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A Closer Look -- Los Restos de la Revolucion

Los Restos de la Revolucion by Kevin Kunishi
Despite the profound impact that the United States has had on Nicaragua, I expect that most Americans' knowledge of the Sandinista revolution begins and ends with the Iran-Contra scandal. Twenty years past, effects of that war are still visible. Having studied US foreign policy in Latin America as an undergrad, photographer Kevin Kunishi traveled to Nicaragua focusing on the remote regions that saw the heaviest fighting. He stayed there for months, visiting with people, staying in their homes and asking to be told stories of the conflict. His documentation process was intuitive and organic; elements that come through in the easy presentation and relaxed nature of the images in Los Restos de la Revolucion, his new book published by Daylight.

While Los Restos is a documentary project, Kunishi's work is in line with many contemporary photographers whose photographs blur the distinction between documentary and fine art. What the best of these projects achieve is a more nuanced description and understanding of their subject, one that connects with emotional and personal realities rather than dwelling on capturing a cold historical timeline. Kunishi's project and this book are fine examples of this. Seeking traces of the civil conflict, now many years removed, Kunishi's photographs give credence to the lasting turmoil of those years, uncovering the scars of the conflict without having to excavate into an unrelatable past.

Los Restos de la Revolucion by Kevin Kunishi

Los Restos de la Revolucion by Kevin Kunishi

The book begins with a three line poetic preface, setting the stage for a series of quiet but powerful images. The book's sequencing gives us only a general sense of location and we experience it with little more than the information we know about the project. We see lush forests, old graffiti, the remains of an American-issued landmine and portraits that are particularly arresting -- memory seems to hang in the air around Kunishi's subjects. Evidence of the war is captured in images of yellowing documents and fading photographs, yet they are mingled with proof of life moving forward, children play at a swimming hole, a young girl in graduation cap and gown. The photographs are moving on their own, but the real punch comes at the end of the book where the images are given titles and often a line of description. Suddenly, an eerily shaped white room is identified as a once over-crowded prison, we learn that the AK-47 featured in one image was buried by the man who holds it after the fighting ended, carefully dug up for the purpose of the photograph, and the small artificial rose marks the grave of an American volunteer kill by the Contra. The delay in information is ultimately quite effective; we connect with the images first, making the added information feel more intimate.

Los Restos de la Revolucion by Kevin Kunishi

The book's printing is not the best, though this perhaps matters less in a book like this, one that exists more as a document than a catalogue of prints. Even so, it is a powerful object, and Kunishi's images are beautiful enough to get lost in. I'm exited to add that we'll soon be releasing a portfolio of Kunishi's work on the Photographer's Showcase. -- Sarah Bradley

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