“During a trip to Colombia in 1984, I explored the Albán region where my mother had been born and raised. There I met Carlos Alberto Salasar, my eight year old guide to this glorious part of the central Andes. His character reflected the strength, serenity and richness of the area and thanks to him; I became closer to this special land of my roots.”
The seed was planted and Isztin’s desire to photograph the children of South America grew. In 1990 he began the production of Forty-Two Hearts. Travelling through Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia Isztin witnessed the contrasts and paradoxes, myths and realities that influence these young people.
The conflict between modernity and tradition remains one of their greatest challenges. Traditional systems and values are often sacrificed for the promise of big city employment, education and material splendour. More often than not, village life is abandoned only to be replaced by urban corruption, violence, drugs and the extremes of economic disparity, Forty-Two Hearts is the story of the children of families who have held faith in tradition and have chosen to remain in their small villages. Isztin holds in high esteem these individuals who live in harmony with nature and maintain a direct relationship with their earth and sky. The personalities of the children are reflected in the landscapes that frame their faces; landscapes that have formed them and will also decide their future.
It is the children’s display of love and honesty, freely offered, that gracefully holds Forty-Two Hearts together. Their simplicity provokes questioning of our own so-called sophistication as the children emanate a frankness, confidence and maturity beyond their years.
“The day you came to visit my home and took my photograph was a special day for me”
Carlos Alberto Salasar
Isztin returned to Albán a third time in 1992. Carlos at 15 told of his hopes and aspirations, as well as his sorrows and concerns. He still loved living in the quiet countryside of Colombia with his relatives. But by the age of 17, Carolos had left Albán and joined the military, something he had always wanted to do.
“I left Colombia thinking about the destiny of Carlos’ life, and of the many young people I had met in my travels. I witnessed their struggle and their suffering, their joy and appreciation. I learned how innocence can quickly be replaced by dignity. These “Forty-Two Hearts” taught me more about the root of human existence than they could ever imagine.”