Archiving the Andes in Photographs

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Student Research Reports, Summer 2018

Advertisement of photographer Modesto M. E. Chacón, published in El Sol, February 15, 1908. (Photo by Ana Lucia Tello.)
Advertisement of photographer Modesto M. E. Chacón, published in El Sol, February 15, 1908. (Photo by Ana Lucia Tello.)

Archiving the Andes in Photographs
By Ana Lucia Tello

During the summer, I conducted research on itinerant photographers that travelled across the Andes in the first half of the twentieth century. I was intrigued by the possibilities of self-representation that these photographers offered to marginalized groups. My first stop was Lima, where I visited the photography collection at the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI). At MALI, I accessed the pictures taken by Sebastián Rodríguez, an itinerant photographer that temporarily settled in Morococha, Junin, a mining town in the Andes. Next, I travelled to Cuzco to conduct research at the Fototeca Andina, at the Centro Bartolomé de Las Casas. At the Fototeca Andina, I focused my research on two photographers known for their work outside the studio: Crisanto Cabrera and Fidel Mora. While in Cuzco, I also visited the library at the Universidad Nacional San Antonio Abad del Cusco (UNSAAC). I went over newspapers and magazines published in Cuzco between 1901 and 1940, looking for photographers’ advertisements. Finally, I made a last stop at Arequipa, where I visited the private collection owned by Adelma Benavente. Having been unable to find information on Benavente online, I was enormously impressed with her knowledge, enthusiasm and generosity, on the one hand, and with the scale and organization of her collection, on the other. Her collection contains more than three thousand glass negatives and more than sixteen thousand digital images, as well as painted backdrops and photography equipment catalogs from the early twentieth century. This was the greatest finding of my whole trip to Peru. In the future, I plan to return to Arequipa and stay there longer to better familiarize myself with Benavente’s collection. Because it contains photographic archives found in Arequipa, Cuzco and La Paz (Bolivia), it is a great resource to study the connections between these three cities in the Southern Andes. My recommendations to others conducting similar field research are to be patient- since most Latin American archives do not work in the same way as its US counterparts-and to always be open to new resources. 

Advertisement of photographic equipment, published in El Comercio, August 2, 1930. (Photo by Ana Lucia Tello.)
Advertisement of photographic equipment, published in El Comercio, August 2, 1930. (Photo by Ana Lucia Tello.)

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