El Testigo: Witnessing the Colombian Internal Armed Conflict through Journalistic Photography | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


Colombia has suffered from a complex internal armed conflict for over fifty years. The war has left millions of victims of crimes against humanity and a deeply wounded society. Most of the victims belong to marginal groups such as peasant and ethnic minority communities and have been systematically unrecognized in the public sphere. This paper will focus on two photographs of the exhibition El Testigo, first opened in 2018 but closed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and now reopened again to become part of the permanent collection of the museum Claustro San Agustín. The exhibition displays a comprehensive collection of photographs taken by the photojournalist Jesús Abad Colorado between 1992-2018 and show the horrors of the violence that the victims of the conflict had to endure. The main goal of this paper is to compare the images of this exhibition with previous images circulating in the mass media to reflect on the framing of representations of violence and on how different framings of war can serve different purposes. I will argue that the photographs of El Testigo contribute to imagining the unimaginable nature of violence by bringing to the present fragments of the past that need recognition, especially today when Colombia is facing a stage of transition towards the maintenance of peace since a peace treaty was signed between the FARC guerrilla and the Colombian Government in 2016. The photographs therefore elicit an ethical treatment of violence and contribute to the configuration of a collective memory that strives for the victim’s recognition and justice.


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