In 2004, Milwaukee-based documentary photographer Darren Hauck accompanied an ER doctor, and a good friend, to Guatemala to help build a desperately needed clinic. During his initial visit, Darren witnessed a country plagued by gang violence, hunger, and vigilante bloodshed and knew that he had to get involved in some way. Of course, for a photojournalist, getting involved generally means one thing—taking photos, often of people and places others are not willing to shoot.
After returning from his first trip to Guatemala, Darren quickly found his way back and began shooting his own photo essay, Dying To Live, to highlight the daily struggles of the Guatemalan people. He found it easy to connect with the country and the subjects,
I’ve always loved Latin American culture, so it was easy for me to fall in love with the region, and ultimately, get involved. The area is so complex and beautiful yet scarred from years and years of violence. The extremes within the country, people, and culture make such an interesting subject that it’s easy to keep searching and trying to understand what’s going on.
For the last few years Darren has been covering the daily life and struggles of Guatemalans as they live their lives in one of the deadliest countries in the Americas. Through the creation of his project, he’s seen some of the darkest moments in people’s lives and has captured some absolutely heart wrenching moments,
One story that seems to repeat itself over and over is a family member arriving to a murder scene to find a dear family member killed. Multiple times a day, public buses are attacked by gang members and extortionist for payment. The bus driver is executed while the bus is moving, leaving the it flying down a street until it hits something, stopping it. During its height, I would attend up to 5 of these in a single day. The family members would rush to the scene to see their husband, brother, or uncle lying dead in the street or slumped over the steering wheel. This is never easy to see, witnessing a family member seeing their relative lying in a pool of blood and then diving on the body in disbelief.
I have also witnessed street vigilante justice and public lynchings of suspected gang members. Seeing humans burning someone alive, no matter the crime, is not something one can get used to. The people do this because the police and government do nothing to stop crime. It’s a rough reality of a country with no civil leadership and a people pushed to the edge.
Darren has found it somewhat easier than expected to gain access to these scenes and people. Most of the locals seem amazed to see a foreign journalist interested in sharing their plight. Darren believes they’re just happy to see someone who cares about their lives and problems,
This gives me a bit more access than some local journalists, who, for the most part, are not trusted by the locals. Overall, I think the people truly believe in why I’m there and open up to me.
Luckily, Darren has made it safely in and out so far, and with all his gear too. He hopes that his photos and stories will bring some much needed attention to Guatemala and it’s struggles,
Ideally, I would like all the violence and corruption to stop. Realistically, I want people to pay attention to what’s going on. All I can do is try to bring to light the issues. If you do not know of the problem, how can you know something needs to change? All I can do is try and inform the public of the issues that I am documenting, and from there, have trust in human nature and hope they do something to help.
You can view more of Darren’s Dying To Live photo essay on his website, www.dhauckphoto.com.