Installation DVD RT 15:06 Trailer 1:40
The full version of My Latin American Odyssey has been exhibited at Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City and other venues. It is available for exhibition as a video installation in both English and Spanish.
Journalists are expected to work with detachment–just the facts. As I look back on the history I have witnessed and reflect on the intuition that has drawn me time and again to Latin America, not only do I wonder if this is possible, I question whether it is even desirable. If I wasn’t searching for something greater than facts, if I did not see my own family’s story paralleled in the places I’ve visited, I doubt I could have made any of these photographs.
My Latin American Odyssey is a reflection on the intermingling of personal experiences and historical memory that have been my intuitive map on my photographic journeys in Latin America. Looking back on the stories that have ignited my passion with a sense of purpose, I realize that they have roots in the imagery of the stories I heard as a child. Were it not for metaphorical parallels with my own Irish and Italian immigrant family history– I doubt I would have felt so strong a compulsion to document the stories of young people struggling with issues of trauma and violence and impunity—in Los Angeles, Central America and Colombia.
My parents both came from large peasant Catholic families who valued “family” above most things. My artist father, son of Italian immigrants, taught me when to engage and when to ignore those who derided “wops” or branded us Mafiosi in the days before The Sopranos made Italian mobsters domesticated and beloved icons of pop culture. My immigrant mother, born in an Irish émigré enclave of Glasgow Scotland, spoke of “Americans” as if they were aliens we were living among while waiting for the day we could all go “home.”
For nearly thirty years my home has been a journey to Latin American places as vivid with struggles, sorrows, dreams and poetry as my mother’s memories of her ancestral roots in Donegal. Ultimately it is our memories that form our truth. I remember injustice and struggle. But my most enduring memory is of ordinary people, all over Latin America who daily cast off despair and prejudice with courage and grace.
I first created a version of this autobiographical installation back in 2002. It was Saint Patrick’s Day and a group of Irish writer friends had gathered in San Francisco to celebrate and consider what it meant to be diaspora “Irish” in the 21st century and post 9/11. Robert Owen “Bob” Callahan the dreamer of the Before Columbus Foundation and many other pioneering cultural endeavors was a major force in bringing us all together. He asked me what my Irish roots had to do with my engagement and passion for Latin America. I am forever grateful to Bob not only for years of inspiring friendship but for asking me that simplest of questions. He sent me on a journey back into my childhood memories mining those intuitive connections that drive us all.