The only formal training Alvaro Ybarra Zavala ever received as a photojournalist was when he participated in the 2010 Joop Swart Masterclass, organized by World Press Photo. Prior to this, it was his grandfather’s guidance and his deep desire to document the contradictory facets of human behaviour, which drove him into the profession. Recently, Blink’s Kyla Woods spoke to Alvaro about his work in Venezuela, his upcoming book “1984”, as well as the process behind developing one of his more provocative reportages, “Stories of a Wounded Land.”

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - DECEMBER 2015: Followers opponents Nicolas Maduro's government celebrated the electoral victory of the Venezuelan opposition. In the photograph, the followers of the Venezuelan opposition, sing the national anthem in front of the headquarters of the MUD (Democractic Unity Roundtable). The elections to the National Assembly are considered by the opposition as a historic opportunity to begin the political change in Venezuela. The elections were held on December 6 marked a historic day in the country. The MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable) won the elections with an absolute majority. An election result that even the late President Chavez accomplished during his political career.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA – DECEMBER 2015: Followers opponents Nicolas Maduro’s government celebrated the electoral victory of the Venezuelan opposition. In the photograph, the followers of the Venezuelan opposition, sing the national anthem in front of the headquarters of the MUD (Democractic Unity Roundtable). The elections to the National Assembly are considered by the opposition as a historic opportunity to begin the political change in Venezuela. The elections were held on December 6 marked a historic day in the country. The MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable) won the elections with an absolute majority. An election result that even the late President Chavez accomplished during his political career.

CARACAS. VENEZUELA, SEPTEMBER 4 - 2015: The cockpit of a major Venezuelan television prepares one of the many special programs broadcast on President Hugo Chavez Frias. Control over the media is a reality today in Venezuela. Digital media only saves the news blackout imposed by the government. The policy to persecuted independent media and journalists by the Chavez government is constantly denounced by international human rights institutions.  Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro's government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

CARACAS. VENEZUELA, SEPTEMBER 4 – 2015: The cockpit of a major Venezuelan television prepares one of the many special programs broadcast on President Hugo Chavez Frias. Control over the media is a reality today in Venezuela. Digital media only saves the news blackout imposed by the government. The policy to persecuted independent media and journalists by the Chavez government is constantly denounced by international human rights institutions. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro’s government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

KW: What got you interested in covering Venezuela?

AZ: It started in 2004 for a small assignment on the Bolivarian revolution. I started photographing daily lives in the Venezuelan society. From the moment I got there, I gained access to the political movement of Chavismo. One thing led to another and as I gained more access, the more I started seeing the other face of the Chavismo.

KW: Is “1984” about the Bolivarian Revolution?

AZ:  The project “1984” documents the legacy left by President Hugo Chávez Frías and his Bolivarian Revolution. A legacy which questions the feasibility of an inspiring project for the most disadvantaged parts of Latin America, which ultimately also became an authoritarian regime, responsible for the systematic violation of human rights of the Venezuelan Society. In the last 14 years, many international bodies have accused the Bolivarian Government of having used the Security Forces or the Pro-government armed groups to enforce its policies. Practices such as the lack of procedural safeguards and judicial independence, restrictions on freedom of speech, the persecution of human rights activists, political discrimination and the government interference in labour and electoral laws have been denounced by these bodies during this 14-year period. A project which depicts this reality following the script of George Orwell’s 1984. A synonym at the time of portraying governments that duplicate totalitarian and repressive attitudes, as those depicted in the novel. A large majority of Latin America considers the Bolivarian Revolution to be a great opportunity for change. The dream of a fair and free Latin America, offering more opportunities for individuals, irrespective of their roots, meant a revolution for a society which only knew armed struggle as a failed attempt to change. Chavez wished to change society from society itself, and everybody was part of the change – the ultimate expression of democracy. However, time made us wake from a dream. The revolution has become its worst enemy and turned into a totalitarian revolution. With 1984, I am trying to document a great lost opportunity brought by a government which has made of the systematic violation of human rights its idiosyncrasy. A project depicting today’s Venezuela, where Civil Society lives under the yoke of fear and nobody, neither the government nor the opposition, offers a true alternative of democracy and change for Venezuelan Society.

SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA - MARCH 11: Students building anti-government barricades on March 11, 2014 in San Cristobal, the capital of Tachira state, Venezuela. Shortage of such products as flour, milk and sugar have made life increasingly difficult for residents of Tachira, which has been a focal point for anti-government protests for almost a month. Over the past few weeks and months there has been increasing unrest within Venezuela against the leadership and government of President Maduro. The protests have been driven by supporters of the opposition, but predominantly by students, and have seen pro-government marches and violence in response, with increasing levels of bloodshed, and deaths on both sides (official figures say 31 but reports on the ground suggest the number could be significantly higher). With the world watching on, and some neighboring Latin American countries speaking out against the actions of the Venezuelan government in their crackdown on the protests, the situation looks like it will get worse before it gets better. President Maduro has increasingly accused the protestors of being armed extremists trying to stage a coup, has used the police and armed forces to clamp down on them, and is carrying out a policy of rounding up and arresting any leading figures in the protest movement. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro's government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA – MARCH 11: Students building anti-government barricades on March 11, 2014 in San Cristobal, the capital of Tachira state, Venezuela. Shortage of such products as flour, milk and sugar have made life increasingly difficult for residents of Tachira, which has been a focal point for anti-government protests for almost a month. Over the past few weeks and months there has been increasing unrest within Venezuela against the leadership and government of President Maduro. The protests have been driven by supporters of the opposition, but predominantly by students, and have seen pro-government marches and violence in response, with increasing levels of bloodshed, and deaths on both sides (official figures say 31 but reports on the ground suggest the number could be significantly higher). With the world watching on, and some neighboring Latin American countries speaking out against the actions of the Venezuelan government in their crackdown on the protests, the situation looks like it will get worse before it gets better. President Maduro has increasingly accused the protestors of being armed extremists trying to stage a coup, has used the police and armed forces to clamp down on them, and is carrying out a policy of rounding up and arresting any leading figures in the protest movement. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro’s government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA - MARCH 2014: Anti-government student pose next to a barricade on March 13, 2014 in San Cristobal, the capital of Tachira state, Venezuela. Shortage of such products as flour, milk and sugar have made life increasingly difficult for residents of Tachira, which has been a focal point for anti-government protests for almost a month. Over the past few weeks and months there has been increasing unrest within Venezuela against the leadership and government of President Maduro. The protests have been driven by supporters of the opposition, but predominantly by students, and have seen pro-government marches and violence in response, with increasing levels of bloodshed, and deaths on both sides (official figures say 31 but reports on the ground suggest the number could be significantly higher). With the world watching on, and some neighboring Latin American countries speaking out against the actions of the Venezuelan government in their crackdown on the protests, the situation looks like it will get worse before it gets better. President Maduro has increasingly accused the protestors of being armed extremists trying to stage a coup, has used the police and armed forces to clamp down on them, and is carrying out a policy of rounding up and arresting any leading figures in the protest movement. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro's government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA – MARCH 2014: Anti-government student pose next to a barricade on March 13, 2014 in San Cristobal, the capital of Tachira state, Venezuela. Shortage of such products as flour, milk and sugar have made life increasingly difficult for residents of Tachira, which has been a focal point for anti-government protests for almost a month. Over the past few weeks and months there has been increasing unrest within Venezuela against the leadership and government of President Maduro. The protests have been driven by supporters of the opposition, but predominantly by students, and have seen pro-government marches and violence in response, with increasing levels of bloodshed, and deaths on both sides (official figures say 31 but reports on the ground suggest the number could be significantly higher). With the world watching on, and some neighboring Latin American countries speaking out against the actions of the Venezuelan government in their crackdown on the protests, the situation looks like it will get worse before it gets better. President Maduro has increasingly accused the protestors of being armed extremists trying to stage a coup, has used the police and armed forces to clamp down on them, and is carrying out a policy of rounding up and arresting any leading figures in the protest movement. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro’s government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

KW: You spoke about Venezuela having an authoritarian regime, how does this affect your work?

AZ: We, photojournalists working in Venezuela, are aware that the government follows us very closely. They monitor everything and implement censorship on your work which puts you on their radar and you become a target. Venezuela has a history of implementing media censorship and to date, there is no independent media except for El Nacional and other online media outlets that speak against the revolution. However, if you are on the government’s radar, you become a potential target of los colectivos as well, which are the radical followers of Bolivarian revolution. The colectivos are the left wing paramilitary of the revolution. They control the streets, the cities and are responsible for most of the crime in Venezuela. You are never safe while working in one of the most violent countries of the world.

KW: So you are always dealing with potentially dangerous situations when you photograph?

AZ: Venezuela is probably the most dangerous place I have ever worked, even worse than Iraq. Here, you take high risks on a regular basis to take any kind of photograph. Insecurity from a political point of view is really high. If you are on the black list, you are in trouble with the government.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - NOVEMBER 2009: A family mourns at the funeral of a man who was shot dead with 16 shots to the head, while coming out of his home with his daughter, by one of the 'colectivos' of Caracas. He was a member of a rival criminal gang. 'Colectivos' are criminal gangs which have been armed by President Hugo Chavez's administration, and have been converted into left-wing guerrilla groups through the introduction of political ideology, in order to act as death squadrons serving the Bolivarian revolution, carrying out politically-motivated killings. They are still involved in their traditional criminal activities such as the drug trade. This particular group is a 'colectivo motorizado' meaning they ride motorbikes or scooters, the vehicle of choice for carrying out drive-by killings. The walls are decorated with revolutionary propaganda.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA – NOVEMBER 2009: A family mourns at the funeral of a man who was shot dead with 16 shots to the head, while coming out of his home with his daughter, by one of the ‘colectivos’ of Caracas. He was a member of a rival criminal gang. ‘Colectivos’ are criminal gangs which have been armed by President Hugo Chavez’s administration, and have been converted into left-wing guerrilla groups through the introduction of political ideology, in order to act as death squadrons serving the Bolivarian revolution, carrying out politically-motivated killings. They are still involved in their traditional criminal activities such as the drug trade. This particular group is a ‘colectivo motorizado’ meaning they ride motorbikes or scooters, the vehicle of choice for carrying out drive-by killings. The walls are decorated with revolutionary propaganda.

SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA - MARCH 2014: The broken glass of the entrance to a condominium in San Cristobal after an attack by a pro-government paramilitary armed group.Over the past few weeks and months there has been increasing unrest within Venezuela against the leadership and government of President Maduro. The protests have been driven by supporters of the opposition, but predominantly by students, and have seen pro-government marches and violence in response, with increasing levels of bloodshed, and deaths on both sides (official figures say 31 but reports on the ground suggest the number could be significantly higher).

SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA – MARCH 2014: The broken glass of the entrance to a condominium in San Cristobal after an attack by a pro-government paramilitary armed group.Over the past few weeks and months there has been increasing unrest within Venezuela against the leadership and government of President Maduro. The protests have been driven by supporters of the opposition, but predominantly by students, and have seen pro-government marches and violence in response, with increasing levels of bloodshed, and deaths on both sides (official figures say 31 but reports on the ground suggest the number could be significantly higher).

KW: How long did it take you to navigate through the area and build a strong network of people that you can trust?

AZ: At the moment, I work with four motorcycle drivers from the local slums in Caracas. They grew up with the gang mentality of violence, drugs and extortion. These drivers are excellent readers of varying situations on the streets and are the best security measure I have. They are my family in Caracas, and I’ve have been working with them since my first trip to Venezuela. Each time we go to the slums, we have to get the ‘OK’ or ‘an approval’ from the Colectivo, which are basically gang members who control that area. The only reason I can photograph there is because they trust us, and the lives of my drivers’ families are our guarantee. To work in Venezuela, you need to know the country well, and this is not something that can happen in two days.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - OCTOBER 2009: The interior of the headquarters of an armed group of the Bolivarian revolution in la Vega, Caracas. . 'Colectivos' are criminal gangs which have been armed by President Hugo Chavez's administration, and have been converted into left-wing guerrilla groups through the introduction of political ideology, in order to act as death squadrons serving the Bolivarian revolution, carrying out politically-motivated killings. They are still involved in their traditional criminal activities such as the drug trade. The Bolivarian groups define themselves as the guardians of the Bolivarian revolution and the legacy of President Hugo Chavez Frias. They are accused by both the opposition and international human rights institutions to be violent lobbyists in government service. This paramilitary groups exercise the authority in neighborhoods that are part of  its territory. Besides being the armed authority they also exert social and community service work. His critics accuse them of being directly organized criminal gangs belonging to government service crime.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA – OCTOBER 2009: The interior of the headquarters of an armed group of the Bolivarian revolution in la Vega, Caracas. . ‘Colectivos’ are criminal gangs which have been armed by President Hugo Chavez’s administration, and have been converted into left-wing guerrilla groups through the introduction of political ideology, in order to act as death squadrons serving the Bolivarian revolution, carrying out politically-motivated killings. They are still involved in their traditional criminal activities such as the drug trade. The Bolivarian groups define themselves as the guardians of the Bolivarian revolution and the legacy of President Hugo Chavez Frias. They are accused by both the opposition and international human rights institutions to be violent lobbyists in government service. This paramilitary groups exercise the authority in neighborhoods that are part of its territory. Besides being the armed authority they also exert social and community service work. His critics accuse them of being directly organized criminal gangs belonging to government service crime. 

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - NOVEMBER 2009: A group of Chavez supporters waits in a official car in the streets of Caracas. In the background, local officials enable very poor residents of a slum in Caracas to trade in unwanted junk, furniture, etc for food handouts. The many slums of Caracas are the traditional strongholds of the 'colectivos' in the city. 'Colectivos' are criminal gangs which have been armed by President Hugo Chavez's administration, and have been converted into left-wing guerrilla groups through the introduction of political ideology, in order to act as death squadrons serving the Bolivarian revolution, carrying out politically-motivated killings. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro's government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA – NOVEMBER 2009: A group of Chavez supporters waits in a official car in the streets of Caracas. In the background, local officials enable very poor residents of a slum in Caracas to trade in unwanted junk, furniture, etc for food handouts. The many slums of Caracas are the traditional strongholds of the ‘colectivos’ in the city. ‘Colectivos’ are criminal gangs which have been armed by President Hugo Chavez’s administration, and have been converted into left-wing guerrilla groups through the introduction of political ideology, in order to act as death squadrons serving the Bolivarian revolution, carrying out politically-motivated killings. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro’s government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

KW: As a photographer, you put yourself in places as a spectator. I wonder if you have any conflicting emotions about being there, and witnessing what takes place in Venezuela?

AZ: As photojournalists, we have a chance to live with different truths that lay undiscovered. Sometimes, there are a conflicting truths, sometimes everyone has their own truth. In “1984”, yes, I am familiar with the colectivos. I spent time with them and they believe themselves to be the guardians of the revolution. But they are also normal people like you and me and I built strong friendships with them. But in the end, they live in another world and reality, they will shoot you with the same ease as they will give you a hug. As the saying goes, “Es otro mundo, con sus propias normas, con sus propios valores a,”’ it is another world with its own rules. Life does not mean anything there. Most of the kids in these slums end up in the colectivos or in the gangs don’t pass the age of 18 or 19. All of them grow up in a violent environment, where confronting death is a part of their daily life. As for my conflicting emotions, I always try to put myself in those situations and think, “What would I have done if I grew up in a neighborhood like that?”

CARACAS. VENEZUELA, JULY 30 - 2015: A women walks past a grafity with the face of Chavez in the Bellas Artes neighborhood of Caracas. Caracas is decorated with thousands of anti-imperialist and revolutionary propaganda grafities. The face of the commander and leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, is always present in the whole country. The personality cult of Hugo Chavez Frias is a constant by the government to keep alive the spirit of the revolution.

CARACAS. VENEZUELA, JULY 30 – 2015: A women walks past a grafity with the face of Chavez in the Bellas Artes neighborhood of Caracas. Caracas is decorated with thousands of anti-imperialist and revolutionary propaganda grafities. The face of the commander and leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, is always present in the whole country. The personality cult of Hugo Chavez Frias is a constant by the government to keep alive the spirit of the revolution.

CARACAS. VENEZUELA, SEPTEMBER 7 - 2015 : A grafity with the eyes of Chavez in las Mercedes neighborhood. Caracas is decorated with thousands of anti-imperialist and revolutionary propaganda grafities. The face of the commander and leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, is always present in the whole country. The personality cult of Hugo Chavez Frias is a constant by the government to keep alive the spirit of the revolution. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro's government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

CARACAS. VENEZUELA, SEPTEMBER 7 – 2015 : A grafity with the eyes of Chavez in las Mercedes neighborhood. Caracas is decorated with thousands of anti-imperialist and revolutionary propaganda grafities. The face of the commander and leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, is always present in the whole country. The personality cult of Hugo Chavez Frias is a constant by the government to keep alive the spirit of the revolution. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro’s government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

KW: Can we speak about “Stories of a Wounded Land”? How did the project start?

Alvaro: Journalist Silvina Heguy asked me to visit Misiones in Argentina to investigate a local health problem. When we visited this area and delved deeper into the story it turned out to be a global issue. This story didn’t unfold instantly. We started working and one thing led to another as we uncovered peculiar situations, we began to get threats. Doctors started to come forward detailing health problems. Then we went on a road trip and we found these crops and villages full of cancer victims. There were children that had malformations, and the rate of abortion had increased dramatically. We decided that the best way to move forward was to build a team of doctors and lawyers. Research was crucial but we didn’t end up having to look very hard. Every village we visited, there were stories. It was scary. In villages of between 400-450 people, you could easily find 20 kids suffering from a malformation and that is a really high rate.

QUIMILI, SANTIAGO DEL ESTERO, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER, 2012: A group of farmers fumigate a crop. Most of the properties of small farmers who have withstood the pressure exercised by large landowners have been isolated and surrounded by the properties of large landowners. Only a few of them have resisted and only a few of them are fighting for their rights. The MO.CA.SE (Farmers’ Movement of Santiago del Estero) is the only movement which officially supports the demands of farmers. However, the MO.CA.SE has its own political agenda, very close to the current government, that supports the intensive production model with the input of agrochemicals. Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala / Reportage by Getty Images.

QUIMILI, SANTIAGO DEL ESTERO, ARGENTINA – NOVEMBER, 2012: A group of farmers fumigate a crop. Most of the properties of small farmers who have withstood the pressure exercised by large landowners have been isolated and surrounded by the properties of large landowners. Only a few of them have resisted and only a few of them are fighting for their rights. The MO.CA.SE (Farmers’ Movement of Santiago del Estero) is the only movement which officially supports the demands of farmers. However, the MO.CA.SE has its own political agenda, very close to the current government, that supports the intensive production model with the input of agrochemicals. Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala / Reportage by Getty Images.

CORDOBA, ARGENTINA - OCTOBER 2012: Group of demonstrators protest on the streets of cordoba against the construction of a new factory for Monsanto. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala / Reportage by Getty Images)

CORDOBA, ARGENTINA – OCTOBER 2012: Group of demonstrators protest on the streets of cordoba against the construction of a new factory for Monsanto.
(Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala / Reportage by Getty Images)

ROSARIO, ARGENTINA - APRIL 2014: A ship carrying corn in Port of Rosario. The Port of Rosario is one of the major grain exporting ports in the world.(Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

ROSARIO, ARGENTINA – APRIL 2014: A ship carrying corn in Port of Rosario. The Port of Rosario is one of the major grain exporting ports in the world.(Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

KW: At what point did you discover that you needed the help of a lawyer?

AZ: We met a well-known Argentine doctor, who was researching what was happening there, and he connected us with a lawyer. He pointed us to an official document that the Argentine government had hidden under the table; it was a government study showing solutions to the problem which further implies that the government knew, and decided not to make it public! Thanks to the help of activists, we discovered that global corporations like Monsanto, as well as numerous others were involved as well. We spoke to them directly, however we received no response. That’s when we decided to release the first publication of our work, focusing on health. At that moment we did not have a wide picture, this is something big that is happening now in Argentina. That story got published in Clarin. That’s when Silvina started getting threats; then we realized how many economic interests were behind this model of production. Even people from Clarin Company; the owners have a lot of interest inside the agribusiness model, because they are landowners in Argentina.

KW: How did you get the access to tell the other side of the story?

AZ: We believed that a story like this needs to tell both sides because it is an important issue, and we did attempt to contact them multiple times. However it was only once the publication was released that they decided to respond to us. This story has a global focus, as it links producers from Latin American countries or African tribes with the large corporations and consumers of the developed world, and it tries to reenact the consequences of this model and to find an answer to a question that has never been discussed seriously and without fanaticism: Does the agro-businesses represent a solution to end global hunger, or is it simply a way to poison the world? This method of large scale production of food, with high economic returns, is based on the use of biotechnology to obtain genetically modified seeds that are resistant to agro-chemicals. The scariest part about pursuing this project was that people who had initially supported the project stopped – they didn’t want anything to do with it. This is still an ongoing project.

AVIA TERAI, CHACO, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER, 2012: Milagros Alcaraz. She is 6 years old and suffers from Myelomeningocele. She has no medical follow up at all, and she can hardly walk. The Napenay community is constantly affected by the spraying of agrochemicals from aircrafts and spraying machines which do not abide by the legislation in force and act in complete impunity and with the consent of the authorities. The products sprayed are Gliphosate, 2,4 D, Endosulfan and Chlorpyrifos. Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala / Reportage by Getty Images.

AVIA TERAI, CHACO, ARGENTINA – NOVEMBER, 2012: Milagros Alcaraz. She is 6 years old and suffers from Myelomeningocele. She has no medical follow up at all, and she can hardly walk. The Napenay community is constantly affected by the spraying of agrochemicals from aircrafts and spraying machines which do not abide by the legislation in force and act in complete impunity and with the consent of the authorities. The products sprayed are Gliphosate, 2,4 D, Endosulfan and Chlorpyrifos. Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala / Reportage by Getty Images.

CHARATA, CHACO, ARGENTINA - MAY 2014: One group of workers in a store Monsanto in Charata review orders. behind them, hundreds of drums of Roundup - glyphosate - Monsanto's most controversial product. The consequences to the health of the local population - who lives with the spraying of agrochemicals such as glyphosate or some substances banned in European countries but permitted in-producing countries is systematically reported from Argentina and Brazil. Official studies show that in areas fumigated there is a rise in cases of cancer and malformations in newborns. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

CHARATA, CHACO, ARGENTINA – MAY 2014: One group of workers in a store Monsanto in Charata review orders. behind them, hundreds of drums of Roundup – glyphosate – Monsanto’s most controversial product. The consequences to the health of the local population – who lives with the spraying of agrochemicals such as glyphosate or some substances banned in European countries but permitted in-producing countries is systematically reported from Argentina and Brazil. Official studies show that in areas fumigated there is a rise in cases of cancer and malformations in newborns. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

ROJAS, ARGENTINA - MARCH 2014: Monsanto Factory in Rojas is the world's largest factory in production of transgenic maize seeds. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

ROJAS, ARGENTINA – MARCH 2014: Monsanto Factory in Rojas is the world’s largest factory in production of transgenic maize seeds. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

KW: Do you both want to keep continuing this? Would you like to expand your team?

AZ: We are considering getting more photographers and writers on board. I do not believe that we, the photographers, are important in this story. It does not matter who takes the photographs, the most important thing is that the story goes on. Silvina and I have spoken to some colleagues  who might jump on board and this could end as a collective project that could be big. To be honest, both Silvina and myself are unsure if we are able to finish the project in the way that the project deserves, in the way these people deserve. That’s why we need more people.

ROJAS, ARGENTINA - MARCH 2014: A worker shows Monsanto GM seeds inside the Monsanto plant in Rojas.  Monsanto Factory in Rojas is the world's largest factory in production of transgenic maize seeds. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

ROJAS, ARGENTINA – MARCH 2014: A worker shows Monsanto GM seeds inside the Monsanto plant in Rojas. Monsanto Factory in Rojas is the world’s largest factory in production of transgenic maize seeds. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

SINOP, MATO GROSSO, BRASIL - JULY 2013: Elder Piccinini viewed from above of the harvester as it downloads the harvested corn. ( Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/ Reportage by Getty Images)

SINOP, MATO GROSSO, BRASIL – JULY 2013: Elder Piccinini viewed from above of the harvester as it downloads the harvested corn.
( Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/ Reportage by Getty Images)

ALICIA BAJA, MISIONES, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 2012: Lucas, who is 1 year and 10 months old, and his brother Gabriel in their home. Lucas was born with a malformation, and suffers from ichthyosis. Both his father Harnoldo and his mother Rosana Maria have spent their working lives cultivating of tobacco and other local crops such as corn and yerba mate. They use agrochemical products for the cultivation of their fields, following the guidelines set out by the cooperatives of large local producers, who require the use of such agrochemicals as a condition to the purchase of their crop. Among the agrochemicals required are glyphosate and 2.4 D, a product found in Agent Orange. The financial costs of these products always fall on small producers, who only retain 40% of the value of the crop, which is unilaterally fixed by the cooperatives of large producers. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

ALICIA BAJA, MISIONES, ARGENTINA – NOVEMBER 2012: Lucas, who is 1 year and 10 months old, and his brother Gabriel in their home. Lucas was born with a malformation, and suffers from ichthyosis. Both his father Harnoldo and his mother Rosana Maria have spent their working lives cultivating of tobacco and other local crops such as corn and yerba mate. They use agrochemical products for the cultivation of their fields, following the guidelines set out by the cooperatives of large local producers, who require the use of such agrochemicals as a condition to the purchase of their crop. Among the agrochemicals required are glyphosate and 2.4 D, a product found in Agent Orange. The financial costs of these products always fall on small producers, who only retain 40% of the value of the crop, which is unilaterally fixed by the cooperatives of large producers. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

KW: It’s interesting that you can see beyond yourselves..

AZ: I think that a lot of people in our business give too much importance to who we are. To be honest, I think that is a huge mistake. We cannot forget that we are photographing these kinds of projects for these audiences that are much more important than us. Egos cannot be a part of this. The project is going to live on even after you pass away.

KW: Were there any Latin American policy reforms that came about from the reportage?

AZ: To be honest, no. However, many of the photographed children were relocated to new areas. We were able to get hospital treatment for the disabled as well. Surprisingly, photographers started to reach out to us, wanting to be involved in the project. Our thought process was that the more information we can accumulate, the general public will have more visible information on the dangers of the globalized agricultural business. Unfortunately, it became apparent that many of the people who contacted us only focused on the people we had originally photographed. This became such an issue that the activists we were working with told us that they’d stopped helping journalists. People kept retelling the same story, and it was diminishing what we had originally accomplished – these people are suffering from cancer, they were brave enough to step forward in an attempt to fight multinational corporations, and this is all in an attempt to bring about change. I am still spending a lot of time on this project, and Silvina and I are very active in helping most of the families that we’ve worked with – every week we catch up on Skype.

AVIA TERAI, CHACO, ARGENTINA - MAY 2014: A technician prepares the chemicals for fumigation in the tanks of an aircraft. Official studies show that in areas fumigated there is a rise in cases of cancer and malformations in newborns. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

AVIA TERAI, CHACO, ARGENTINA – MAY 2014: A technician prepares the chemicals for fumigation in the tanks of an aircraft. Official studies show that in areas fumigated there is a rise in cases of cancer and malformations in newborns. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

SAN VICENTE, MISIONES, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 2012: Fabian Rodgriguez suffers from hydrocephalus. His mother, Candida Rodriguez, works in the tobacco industry, as does her husband. They use agrochemical products for the cultivation of their fields, following the guidelines set out by the cooperatives of large local producers, who require the use of such agrochemicals as a condition to the purchase of their crop. Among the agrochemicals required are glyphosate and 2.4 D, a product found in Agent Orange. The financial costs of these products always fall on small producers, who only retain 40% of the value of the crop, which is unilaterally fixed by the cooperatives of large producers. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

SAN VICENTE, MISIONES, ARGENTINA – NOVEMBER 2012: Fabian Rodgriguez suffers from hydrocephalus. His mother, Candida Rodriguez, works in the tobacco industry, as does her husband. They use agrochemical products for the cultivation of their fields, following the guidelines set out by the cooperatives of large local producers, who require the use of such agrochemicals as a condition to the purchase of their crop. Among the agrochemicals required are glyphosate and 2.4 D, a product found in Agent Orange. The financial costs of these products always fall on small producers, who only retain 40% of the value of the crop, which is unilaterally fixed by the cooperatives of large producers. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

NAPENAY, CHACO, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 2012: Sebastian, 14, in the arms of his aunt outside his house. He suffers from hydrocephalus and myelomeningocele. His grandmother, Matrona, is the matriarch of the family. He lives with his grandfather, his uncles and his cousin Matias, completely surrounded by crops that are constantly fumigated with glyphosate and methamidophos calibre 25, a phosphorous-based chemical prohibited by the Stockholm convention. The Napenay community is constantly affected by spraying of agrochemicals from aircrafts and spraying machines which do not abide by the legislation in force, and act in complete impunity and with the consent of the authorities. The products used for the spraying are glyphosate, 2.4 D, endosulfan and chlorpyrifos. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

NAPENAY, CHACO, ARGENTINA – NOVEMBER 2012: Sebastian, 14, in the arms of his aunt outside his house. He suffers from hydrocephalus and myelomeningocele. His grandmother, Matrona, is the matriarch of the family. He lives with his grandfather, his uncles and his cousin Matias, completely surrounded by crops that are constantly fumigated with glyphosate and methamidophos calibre 25, a phosphorous-based chemical prohibited by the Stockholm convention. The Napenay community is constantly affected by spraying of agrochemicals from aircrafts and spraying machines which do not abide by the legislation in force, and act in complete impunity and with the consent of the authorities. The products used for the spraying are glyphosate, 2.4 D, endosulfan and chlorpyrifos. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

MATO GROSSO, BRASIL - JULY 2013:  aerial picture near SINOP shows the fragile border that exists between arable and forest land in the expansion of agricultural lands in Brazil. ( Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/ Reportage by Getty Images)

MATO GROSSO, BRASIL – JULY 2013: aerial picture near SINOP shows the fragile border that exists between arable and forest land in the expansion of agricultural lands in Brazil.
( Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/ Reportage by Getty Images)

KW: Has this project been exhibited?

Alvaro: Silvina and I, both knew what it meant to support a project of this nature, and it was evident from the beginning that there would be many who would not support it. There were people who stood by me, the first one was Jean-François Leroy, someone I trust and have worked very closely with. His unconditional support was very important to us, and the fact that we exhibited the project at Visa pour l’Image in 2014 allowed many more doors to open.

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