Stephen Ferry: Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict

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Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict (Umbrage 2012) documents Colombia’s continuing internal conflict, a complex and tragic war that is barely understood outside of the country. This photographic work focuses on human rights and on the struggle of Colombian civilians to resist the violence, often at great risk to their own lives.

The Colombian Conflict is usually portrayed as a “drug war,” a protracted battle between narcotics traffickers and the law. Violentology contests this official version, revealing a far more complex and disturbing reality. The product of ten years of photographic documentation and investigation, Violentology, exposes the role of all parties to the conflict – Marxist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, and state security forces – in committing atrocities against the civilian population.

This tabloid-size book is designed to engage the sense of touch as well as sight,  in reference to the act of reading a newspaper. Violentology is printed on the rotary press of the legendary Bogotá daily, El Espectador, which became world-famous  after Pablo Escobar  bombed the newspaper’s offices in 1989. This press uses a prize-winning “heat-set” process, which bakes soy-based ink hard onto the page. The paper is 70 gram weight “Bulky” newspaper stock. The presence of several images by Colombian news photographers further grounds this work in the tradition of press photography.

As an emphatically physical object, Violentology is especially relevant at this point in the history of journalism, appearing at the very moment when the printed press is being replaced by the web. It is thus a reaction to the virtual world of today’s journalism, a manifesto in favor of the printed press as vehicle for transmitting information and conveying emotion.

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