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FotoFest 2002 Exhibits
Organized by FotoFest

Hombres de Carbon, Luis Lares

Hombres de Carbón is the first U.S. presentation of Venezuelan photographer Luis Lares' powerful contemporary documentation of the mythic heartland of Venezuela's metallurgical industry. Lares' images of the physical structures of the manufacturing plants and the men who operate them belong to the best of an honored tradition in photography - the photography of industrial workers associated with Lewis Hines, Margaret Bourke White, Sebastiâo Salgado.

The huge industrial complex of Ciudad Guyana and Matanzas in southeast Venezuela is a region surrounded by jungle and anchored between two great rivers, the Orinoco and Caroní. It is a region of myth and great natural wealth, the birthplace of the world for some and a center of finance for others. Its history has been one of exploitation: from the pre-Columbian times when indigenous peoples used the forests for hunting to the export of gold, rubber, diamonds, and coal in the centuries after the Spanish Conquest and War for Independence.

In the 1950's the region's wealth of mineral resources led to the building of the country's largest industrial complex of metallurgical factories. Alongside the petroleum industry, these industries were the centerpiece of the country's economic development.

Luis Lares, David Conde, 1993. "Hombres de Carbón"

Luis Lares was the first independent photographer to photograph these industries, both the huge physical structures of the factories themselves as well as the men who worked there. The work was done over a ten-year period. In their directness and clarity of detail, Lares' photographs are neither denunciatory nor utopian. Alongside desperation and fatalism, they maintain a sense of beauty and poetry. Ultimately, it is the strength and humor of individual workers that prevails.


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