Nereo López began his life in photography in the early 1950s, when he went to work at El Espectador. He crisscrossed the country, going high in the Andes down into the Amazon basin, traveling up and down the Río Magdalena, capturing images of places so remote, few Colombians ever got to see them. In 2000, he moved to New York City, where he has continued to let his eye and lens rove.
Photographer Nereo Lopez, whom the New York Times once called “arguably one of the most accomplished Colombian photographers of his — or any — generation,” died in New York on Tuesday. He was 95.
Lopez’s photography documented numerous aspects of life in Colombia throughout several decades, and he gained access to such global headliners as Nobel Prize-winning writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Pope John Paul VI during his 1968 visit to Colombia.
But Lopez cherished the everyday Colombian, capturing them with careful detail and compassion.
“My job was to make stories about human beings,” he said in an interview with the Times about two years ago. “And most of them were poor.”
He stressed, however, that his photographs of them captured “poverty, not misery.”
“Nereo López was, above all, a traveling photographer dedicated to story telling as well as a cartographer sometimes, practically of that hybrid genre that combined visual poetry with documentary photo essays,” the Times quoted Santiago Rueda Fajardo, a curator, as saying in “Nereo López: Un Contador de Historias,” a retrospective of his work.
“Among other things, his work accomplished the important task of helping to ‘open the eyes’ of Urban Colombia to valleys and Andean ranges, the Caribbean coasts that were linked by few flights or boats, and a weak railroad system.”
“It was a country that did not know the lives of other people who inhabited the same national territory. Lopez was one of the first to get access to many places and people that had never before been photographed.”
He moved to New York in 2000 after falling on hard times in his native country and a friend in the city invited him to move there.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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