Subverting the Everyday
In his project “Un día dentro de los días” (A Day Within the Days), Argentine photographer Santi García set out to document the life of a community of fishermen in the Gulf of Fonseca, Nicaragua. His images do not seek to hide the prevalent poverty in this region, nor do they place it in the forefront. Instead, they witness the beauty and pleasure experienced by this community, even in adverse circumstances.
By Alonso Almenara
“Today, I finally broke the ice with the fishermen. Blessed be football, blessed be mate, blessed be Messi.” This entry from Argentine photographer Santi García’s diary recorded the exact moment he initiated his project “Un día dentro de los días,” which documents the daily life of a community of fishermen in La Salvia. That afternoon, Santi was walking along the beach, holding a mate, when he saw them playing soccer. Until that moment, he had been the odd outsider, the foreigner who had arrived in a Nicaraguan village with a camera summoned by an NGO. He approached them, and one of the fishermen asked, “Hey, Argentine, do you know how to play soccer?” And that’s how it all began, he recalls: “It was the most beautiful part of the trip.”
Santi hails from Patagonia, is 28 years old, and has traveled throughout Latin America for three years. He has worked for independent media as a freelance photographer. “I would have loved to work as a photojournalist, but, as you know, it’s very challenging to make a living from that today.” So, he decided to travel and, with his camera, undertake various projects to sustain his journey. While he has done commercial photography, what truly interests him is embarking on projects like “Un día dentro de los días.” Here, he reacts against a certain kind of documentary photography: one that sensationalizes poverty without regard for the dignity of the people.
Located on the western edge of Nicaragua, La Salvia is a low-resource and difficult-to-reach area that traditional media would typically condemn to dubious news coverage. The region lacks even basic services like clean water and electricity. “Nevertheless, the community lives, works, educates itself, and enjoys its days, nature, the sea, and its countryside amidst earthquakes, an active volcano, heavy rains, and torrential storms that constantly change the arrangement of giant trees,” says the photographer.
Fishing is the primary source of work here: from a young age, men prepare nets to head out to sea in search of shrimp, lobsters, and fish, while women push the boats that set sail into the gulf at five in the morning and later, at noon, receive them back to prepare lunch for the entire family with the day’s catch. There is where Santi fell in love with soccer again—a marvelous game that connects us through a ball—and where he launched this visual documentation project. He hopes to replicate its logic in other regions in the future.
“I would like to replicate this work in other communities and countries. I don’t want to dwell on that typical catastrophic view of certain media that document the lives of communities affected by environmental, social, or political problems. It happens, and it’s serious, and people must know, but it also happens that these individuals live, develop, play, and study. In La Salvia, they live their daily lives with great dignity. And I’m sure the same happens in Peru, Bolivia, or Argentina communities. I would like to bring this project to those places, to every place where I can have that human contact.”
How did “Un día dentro de los días” begin?
I arrived in the Gulf of Fonseca through an NGO called Health & Help, which provides medical and humanitarian assistance in the area. I’ve been traveling throughout Latin America for quite some time, and I’ve always been interested in these types of projects. I spoke to them, and they said they needed a photographer to document the activities of the clinic they manage there, and they accepted me.
As a result, I started walking through the community, and I felt the need to tell the everyday life of these people: how they sustain themselves despite the lack of services, extremely precarious education, and how the community endures. I never noticed a sense of fatalism or a discourse like, “Here, progress is impossible.” For them, it’s normal to wake up at five in the morning to prepare their things and head out to fish. I found that quite interesting because I felt it was a relatively normal life, often very joyful. Of course, poverty exists in La Salvia, and it is explicit. There are quite severe health issues due to nutritional deficiencies, and with no clean water, numerous stomach and respiratory illnesses arise. But, despite that, life goes on. As I got to know the place, I had the idea of depicting a day in the life of these people: what the daily existence of the fishermen is like, how the women live.
What aspects of this everyday life were you interested in exploring?
One of the things I was interested in showing is the community’s relationship with the sea. I asked them several questions about that. I didn’t receive very extensive or concrete answers, but one response stood out. One of the fishermen told me, “I can’t define something so vast, but I know the sea gives and gives to everyone. Because here, we are from Nicaragua, but those boats you see in the distance are from El Salvador, and these others are from Honduras.” Their relationship with the sea is very strong. Yet it is also ambiguous because, with no waste collection system in the community, there is a lot of plastic waste, which also causes problems.
Beyond their relationship with the sea, I was also interested in capturing their relationship with the land where they live and where they almost always walk barefoot. It is volcanic sand since they have an active volcano just a few meters away, although a myth persists that it could erupt at any time. I am very interested in the symbiosis they have with nature.
How long did this documentation process take, and how did your relationship with the community develop?
I stayed there for a month and a week. I would have liked to stay longer, but it was impossible due to bureaucratic reasons. I didn’t take any photos in the first ten days, so the work was concentrated in a period of approximately three weeks. Since my arrival, the community caught my attention, but I couldn’t find a way to establish communication. I was a foreigner there, even though everyone knew I was the clinic’s photographer because information spreads quickly in the community, which consists of only 60 or 70 families.
The contact finally happened through soccer. They play soccer every day. They head out to fish very early, have lunch upon their return, and then have some leisure time playing soccer and cards. So, I decided to approach during that downtime. One of them asked me if I wanted to play soccer, and from there, I went to play every day. I wasn’t used to playing in that climate—we played under the sun with 38 degrees. However, that allowed me to, at least at that moment, be one of them.
From that moment on, I always brought the camera. I wanted them to get used to the device, not to see it as an occasional presence but as something always with me, something routine. During those conversations in the downtime, I took photos. Fortunately, there was a great atmosphere: they never gave me dirty looks or felt uncomfortable.
Now, I must say that the children in the community are all characters. Every time they saw the camera, they would run to pose or ask me to take certain kinds of photos. My relationship with the children led me to have a relationship with their mothers, which was very nice. It was a short time, but with great intensity because I didn’t want to use those days to take photos but interact. I hope that personal and human interaction is reflected in the images.
Is this work complete, or do you still want to develop it further?
I would like to replicate “Un día dentro de los días” in other communities and countries. I don’t want to dwell on that typical catastrophic view of certain media that document the lives of communities affected by environmental, social, or political problems. It happens, and it’s serious, and people need to know. But it also happens that these people live, develop, play, and study. In La Salvia, they live their daily lives with great dignity. I’m sure the same happens in Peru, Bolivia, or Argentina communities. I would like to bring this project to those places, to every place where I can have that human contact.