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Inter­view with pho­tog­ra­ph­er Nicole Kramm, the female eye on the Chilean revolt, who was attacked by the Cara­bineros on the night of Jan­u­ary 1, 2020 in San­ti­a­go, near Plaza de la Dignidad.

For a pho­tog­ra­ph­er there is noth­ing more valu­able than her eyes, the loss of an eye rep­re­sents irrepara­ble dam­age. I am accom­pa­nied by images of the Chilean revolt that I wit­nessed up close.

At the moment when Nicole lost an eye, I was relat­ing what hap­pened to my Mapuche friends, in the com­mune of San­ta Rosa — Le Leque.

Could you intro­duce yourself?

Nicole Kramm Caifal, San­ti­a­go de Chile. Doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­ph­er, I work and reflect on cul­tur­al and social issues relat­ed to human rights, ecol­o­gy, migra­tion, sex­u­al diver­si­ty and equal­i­ty and on polit­i­cal claims and conflicts.

I stud­ied jour­nal­is­tic pho­tog­ra­phy and film­mak­ing, with a spe­cial­iza­tion in pho­tog­ra­phy and cam­era direc­tion at film schools in Chile and at the Inter­na­tion­al School of San Anto­nio de los Baños, Cuba. Cur­rent­ly I work as a free­lance audio­vi­su­al pro­duc­er in inter­na­tion­al media.

How did you get into pho­tog­ra­phy? I sup­pose there is a spe­cial sto­ry behind it?

I was a chem­i­cal ana­lyst tech­ni­cian and only took pic­tures as an ama­teur. In 2014  I decid­ed to trav­el around Latin Amer­i­ca for two months to meet the peo­ple, I  have  always liked soci­ol­o­gy and anthro­pol­o­gy a lot. I always felt a duty to trav­el and immerse myself in oth­er cul­tures. For that trip I took a pock­et cam­era, one of those lit­tle Lumix cam­eras, and I record­ed myself doing things in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions, like a trav­el­ing jour­nal­ist would do. Then when I returned to Chile, I real­ized that I did­n’t want to work in a chem­i­cal lab­o­ra­to­ry for the rest of my life. So I aban­doned my 4 year degree in chem­istry and start­ed to study pho­to­jour­nal­ism and received a degree in film in 2018. It was the best deci­sion I ever made in my life.

What were your feel­ings and thoughts on the first day you pho­tographed the vil­lage revolt?

When I saw and pho­tographed the peo­ple’s insur­gency in the face of injus­tice, I was filled with intense emo­tion. After many years, the peo­ple were final­ly ris­ing up, tired of this sys­tem that makes our lives so pre­car­i­ous. It was like yes­ter­day, when I heard through social net­works about the eva­sion in the sub­way (cit­i­zens refused to pay for the sub­way tick­ets) I grabbed my things and asked some friends who were going in the sub­way to see what was going on and I went out with my camera.

At the turn­stiles the screams were encour­ag­ing, my heart shrank as I saw how the users passed by, they told their grand­par­ents not to pay, peo­ple smiled, we were the ones who were tired of so many years of humil­i­a­tion and for the first time I felt that we were los­ing our fear and that a rebel­lion was emerg­ing against a State that aban­dons us and makes us precarious.

I remem­ber look­ing at a friend and com­ment­ing that it was one of the most excit­ing days of my life. From that moment on, we did­n’t stop, march­es, bon­fires, meet­ings, assem­blies, pots and pans, town halls, more bar­ri­cades, resis­tance, repres­sion, police and mil­i­tary abuse in the streets and deaths. I have seen it all, from a rebel per­spec­tive I can’t say that I don’t agree, because I val­i­date all forms of strug­gle before the pow­er­ful that make us live in vio­lent misery.

Evad­ing, not pay­ing, anoth­er way of fight­ing! Dozens of work­ers and stu­dents shout­ed as they evad­ed the metro in protest against the sharp rise in the price of pub­lic transport.


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Une pub­li­ca­tion partagée par Nicole Kramm Kaifal (@nicole_kramm) le

There is no doubt about the visu­al rich­ness of the his­tor­i­cal insur­gency, which per­sists in an extra­or­di­nary way in resis­tance and is very fer­tile from the point of view of cre­ation. As a pho­tog­ra­ph­er, how did you approach this visu­al integrity?

I always por­trayed the peo­ple from a social point of view, angry and empow­ered, just as the Chilean peo­ple are. I reflect­ed the raw­ness of real­i­ty with cau­tion and har­mo­ny, I chose each sit­u­a­tion, I observed, I approached, I searched. I did­n’t want to “roman­ti­cize” the repres­sion and vio­lence, but I did want to embell­ish the resis­tance through sharp angles, lights at dif­fer­ent inter­vals, actions, strong col­ors, fire, etc. Through col­or and pow­er­ful body lan­guage I have dri­ven and told many sto­ries of struggle.

The most unique fea­ture for a pho­tog­ra­ph­er is, with­out a doubt, his eyes. What did you feel when that damned object hit your eye?

When the bul­let hit me, first I did­n’t under­stand any­thing, I fell to the floor, I lost my bal­ance because of the phys­i­cal pain, then when I real­ized that it was an eye trau­ma, I had blood in my left eye and no mat­ter how hard I tried I could­n’t open it, I felt a lot of help­less­ness, frus­tra­tion, fear and anger. The aggres­sion was crim­i­nal, I was sim­ply walk­ing with my cam­era, through a place where there were no demon­stra­tions. The police were hid­ing behind some palm trees, they saw us and fired.

Tak­ing away the vision of one eye from some­one who lives and works behind the cam­era is ter­ri­ble, it will affect me for the rest of my life. When I assim­i­lat­ed the grav­i­ty and cried all I had to cry, I promised myself not to think about the peo­ple who had hurt me so much. I did­n’t want to hold a grudge so as not to slow down my recov­ery and be able to heal as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, phys­i­cal­ly and psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly, so that I could return to who I am today.


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Une pub­li­ca­tion partagée par Nicole Kramm Kaifal (@nicole_kramm) le

What brought you back to Dig­ni­ty after this unfor­tu­nate incident?

As the audio­vi­su­al direc­tor that I am, I took on the pro­duc­tion of a doc­u­men­tary about the fem­i­nist move­ment in Chile for Aljazeera in Eng­lish. Then, on the last day of shoot­ing, I had to take on the chal­lenge of return­ing to film the pro­tag­o­nists of this sto­ry there. I was­n’t pre­pared, I was very afraid, but I was nev­er alone, many peo­ple rec­og­nized me and pro­tect­ed me, I received a lot of love. That moti­vat­ed me to return to the streets for a few days, obvi­ous­ly with a lot of cau­tion, from a dif­fer­ent posi­tion, but with the same con­vic­tion to con­tin­ue work­ing and fight­ing from my com­mu­ni­ca­tion­al bunker. I will give every­thing to obtain justice.


Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges –
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Sadık Çelik
REDACTION | Journaliste 
Pho­tographe activiste, lib­er­taire, habi­tant de la ZAD Nddl et d’ailleurs. Aktivist fotoğrafçı, lib­ert­er, Notre Dame de Lan­des otonom ZAD böl­gesinde yaşıy­or, ve diğer otonom bölge ve mekan­lar­da bulunuyor.