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Bay Area photographer Matthew O’Brien documented Colombia from his unique vantage as a long-time visitor, straddling the line between traveler and insider while living in the country off and on from 2003 through 2013. Using a Polaroid camera, O’Brien photographed Colombia in a way that contradicted the stereotype of the country as a war-ravaged narco-state and more closely reflected reality for most who live there, as well as for the tourists who visit. Having a foot in both worlds brings together a body of work that shows many of Colombia’s contours, outside the wars we here in America have heard so much about.

O’Brien collected his Colombian Polaroids in a new book called No Dar Papaya: Fotografías de Colombia 2003-2013 (Icono Editorial/Placer Press). The book’s title comes from a common Colombian expression that has nothing to do with tropical fruit, but instead roughly translates to “show no vulnerabilities and present no easy target.”

As a longtime documentary photographer—O’Brien won the Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography in 1998—he first went to Colombia to work on a project about beauty pageants called Royal Colombia. He later wound up teaching at different schools throughout the country and eventually got a Fulbright to continue working on the project that would eventually become No Dar Papaya.

The book’s 190 images show a depth of appreciation for a country not seen enough in photography, especially by an outsider looking in. Portraits, landscapes and more photojournalistic images work together to given a well-rounded sense of the country.

First shown in Colombia in 2013 and 2014, 24 large prints from the book are now on exhibition at the Colombian Consulate in San Francisco from May 4 to August 3, with a talk and signing on July 19.

Left: Carmen de Viboral, 2010; Right: Santa Marta, 2011

Left: Cartagena, 2003; Right: Bogotá, 2005

Left: Punta Gallinas, 2011; Right: Salento, 2010

Left: Bogotá, 2013; Right: Cali, 2010

Left: Medellín, 2010; Right: Cabo de la Vela, 2011

Left: Cali, 2010; Right: Cartagena, 2010

Left: San Andrés, 2005; Right: Urabá Antioqueño, 2011 

Left: Acandí, 2011; Right: Acandí, 2011

Left: Playa Salguero, 2013; Right: San Andrés, 2005

Left: Pereira, 2005; Right: Cartagena, 2010

Left: Capurnagá, 2011; Right: Manizales, 2010

Left: Cartagena, 2010; Right: Medellín, 2004

Left: San Andrés, 2005; Right: Salento, 2010

 

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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