Julio César Osorio is an Anglo/Colombian artist who lives in the U.K. In the late 1990s he visited Colombia, his birthplace. There, he initiated “Work, Play, and No Rest” which began as part of a university assignment. It developed into a five-year project that produced a book of 150 photographs reflecting the lives of disadvantaged children in Third World countries. Twenty per cent of the sales went to orphanages in South Africa and Peru. Several copies are now located in the British Library. The Healing Power of ART & ARTISTS is proud to present this article he wrote especially for our readers. Julio César Osorio is also a painter who discovered his talent at the lowest point of his life. His art can be viewed at juliocesarts.com
My Humanitarian Focused Documentaries
By Julio César Osorio
“I want all my images to convey an unbiased reality, depicting each layer of suffering, hardship, love and joy they experience at the time I reflect them.”
I was born in Colombia and brought to the UK in 1983, aged 12, to be reunited with my family, who had emigrated earlier.
Growing up in a developing country and then moving to the UK allowed me to experience and understand two very different worlds and has played a big part in focusing my interest in the social, political and environmental issues that affect the world. These experiences were the foundation of my passion for documentary and are the driving forces for my work in art, photography and film.
My approach incorporates a humanitarian element in my subjects, capturing them in their proudest moments with the light of hope and dignity illuminating their lives. I want all my images to convey an unbiased reality, depicting each layer of suffering, hardship, love and joy they experience at the time I reflect them.
The biggest rainforest in the world is being cut down at a rapid rate, doing irreversible damage to the region and, ultimately, the planet.
The timber is being sold worldwide to increasingly voracious markets and the deforested areas are used for animal agriculture.
Livestock farming is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emission, surpassing all worldwide transportation!
I had the opportunity to go to the front line of a study that my cousin, Catalina Trujillo Osorio, was directing with the National University of Colombia and had special access to the nature reserve, staying with one of the communities to document their way of life in 2007.
The project developed into the following:
Edge of Existence
Since records began 48 indigenous communities lived in the Colombian Amazon River basin, a nature reserve, governed by their own appointed leader with their own laws.
This remote region is located between Iquitos (Peru) and Tabatinga (Brazil). In the early 1990s the Indian population of the Amazon basin numbered about 600,000, of whom perhaps close to one-third lived in Brazil and the rest in the four Andean countries. However, by the early 21st century the Indian population had dropped to fewer than 200,000, partly as a result of deforestation and commercial exploitation on their lands.
There have been numerous studies since the 1960’s that have documented how contact with external cultures, access to markets, national programs of education and modernization are very powerful forces that have seriously altered the indigenous communities culture, environment and the consumer ideals they are have been exposed to through television.
The Big Picture
Rainforests are finally receiving the global attention they deserve. Individuals and governments are waking up to the importance of rainforests to the global environment and biodiversity, yet corruption in those countries is allowing masses of forest to be cut down for farming without licenses and the weak law enforcement to bring them to account. Illegal trawl fishing in the Amazon River is also a massive problem to the local community’s basic subsistence.
Investment in rainforest protection, in the form of carbon credits for preserving tropical forest, has been put in place, but is not well implemented. Eco-tourism to the Amazon area is booming, but unfortunately does not benefit the communities that live in the nature reserves – the towns immediately outside the reserves and the inhabitants are the true beneficiaries of the trade. All this booming business is increasing interest in the plight of the indigenous tribes that live there and as a result many youngsters abandon their communities and moving to Leticia, the capital city of the Amazonia county.
In 2007 I traveled to Letica, to join the National University of Colombia’s team to travel to Puerto Nariño, the town at the border of the nature reserve. I filmed them as they met several NGOs and government officials to start talks with representatives of each of the 48 communities which live in the nature reserve and discuss all the difficulties they were experiencing with education, health, farming, fishing and sustainability.
They then introduced a series of measures to help those communities, including:
* Reforestation incentives, which consisted of a small grant to every family that planted a set number of identified types of trees that need reforesting.
* Each family was also given with two heads of cattle to produce for dairy products, eventually generating some income for each family.
Two villages in the reserve were chosen to be featured by the University team conducting the study and are featured in the documentary, one being the furthest from civilisation as we know it, marked as 7 in the map below, to see how their ways of life have been affected by the outside world markets, featuring interviews with members of the community and first-hand accounts of the impact they’ve suffered.
We ended the 2007 documentary by investigating life in Puerto Nariño, the border town where the nature reserve begins, which adopted a complete recycling programme for its waste disposal. We also document how the aborigines sell their products and what they buy to take back to their communities.
I edited a documentary from the footage captured and last submitted it to the Sheffield Documentary Festival as I felt that now the general public are more aware of the global warming phenomenon and environmental issues the planet is facing. I felt the content would educate people on the issues hurting these communities and would hopefully instigate action to resolve the crisis.
“I felt compelled to return to the region a decade later to see what impact, if any, this new strategy had on the communities. Whether they were thriving or still dying…”
A proposal to complete the documentary, is available upon request, and invite your readers to contact me if you like to know more or feel that you can contribute to bring it to completion.
Visit Julio César Osorio’s website: juliocesarts.com
Julio César Osorio’s project is on Facebook:facebook.com/ExplovisionMedia