“THE LONGEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD”
September in Chile, 1971-1973
by Jean-Jacques Ader
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of General Pinochet’s coup d’état against the popular government of Allende, The Château d’Eau gallery in Toulouse brings together the two reportages produced by Raymond Depardon and David Burnett, in Chile at 3 years interval.
The months of September follow one another but are not necessarily the same; the date of the 11th seems to mark dramatic events. On the picture rails of the Château d’Eau , each floor is dedicated to one of the photographers. According to the wishes of Christian Caujolle, the artistic director of the Gallery, vintage prints rub shoulders with modern versions of the photographs along the red bricks walls of the gallery; the link is made by the last image of Allende alive, taken by Leopold Victor Vargas, on September 11, 1973.
The two men, linked by a long friendship, were present for the opening of the exhibition, at the end of a hot day in Toulouse. Robert Pledge, co-founder of Contact Press Images could not attend the opening, yet he was the originator of bringing together the two image series. Depardon took the floor to pay tribute to the institution that the Château d’eau has become and, in fact, to its instigator Jean Dieuzaide; David Burnett was delighted to see so many people queuing to come and see photographs.
- A young 29-year-old photographer arrives in Chile. To bear witness to the progress of a popular government, Raymond Depardon, who had just participated in the creation of the Gamma agency, arrived to report on the first year of Salvador Allende’s victory.
- After only three years of governance, the socialist president was overthrown by General Pinochet’s military putsch. In September 73, the hopes of the working classes were extinguished. David Burnett, was commissioned by Gamma – Depardon having swapped his role as photographer for that of agency director in the New York office – who found himself in the midst of the military repression.
- Depardon, – who, with Robert Pledge obtained a long interview with President Allende, – was not only interested in the atmosphere of the streets of Santiago, but moved away from the city to meet the Indians and landless peasants, for whom new hope seems to arise. Faithful to his rural origins, he revealed to Chileans themselves the social and cultural realities of remote territories, “of the longest country in the world” in the words of Pledge.
- Burnett himself had to confront controls in the streets, numerous arrests of opponents, arbitrary detentions in stadiums, book burnings, etc. The military wrote history from then on, and wiped the slate clean of all information. Permits were required to circulate and work in the streets, while being closely monitored. The American reporter had his equipment confiscated and then returned, and had to use a thousand tricks to get his films out of the country and make public the dictatorship imposed on the country.
A beautiful book is published by Atelier EXB, whose printing quality does honor to these documents, bringing together the two reportages which also won the Robert Capa Gold Medal in 1973 in New York
“Septembre au Chili, 1971-1973” Exhibition of photographs by Raymond Depardon and David Burnett at Le château d’eau gallery from September 11, 2023 to January 7, 2024
Edition of the book “September in Chile 1971/1973” by Atelier EXB.