cover image Witnesses of Time

Witnesses of Time

Carlos Fuentes, Flor Garduuno. Thames & Hudson, $40 (72pp) ISBN 978-0-500-27679-2

Published in conjunction with a traveling exhibition, this volume of duotone photographs is often quite extraordinary. Attempting to show the melding of the mystical and the material, the ancient and the contemporary, in the daily lives of Native Americans in Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, Garduno has fashioned a set of stunning portraits and landscapes. Most of the pictures are of Indians in their everyday circumstances--bare rooms with dirt floors, dusty and desolate stretches of land, old-world country villages--with many of the human subjects juxtaposed to (or wearing) religious totems, both Christian and pagan. Mexican novelist Fuentes writes of Garduno capturing ``the immediate beauty and seduction of a figurine . . . a smiling little mask, or a parrot stylized for all eternity.'' Her most affecting photos are those in which these symbols blend in naturally with the overall composition. In several of the pictures, however, the subjects are too posed; one can imagine Garduno placing objects in their hands and telling them how and where to stand. Another problem: there is no text to accompany the photos, leaving the reader to guess the context or to glean what little information one can from the photos' titles. (July)