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Wednesday, 7 March 2007

INTERVIEW: Photographer Julio Osorio

Colombian-born East-End photographer, Julio Osorio, re-launched his book Work, Play and no Rest with an exhibition in Spitalfields Market last week. Laura Crowley met him to discuss his work.

Julio Osorio enthusiastically bounces up to greet passers-by as they stroll through the trendy Spitz Gallery. Many are impressed by his poignant black and white photographs depicting impoverished children from Africa and South America. Others continue on with their business, seemingly untouched by the scenes of children as young as four working on dusty streets and vast beaches under the scorching sun.
"I want to make people here aware of a way of living that is worlds apart from their own" he says. "Many are affected by what they see. They notice that while the children are working hard, they can play happily at the same time. They are still very innocent."
Julio moved from Colombia to London with his family at the age of 13, and was surprised by the huge difference in lifestyle.
"We don’t choose where we are born" he says. "If you are born in a developing country, the chances are you will have few opportunities. I wanted to reflect memories of my own childhood through the camera lens, concentrating on the poorest areas of the world."
His photographs were taken on his return to Colombia after 17 years in England, and on subsequent backpacking trips to other developing countries. Julio decided to use his work to raise money after visiting an orphanage for children with HIV and AIDs in South Africa, one of two homes benefiting from the sale of his book.
"The book was first published about a year ago, but it’s taking a while as I have to do everything myself" he explains. "Unfortunately, I’m not the best PR person."
This becomes apparent as he balances the large, hardback book in a glass display cabinet, only for it to come crashing down moments later. He is undeterred. "I have postcards too," he says, dashing over to the table to retrieve them, then asking: "Do you think I should stick them up here?"
He flicks through a handful of striking images – two young sisters laden with handbags to sell; a small boy lovingly leading his elderly grandfather; an African girl whose eyes tell of a hardness way beyond her years.
While in South Africa, Julio visited townships to witness the true extent of poverty. He went with a local white person who had never visited these areas.
"It came apparent that her experience of seeing the harsh reality of the conditions these children are living in opened her eyes and heart. I hope my photographs can have the same effect."
Julio admits braving some areas there that are considered unsafe for foreigners. "I was fine" he shrugs. "I don’t find life dangerous."

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