Catalina Martin-Chico, France

Catalina Martin-Chico, France

Catalina Martin-Chico acquired her knowledge of photography at the ICP, the International Center of Photography, in New York; today she lives in Paris. She has visited the Yemen regularly. She sees herself in a socially committed photographic tradition. Her work has been published in Le Monde, GEO, Spiegel, New York Times and Figaro magazine and has earned her multiple awards. Recently Catalina Martin-Chico has also created photo reports in the USA, in France and in the Caribbean, but the former FARC fighters remain close to her heart. They are women who had to abandon their babies or suffered up to five forced abortions, sometimes even in the late second trimester, because they were told that „the army has no children“. And who now pointed happily to their pregnant belly and told the photographer: „I have really earned this baby.“

Peace after 53 years of war. New life after 260 000 deaths. The freedom to love after all the prohibitions. Caring instead of fighting.

When, after half a century, an agreement was drawn up in Colombia between the Marxist FARC guerrilla and the government to end the killing in the forests, something like normality began from 2017 in the hideouts of the former fighters and in the 26 transformation settlements. Its special characteristic is a small baby boom.

What had been forbidden for the women of the roughly 7000-strong guerrilla before, because it would have made fast and secret movement in the jungle more difficult, they are now allowed again: giving life, having children. And a full 300 of them are doing it. They may, or would like to, believe in a future that is more than attack and flight, violence dealt and received, uncertainty and isolation.

Instead maybe integration and security, family life and recognition.

This „maybe“ comes out in the picture that French-Spanish photographer Catalina Martin-Chico took of a breastfeeding mother in a miserable, muddy, jungle camp between wet tents. Catalina Martin-Chico was in Colombia for more than just a snapshot; from June 2017 onwards she visited the country for several years; she has experienced and documented the extremely fragile peace process, from ceasefire to handing in the weapons, to many guerrilla fighters slowly returning to the villages and towns and the farmland of their relatives. A return to civilian life. And a departure from the dream of ever finding „El dorado“, the promised land.

In this sense the image chosen by our jury as outstanding among Catalina Martin-Chico’s photo reports is a kind of snapshot after all. Because it shows a hope that has not come true for everyone. Hundreds of former FARC fighters have been killed since the official peace agreement of late 2016; there are even signs of a new spiral of violence in Colombia.

So this – as pictured by the photographer: children splashing around in a tub; families gathered round a baby or a meal; men and women in hammocks; girls in pretty dresses; fathers kissing their little boys; women putting on make-up – this is what peace looks like. This is how it should be. And yet, how fragile it seems. (Text by Peter-Matthias Gaede)

Discover more: Shortlist 2020, Winners 2020