Collective Isolation in the Sibundoy Valley, Putumayo-Colombia-2020

by | Jun 29, 2021


Photos by Nicoló Filippo Rossowere chosen with an honorable mention for the digital photo exhibition, “Documenting the Impact of Covid-19 through Photography: Collective Isolation in Latin America,” curated in collaboration with ReVista and the Art, Culture, and Film program at Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS.) 

The exhibition, based on an Open Call for Photography launched in July 2020, aims to create a critical visual record of our unprecedented times so they can be remembered by future generations. 

Since the time Rosso submitted his photos, 14,000 people in the Putumayo region have been sickened by Covid-19. We choose to end this Collective Isolation essay series with his work, as it is a reminder of the time when Latin America waited for the pandemic to descend–and it did with a vengeance. Rosso’s photos illustrate the daily life to be preserved in the tumult of the last 15 months. As he writes, these photos mark a “suspended moment” in the time of the pandemic. 

I was in the Sibundoy Valley, in the Colombian Amazon basin, visiting friends of the indigenous Kamëntza community in February 2020. I realized soon that the pandemic was about to hit Latin America and that mobility would have been reduced. Assignments and travel got canceled and I decided to stay among friends and protected by the Andean mountains surrounding the valley. While the virus spread quickly all around Colombia, the geographical isolation of the Valley has maintained the area safe. Collectively quarantining by the rest of the country people grow food and protect themselves from the virus through traditional healing rituals and medicinal plants.

After months living with my friend Javier, who is a traditional healer, and his family I look at these photographs as a memory of a suspended moment in our lives hovering between the tranquillity of country life, and the fear of contagion.

Nicoló Filippo Rosso is an independent documentary photographer living in Colombia. He focuses on long term projects documenting social and human rights issues in Latin America. His work has received international recognition such as the World Press Photo, the Getty Images Reportage Grant, and others. 

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