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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Some of Diaz’s photographs are historical documents; some are art; and some are both.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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Memory is a deceptive companion, a gauzy mist through which one sees the past. In The Altering Eye, writer and photographer Zoraida Diaz grapples with the fragility of memory as she navigates personal and professional milestones with the help of her camera and her recollections.

Diaz., who was born in Colombia and spends most of her time in the United States, recounts indelible memories of her childhood and her passions when she is out from behind the camera. With one around her neck, she has pursued the likes of drug lords and rebel groups. 

She compellingly tells her stories with a mixture of the cooler distance of a news photographer and a tenderness of one whose eye, while altering, is compassionate. 

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