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Can the Revolution be Instagrammed? Isadora Romero Follows Protests from Afar

Most photos of protests in Ecuador this October show smoke billowing behind face-offs between indigenous protestors and police. Yet, Ecuadorean photographer Isadora Romero aimed her lens towards portraits of the resistance.

“It was important to show that the protestors weren’t the violent terrorists that the press and the state were making them out to be,” she notes.

Though indigenous Ecuadoreans have historically lead national protests, Romero observed that the government and press strategically ignored stories about popular support to make the movement seem marginal, pushing her to photograph collective solidarity with protestors from all walks of life.  

She thinks that “riot porn” trends in photojournalism spread reductive narratives about protestors and misinformation nationally and internationally.

“Extreme violence doesn’t let you empathize nor does it let you understand the context,” she observes. This context is particularly important when looking at regional trends as protests spread to Chile. 

Image courtesy of Catalina Juger

As co-founder of Latin American feminist photography collective, Ruda, Romero values connecting with compañeras abroad. She believes that documenting stories live on Instagram in particular can ensure foreign and local audiences witness human rights violations. Using social media as a source brings new challenges with verifying sources and having internet access, which was intermittently unavailable in Quito during the protests. Even so, Romero argues that sharing and following independent photojournalists is the best way to stay informed about and support ongoing protests. To follow Chilean protests, she recommends Catalina Juger and Paz Olivares-Droguetts’ Instagrams. 

While the press paid little attention to Ecuador’s protests and now deems them resolved, Romero views them as a first step in the nation’s reckoning with its racism. Photography has the potential to ensure that this movement’s moments are not forgotten.

“As photographers, we have to ask ourselves, what kind of image ultimately remains as a memory?” she says. 

Julia Pretsfelder

Julia Pretsfelder is a writer and photographer based in New York. She grew up listening to her Argentine maternal grandparents share their memories of Buenos Aires, which fostered her interest in Latin American Studies and led her to become a member of the first class of Latinx Studies majors at Amherst College. After graduating, she lived in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala where she worked in marketing, translation, and social media strategy for a local Maya women weavers association called Cojolya.

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