Darren Hauck is a Milwaukee-based photographer who, in addition, to covering local assignments for a variety of clients, has been covering the persistent violence in Guatemala in the wake of the civil war.
Q: You’ve been working on the story for a decade now using mostly 35mm format to photograph Guatemala. What inspired you to also approach the essay in 4×5 film?
A: After 12 years of shooting digital I wanted to try a different approach — to separate from the other work — and slow down. So I started to photograph using my 4×5 camera. This series is called “It’s Still War.” Guatemala suffered a civil war that lasted from 1960 until it “ended” in 1996, but statistics show that the violence since then has been as bad if not worse than it was during the declared war. I wanted this project to strip away modern aspects of color and the clean look of digital so I used film. I wanted the viewer to have a hard time telling whether the images were from 1980 or 2011, because if you go by the number of murders there is no difference between the timelines. Just because some official says the civil war has ended, that does not mean it has for the general population.
Q: Why do you feel this conflict is such an under-reported one?
A: I don’t understand why the media doesn’t cover Guatemala the way they do other parts of the world. Beyond the fact that they are our neighbors and have a direct impact on everyday life here in the U.S., via goods and produce imports, it’s also a humanistic issue. Many Guatemalans don’t know if they are going to make it home alive when they leave their homes. With one of the highest murder rates in the world there should be no surprise that people will do whatever they can to escape and seek a new life for themselves and their families.
Q: How has the conflict changed for better or worse in Guatemala over the years that you have been going there?
A: It was bad in 2004, my first trip there, but the violence spiked after the 2007 elections with the murder rate climbing to over 6,500 people per year. The numbers have not dropped since. Guatemala is probably the most corrupt country in the world with a dismal 2% criminal conviction rate and government officials who work with drug cartels. The general population is caught in the crossfire. An example of this is the public bus story I covered from 2007 to 2011. Gangs were killing some 350 bus drivers and assistants per year. Imagine if 350 public bus drivers, owners and/or assistants were murdered while working in any U.S. city. It would be on every news channel, but because it’s Central America it doesn’t get covered in the United States. I have tried to get this story published in the States but I haven’t found much interest. Sadly I don’t see any change in the region anytime soon. I don’t know what it will take for things to change in Guatemala and for media outlets to report on the country.
Q: What are your future plans documenting this story? Film? Book? Exhibition?
A: My plans are to sell stories and exhibit the work to the general public. I have always been passionate about covering Guatemala and also creating a historical record for the region. A great friend, Daniel LeClair — who lived in and photographed the region of Central America extensively — is working with me on a documentary film about Guatemala. I’m trying to show the rest of the world the region that has become a very important place for my work and me. I believe it needs to be disseminated in as many formats as possible.
Q: When you’re not working on this essay, what are the typical kinds of assignments that you do?
A: I am based in Milwaukee, Wis.; I cover social and environmental issues as well as editorial portraits and corporate/advertising jobs. Living in the Midwest means I get to have a variety of photography clients, so that keeps things interesting. I also like to always have a personal project that I shoot close to home. I was born and raised in Milwaukee — still live here to this day — and do not plan on leaving. There are many stories here to tell, and that keeps me going. When I am not making pictures you can most likely find me on my road bike getting in as many miles as I can.