Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

AQ Top 5 Storytellers: Adriana Lestido

Reading Time: 2 minutesCapturing the heartbreak of others helped this Argentine photographer heal after personal tragedy.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Adriana Lestido

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This article is adapted from AQ’s print issue on reducing homicide in Latin America. | Leer en español | See the rest of our Top 5 Storytellers

Adriana Lestido’s photographs are like dreams: The images aren’t always defined, but the feeling they evoke stays recorded in your mind. Adolescent mothers in Buenos Aires, imprisoned women in La Plata, a collection from a children’s hospital — Lestido’s pictures tend to leave a mark, and tell many stories.

Born in Buenos Aires in 1955, Lestido discovered her love for the camera in the late 1970s, amid weekly protests against Argentina’s then-dictator Jorge Rafael Videla. Every Thursday at 3:30 p.m., the mothers of young people who had disappeared — presumably taken by the government — would assemble in the Plaza de Mayo, facing the presidential palace, and demand answers. Lestido’s boyfriend was one of those who had gone missing.

“I was going through a personal tragedy and somehow embracing photography became my healing process,” Lestido, now 63, told AQ.

That process yielded one of her most iconic photographs: a mother and daughter wearing matching white headscarves, yelling and raising their arms in protest. The photo became a symbol of resistance in Argentina that is still used today.

Since then, Lestido has continued to focus her lens on women: mothers and daughters, girls and their babies, women in pain or falling in and out of love. Men aren’t absent from her work, but they’re rarely at its center. Her photographs reflect the way she herself experiences the world.

“My work is essentially a series of love stories,” she said, “stories of love and heartbreak.”

In recent years Lestido has started exploring other themes and begun photographing landscapes. She has traveled to Chile, Bolivia, Mexico and Antarctica looking for new stories and new horizons. Her series on Antarctica, published in 2017, was accompanied by her first written book. She said she might look into film for her next project.

Nearly all of Lestido’s photographs are in black and white. She said the lack of color gives her images a certain timelessness, allowing them to speak across borders, cultures and generations.

“I’d much rather have people remember my work than my name. I want my images to stay alive and keep telling stories.”

Enríquez is a journalist based in New York

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