It is difficult for photography, more than any other
media, to represent what is not there.
than fifteen minutes. The narrative, which lends voice to
Maceo’s perspective and privileges sensations and emotions, is novelistic in tone, vividly recounting the obstacles
encountered as well as the emotions associated with different stages of the event, ranging from doubt and passion to
heroism. Most of all, it describes a bloody scene that cannot
be imagined by looking at the photograph alone.
What originally struck Novo was the fact that there is
no sign to commemorate what happened: the historic site
has become pure geography. That is what the photograph
shows, or rather fails to show, and what the text is there
to provide. In fact, the text is more than a substitute for
a commemorative plaque. It fills the visual silence of the
image and humanizes the place. It superimposes on the
photograph the sensorial experience and the emotions of the
battle. The text is there to do what the photograph cannot.
In this piece, text and photograph work antithetically:
the text visualizes what the image can’t. The narrative
accomplishes an act of communication that the visual image
is incapable of accomplishing. It is difficult for photography,
more than any other media, to represent what is not there.
Writing, a less referential medium, helps make the absence
of memory noticeable. When seen together, the image
speaks of a void, of an absence of signs, whereas the text
visualizes the carnage. But this operation communicates
more than the experience of the war alone since it also
shows an attitude of neglect and forgetfulness in the way
the battlefield has been abandoned to the passage of time.
For Novo, Sólo la tierra perdura is a counterpoint between
word and image. In other words, it is not only the combination of the two media that create meaning but, rather
the distance that separates them. The vitality of the piece
results from the juxtaposition of different languages whose
meaning resides in the invisible threads of comparative
perception that suture the photograph to the written word.
The text closes with a vivid description of the carnage that
resulted from the battle: machetes have ferociously cut up
bodies; the pasture has changed color and texture; the road
is now paved with blood. This description can be interpreted as the photograph that could have been taken on December 15, 1895, but was not. The text is a photograph made of