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Who are the photographers capturing a new Colombia?

Colombia is in a different state today than it was during the turbulent (and later glamorized) years in the 90s. Though while drug cartels may not have the same reach and influence, they still dominate much of what goes on in the country. For the rest of the world, most of what we see comes from Colombian photographers, risking their lives in pursuit of honesty and transparency.

In 2000, Baruch Jairo Vega, a Miami Beach fashion photographer, brokered the surrender of 114 Colombian cocaine traffickers to U.S. authorities. Seemingly a noble action, it turned out that Vega was playing both sides for fools.

Four years later, he was sentenced to four months in federal prison for failing to report money he made on the deals. Has a photographer ever so (almost) expertly played both sides before?

The Colombia that Vega would venture into isn’t the same as the one today. But photographers are still risking a lot whenever they enter the South American land. Here are a few Colombian photographers documenting the new status of the gateway to South America.

Jesus Abad Colorado

Colorado was awarded Latin America’s most important journalism prize, the Gabo award for journalistic excellence [Jesus Abad Colorado]

Jesus Abad Colorado is a Colombian photojournalist focused on human rights and armed conflict. In 2019, he was awarded Latin America’s top journalism prize, the Gabo award for journalistic excellence, for years documenting violence in Colombia.

“I understand journalism as memory, not the record of a single day. I see it as building the larger narrative of a country.”

Jesus Abad Colorado

For his country, and even his hometown of Medellin, that meant years and years of war. Even after the infamous Pablo Escobar’s demise, Colombian cartels raged.

Still, for Colorado, now he is reacting to a slightly changed world in Colombia. And the question for him will be, where does his work take him next?

Girl looks through a bullet hole in the window of her apartment in Medellin in 2002 [Jesus Abad Colorado]

Joana Toro

A woman part of the indigenous etnia Nasa is knitting in middle of a Minga (It is a pre-Colombian tradition of community work or voluntary collective work for purposes of social or reciprocal benefit.) (via @joanaphoto)

Joana Toro is a documentary photographer and art educator. She has created over half a dozen series of her photographs, one of them titled, “Colombia on My Mind.

This series holds a collection of stunning photographs, with the brief description reading, “I was born in a country with an on-going civil war, just like my mother and grandmother. Colombia on My Mind is a personal journey that reflects how Colombians live and raise their families, and conduct their lives with this endless situation of corruption, impunity, pace processes and war in the background.

The interpretations of these images depend on the subjectivity of the viewer. For me as a Colombian, life in my country is a state of waiting, living every day in the middle of invisible boundaries that divide our country. The wonder of peace.”

Joana Toro

For this Colombian photographer, beauty is seen everywhere. But often it is through the margins, through the depths of depravity that corruption conjures up.

Toro also shoots much of her photography in New York City.

Stephen Ferry

This Colombian photographer is American, but finds much of his work bringing himself to Colombia. Self-described as a non-fiction photographer, Ferry seeks to cover what he sees in its purest essences.

His book, Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict, chronicles ten years of documentation and investigation into the armed conflicts in Colombia. It received the first Tim Hetherington Grant, awarded by World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch for long-term documentation of human rights issues.

Thus, while it is true that the armed conflicts in Colombia over the past decade are not as globally famous as the Narcos 90s and aughts were, they are clearly still ravaging the country. Dedicated photojournalists like Ferry deserve our solemn respect, admiration, and support.

Colombian photographers are essential to capturing the state of the nation

Corruption, armed conflict, destabilization in the gateway to South America. Hell, for those of us wise enough to admit it, America is the same damn way right now.

Colombian photographers are capturing a new nation in many respects. The 20s in Colombia will be largely remembered by the way these dedicated photographers capture it. Let us not forget that.

J Balvin is putting on for Colombia as one of the biggest artists in the world

If you had two ears in 2017, it’s safe to say you’ve heard the song “Mi Gente” by now.

It’s just one of those records that’s constantly spinning on the radio, climbing the charts daily, and they even have a version with Beyonce (which has over 100 million streams) where daughter Blue Ivy has a line in the song.

And if you haven’t heard it yet then consider checking it out.

I’m also sure you might be wondering exactly who is the man behind this massive song. That would be none other Jose Alvaro Osorio Balvin, aka J Balvin.

He is a reggaeton/Latin pop artist by way of Medellin, Colombia who has gained fame all around the world now ranking number 10 in the Billboards hot 100 and holding a spot on the list for 20 weeks in a row.

You may also recognize him from the remix he made back in 2015 to Justin Bieber’s, “Sorry.”

Now at 32, Balvin left Colombia when he was just 17 and decided to move to the U.S. with his best friend.

As a young child, he was always interested in music and watching the music videos and quickly created his own unique style.

His career started off when he was signed to EMI Colombia in 2009 and released his first single, “Ella Me Cautivó,” coming in at 35 on the U.S. tropical chart. His views on YouTube range from 2 million to 1.3 billion. His song “Ay Vamos” hit #1 on Billboard’s Hot Latin songs chart.

He performed live Nov. 16, 2017 at the 18th annual Latin Grammy Awards with Steve Aoki, Bad Bunny, and French Montana.

J Balvin has also worked with other artists such as Nicky Jam, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Robin Thicke, and has gone on tour with Pitbull & Enrique Iglesias. In 2017, he won an iHeartRadio music award for Latin Album of the Year.

He was even described by Billboard as, “the greatest discovery of latin music in many years”. He has had many accomplishments and is finally being recognized.

He has toured across the U.S, Italy, Spain, Germany, and many more. He is currently on his “Energia” tour.

J Balvin has been well-known in the Spanish music industry for quite some time now and has stated in the past that he is not interested in being successful and not famous.

But now that he’s being exposed on a global scale, his records are making waves unlike any other contemporary South American artist out there. His people are proud of what he represents and that’s what’s making him so successful.

Balvin wants to make people aware of Latin music and bring his culture and type of music to others who may not listen to his music and collab with different artists. And he has made it pretty clear his crush and dream collaboration would be with Rihanna.

His style over the years has changed drastically. He now is fully tatted, likes to dye his hair all kinds of crazy colors, and is big on name brands and definitely has a unique style to him.

He also has a magnetic personality which is why over 19 million people follow him on the gram.

He recently dyed his hair a highlighter yellow and posted it on Instagram story saying “let the memes begin” and later posted a meme someone made of him.

While he’s making hit after hit, he still likes to joke around and doesn’t take things personal. An an age where many artists let their egos get the best of them, J Balvin is nothing like that.

One thing to admire about him is how humble he seems to be and that he constantly mentions his family and how thankful he is to have them.

He’s already one of my favorite artists to follow as he continues his rise as one of the biggest artists in the world