After completing his highly personal study of love, his book ‘Sabine’ (2004), Jacob Aue Sobol was at a crossroads in his career. His next move, the year after ‘Sabine’ was published, was to travel to Guatemala to undertake a new documentary project. Despite adopting a more traditional documentary approach, the photographer aimed to carry with him the same sense of closeness with his subject, in this case the Gomez-Brito family. He lived with the family in their home for a long period, studying Spanish so he could talk to them. Sobol spent time working with the men and the boys on their land, and with the women and the girls in the house. Only when there was a level of mutual trust did he begin to take photographs. Here, he tells their story in his own words.
The Gomez-Brito family lives in a remote area of the mountains in Guatemala near the village of Nebaj. Nebaj is part of the Ixil-triangle–an area of three towns that maintains one of the strongest indigenous cultures in Guatemala. Even though natives make up the majority of the population in the country, they are still discriminated against in many ways. Most of them live in poverty and many work on farms earning a wage of 2-3 dollars a day.
"Even though the chance of change in their life is most unlikely, all the children have different dreams for the future."
- Jacob Aue Sobol
In the late 1970s and 1980s, the Ixil region was engulfed in a civil war, killing and displacing thousands of Ixil Mayans. During the war, the portrayed family lost their youngest child, who died of hunger and disease when hiding in the surrounding mountains. Today, in the very same mountains, the mother Juanita and the father Andrés live with their nine children. Unlike many other families from this area, they have succeeded in keeping the family together by working hard on their own pieces of land. From early morning to sunset, their daily routine consists of: collecting berries and other fruits, cultivating the land (which mainly consist of corn and beans) and breeding the animals.
Even though the chance of change in their life is most unlikely, all the children have different dreams for the future. Maria, 7, wants to continue school and get an education, Faustino, 18, is eager to find a way to enter the USA, while David, 6, claims that his wish is to take over the family’s land, when his father retires.
– Jacob Aue Sobol
Prints from this photo story are now available to buy as a Magnum Distro. Harking back to the analogue days of photo distribution, the Magnum Distribution is a full photographic story in an envelope. Each pack contains eight 8×10” prints, hand-stamped with the Magnum Collection stamp and the photographer’s copyright stamp, and accompanied by a printed page detailing the story and individual captions. Shop the distro here.