David and Daniel is the fascinating story behind one of the photographs that won David Burgess the 1973, showing a Chilean man under military arrest in Santiago’s football stadium. The man, Daniel Cespedes, was subsequently released and forty years after the coup Burgess and writer Nathan Thornburgh tried to track him down.
… there was something like a rule that came to be understood later on: if a photo of you in government custody made it out to the wider world, then you might well be released at some point. It is hard to disappear someone if they are in a photo in your custody.
“Photographers saved lives here”, added their local fixer, whose own father seemed to have been released after being photographed under arrest. Somehow, I don’t think that’s true any longer, though I’m not sure if that’s the result of the murderously-inclined being more media-aware and banning photographers or alternatively taking perverse glory in their deeds. Or are images just so common they’re taken for granted?
Incidentally, I’ve long been in two minds about what happened in Chile, not because I don’t believe it was appalling but due to a conversation in Paris in the early 80s with a Chilean back-packer who supported the regime. Obviously from a well-off background, he simply wasn’t the rabid anti-communist one might expect, and I recall his description of pre-coup Chile seemed like our Winter of Discontent, Brixton Riots and Miners Strike being rolled into one. Not that anything justifies what happened, but at least he made me aware that things couldn’t be so simple as we believed, not if the junta could have supporters who weren’t bloodthirsty thugs. Still, wasn’t it a great feeling in 1998 when our government arrested Pinochet?