Student movement narrated in photos

Photographs telling the story of the Chilean Student Riots will be on display beginning Friday, March 6 in the Stewart Gallery in the Grinnell Arts Center.

This photo series, by Chilean photojournalist Geir da Silva is titled “Inside: Chile’s Student Movement” and creates a narrative of the protests in Chile in 2006.

“It’s a series of photographs but they’re all installed at the same level to form one continuous story,” said Christian Lutz, the executive director of the Grinnell Area Arts Council.

The photos tell the story of the peaceful student movements in Chile that fought for free universal higher education.

“There was a very small group of anarchists that were causing violence at the same time as the student protestors,” Lutz said.

The photography show makes a narrative of the student protests. Photo by Jun Taek Lee.

The photography show makes a narrative of the student protests. Photo by Jun Taek Lee.

A native of Chile, da Silva hoped to look at the protests separate from these acts of violence.

“The Chilean media wanted to connect the two groups and did so in their coverage of the events,” Lutz said.

This discrepancy between actual events and media coverage is what da Silva chose to highlight in his personal documentation. The efforts by the Chilean government to demonize the protestors and delegitimize their cause was the drive behind da Silva’s desire to have the photographs form a cohesive story.

“He wanted to document what the student protests were really like, in that it was peaceful in nature, it was nonviolent and that the media was making this unfair connection,” Lutz said, speaking of da Silva’s mission.

A lofty goal, da Silva saw the importance of protecting the autonomy of the protestors and ensuring that their actions were not devalued by a loud minority of anarchists.

“He basically documented the movement over a period of four years,” Lutz said.

This thorough exploration of the protests has produced a large body of work, on display through March 26. The photo exhibit provides an important point of comparison to other cultures for students at a time when student movements and protests are becoming more visible and influential.

“[The subject matter] is something that we ordinarily don’t see every day because American protest movements are different in how they form and how they act as opposed to what’s in another country,” Lutz said.

Da Silva is in Grinnell for the year with his wife, Anita Rojas Rodriguez, a visiting professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at the College. Da Silva and his family have become part of the Grinnell community and the unexpected opening at the Stewart Gallery has made it possible for his work to be appreciated by those who have gotten to know him during his stay.

“Knowing that he’s a temporary member of our community is the reason we wanted to display his work,” Lutz said.