Thomas Rousset and Raphaël Verona’s Waska Tatay is fairly ambiguous at first glance. The cover is a simple yellow-to-blue fade with the title placed inconspicuously on the spine; but the content is altogether more arresting. Using a mixture of reportage and staged portraiture the photo book documents the pair’s trip to the Altiplano region of Bolivia and their encounters with witch doctors, spiritual healers and medicine men; uncovering the rites and rituals of these ancient orders and illuminating some of their extraordinary mythologies.
What’s particularly engaging about this study is the counterpoint between traditions that date back millennia and their modern setting. We see a witch doctor up a tree, in ceremonial dress but clutching her cell phone to her face, a pair of women in costumes and masks sat next to a TV/VCR and surrounded by stuffed toys and shoes, and a man dressed head-to-toe as a fish in a modern room that could easily be a theatre green room. This balance between old and new, good and evil, spiritual and physical creates a delicious tension in the book, particularly for a Western reader, whose secularised view of the world will find the unification of these seemingly contradictory worlds fascinating.
Waska Tatay is available now from IDPURE.