Comprising of images taken between 2010 and 2011 in the Mennonite colonies of Santa Cruz, in Eastern Bolivia, Los Menonos presents a portrait of a community of self-styled, self-willed outsiders that have voyaged out into the wilderness of a foreign land to escape that which may yet prove to be inescapable: the inexorable encroachment of global capitalism and its implicit disdain for those that do not partake of its market-driven values. Photography feature – Ruiz Cirera’s sometimes stark, sometimes luminous, images convey all the stillness and austerity of the Bolivian Mennonites who – in a perhaps surprising act of faith – put their trust in him. He has more than repaid that trust and, out of such stark simplicity, created a rich and evocative portrait of a self-contained people and their singular way of life.
Published by Éditions du LIC, Cirera’s images have a sense of quiet yet powerful intimacy with a consistency of vision, both formal and atmospheric, that suggest a photographer already possessed of a singular style. Within the pages of Los Menonos one senses an enclosed community slowly opening up to the photographer’s persuasive presence. He captures children fast asleep on a bare wooden floor, a woman and girl running hand in hand along a dusty road, men and women working the arid, dusty land with little recourse to modern machinery and gatherings of people, both public and domestic. Out of all this emerges a sense of the slow rhythm of life in a place where the distractions and discontents of the contemporary world are held at bay by an adherence to a faith that holds fast to simplicity, hard work, communality and the need to keep at a distance all the myriad temptations of that distracting, discontented world.