Works in Progress - Summer 2020

Steel Amid the Fire

By Natalie Keyssar | June 2, 2020
Natalie Keyssar
Natalie Keyssar

In 2014, New York–based photographer Natalie Keyssar traveled to Venezuela to document a growing wave of antigovernment protests. She immediately fell in love with the country, and what began as a routine news assignment grew into an ongoing photo series, Hazme un Milagrito (“Make Me a Little Miracle”). Named for a song about revered Venezuelan saint Maria Lionza, the series focuses primarily on the situation from a woman’s perspective. While acknowledging that she will never fully understand the Venezuelan experience, Keyssar hopes that her photos reflect “a complexity and humanity and sense of reverence for beauty that goes beyond traditional news coverage.”—Jayne Ross

The crisis in Venezuela is a profoundly important story with rippling effects that take a vast toll on the country, but the Venezuelan people are much more than victims of a crisis. I’ve really tried to stay away from a victim narrative and focus instead on empowerment and resilience. I think framing people as victims automatically ‘others’ them, and it makes it hard for North American audiences to understand that violence, hunger, and destabilization of the social fabric could easily happen to anyone, anywhere.

This image was shot in 2016, a year when food shortages were starting to peak and the working-class barrios of Venezuela began to break out in unrest, in response to endless food lines and grinding hunger. On this day, a riot had broken out among the hungry waiting in line for hours to buy food, and the situation exploded into a shootout involving the national police force, protesters, and local gang members who stepped in to defend their community. That was happening down the block, but the image that stuck with me from that moment was this one, of a young woman walking out of the barrio as many scurried toward their homes because of the gunfire. She looked angry—determined to get on with her day, to go wherever she was going. In the middle of all that, the soldiers were eyeing her in a way women know all too well, and you can see her rage. I think this image speaks a lot to being a young woman in these circumstances.

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