Los Todos Santeros

Photography by Hans Namuth, conservatorship and assembly by Cristina Orive at Proyecto Cultural El Sitio, Saturday, February 20, 7pm

Hans Namuth was born in Essen, Germany in 1915. In 1933, shortly after Hitler came to power, he was arrested for distributing anti-Nazi literature. To assure his safety, his father was able to obtain a tourist visa permitting his son to enter France. In 1936 Namuth traveled from Paris to Barcelona, Spain, on a work assignment with his friend, Georg Reisner, to photograph the Workers Olympics for Vu Magazine. The day before the inauguration the Spanish Civil War broke out. Namuth stayed on in Spain to document the conflict. His photographs were published in many magazines as well as the book Spanisches Tagebuch 1936 (Nishen, Berlin, 1986).

He returned to France where he joined the French Foreign Legion. After his discharge in 1940, with the assistance and financial support from friends and the Emergency Rescue Committee, Namuth made his way to the U.S., arriving in New York City in 1941.

He lived there until his untimely death in an automobile accident in 1990. He was 85 years old. During his 40-year career, Namuth photographed almost all of the artists involved in the Abstract Expressionism movement. Though he was well known in his field, his portraits and video on Jackson Pollock made them both famous.

In 1947 Hans Namuth made his first visit to Todos Santos Cuchumatán with his French-born Guatemalan wife Carmen Herrera. He returned to Todos Santos after the great earthquake of 1976 that took the lives of many Guatemalans. The changes he saw in Todos Santos persuaded him to photograph the entire population of the town. The project began in 1978 and concluded in 1987, with Namuth making several trips a year to complete this work.

“The indigenous seem to understand instinctively what I want from them; we communicate with looks and gestures. The most important thing is empathy and mutual trust. This is a formula that has never failed me.”
—Los Todos Santeros, Hans Namuth, (Nishen, London, 1989).

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