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Latin American Fotografia: Janet Jarman

By David Schonauer   Tuesday November 26, 2013

Photographer Janet Jarman’swork has been featured a number of times in Dispatches From Latin America; most recently, we spotlighted her photo-and-video project about the rarely seen world of Mexico’s southern Chiapas state, where she followed a faith healer named Sergio Castro as he went about his work filling in the gaps in Mexico’s health-care system. Jarman, who was born in the US and now lives in Mexico, has had her photography published in Geo, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, the Washington Post, and Stern, among other magazines. Perhaps her best-known work is a documentary project about immigration in which she followed a young woman named Marisol on a 15-year journey from Mexico to Florida to Texas. That series was featured earlier this year at the Visa pour l’Image photojournalism festival in France. She has received industry awards as well, from Pictures of the Year International Latin America, PDN, and Communication Arts.

More recently, she was named a winner of the Latin American Fotografía 2competition, for images that presented her with a profound challenge, both as a photographer and as a caring friend.

In August 2012, Jarman came to the aid of a someone she knew well, a US-born shaman named Grey Wolf, who was dying of AIDS. He needed anti-retroviral medication, but gaining access to the drugs in the Mexican public health system proved to be a daunting task.

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“We started trudging from hospital to HIV center to testing lab, only to be told time and time again that in order to get the medication, he needed more tests and more paperwork,” Jarman says. “His once proud body started to deteriorate. Hallucinatory dreams haunted him. He often lost lucidity. After two exasperating months, his T-cell count was down to 23.”

And then, just as the man began to lose hope, he and Jarman were guided to a research center for infectious diseases where doctors granted him the life-saving medication. Once again, he turned again to Jarman for help—not as a medical advocate, but as a photographer.

“The day doctors said they would give him the ARV treatment, he asked me to photograph him,” says Jarman. “He wanted to forever remember the day that he had hit his lowest point, and he wanted to bear witness that AIDS still ravages and kills."

Jarman photographed the man’s ravaged body, shrunken from a loss of 57 pounds in three months. She created her remarkable portraits with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Mark III, using a number of lenses, including a Canon 35mm f/1.4 lens, a Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens, and a Canon16-35mm f/2.8 lens.

“Through his battered body he expressed his despair, vulnerability and hope for the future," she says. "The intense photo session was a powerful and cathartic experience for both of us."

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