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Book Review - The Altering Eye


There are many striking moments and piercing images in "The Altering Eye," and its best essays are by turns heartbreaking and bittersweet, with a sadness, or perhaps nostalgia, tingeing the whole. The beauty of Zoraida Diaz's photographs and concentrated, distilled prose is most effective when coupled with a sense of loss and the erosion of time. For a frozen instant, though, Diaz brings precious moments and vivid characters back to life in the intensity of her captured memories.

I especially liked "Baile Rojo," with its masterful final placement of the image of a young rebel fighter first mentioned many pages before, after we discover what became of him in later life; "The Decisive Moment," about an iconic photograph not taken; “A Thousand Words Are Not Enough,” about Diaz’s father; and "Rebel Love,” about an epic mule-back journey to meet Colombian rebel leaders.

Some of Diaz’s photographs are historical documents; some are art; and some are both. The occasional more theoretical framing was mostly lost on this non-academic reader, but as an authentic rendering of the sharp-end experiences of a professional journalist in Latin America in the period she describes, Diaz’s collage of text, image and memory nails it.

Disclosure: I briefly worked with the author in Peru and Cuba as a Reuters correspondent

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