painful memories can make this onward movement challenging, and past scars may become obstacles in the way. When regarding Daniel Hernández Salazar’s work, it becomes almost impossible to detach it from his home country’s violent and disturbing recent civil war and its heartrending consequences.
Born in Guatemala, Hernández Salazar was first interested in architecture but then transitioned into photography, working as a photojournalist until dedicating fully to his personal projects in 90’s. Hernández Salazar’s work as a photojournalist in the 80’s brought to light what was happening in rural areas of the country. His images, although crude and shocking, bear the tragic beauty bound to the truth that they reveal.
Hernández Salazar is one of the most influential photographers of his generation. He has made notable contributions to the artistic field with his series of photographs and portraits. Nevertheless, his deep social commitment has led him to document the atrocities of the Guatemalan Civil War and it’s aftermath, such as the REMHI massive written report in 1998, the assassination of Monsignor Juan Gerardi and subsequent strikes for justice.
In the middle of this social turmoil, Hernández-Salazar’s iconic polyptych Clarification became the image of a social and political awakening. His photograph So That All Shall Know became a symbol of awareness and resistance towards the corrupt and oppressing forces who vainly tried to cover their former crimes.
His work stepped out of the exhibition wall and into the public sphere. The artist not only intervened transited areas of Guatemala but has also traveled to international historical places of human devastations in countries such as Japan, Germany, Poland and Argentina to carry the image of the howling angel, screaming for justice.
The importance of his work has not gone unnoticed internationally, and he has participated in several international group exhibitions. For his humanitarian work, Hernández Salazar has been awarded in 1998 the Jonathan Mann Humanitas Award from the International Association of Physicians in Aids Care and was named Knight of the Ordre Des Artes et des Lettres by the French Government in 2005.
In 2014 he presented a retrospective exhibition in Belgium entitled Memento Vitae/ Memento Mori and in 2015 he composed an extensive exhibition entitled Guatemala se reb(v)ela were he presented several nude portraits of various models, questioning the social taboos about nudity in conservative societies.
Aside from his artistic activism, Hernández Salazar also portrays other aspects of life. In his series Faces of Music, traditional musicians are depicted with solemn postures and grave facial expressions, subtlety elucidating an ancestral wisdom that persists quietly in their traditions.
The work of Hernández Salazar is bound to Guatemala’s history, and his images have infiltrated themselves into the collective memory of a whole country, whose past is still trying to hold its ground and pave the way for a brighter future.
By: Gabriela Martínez Dela Hoz