Bearing Witness

College of Marin hosts gritty photography show by Fairfax photographer Giuseppe Dezza

Giuseppe Dezza’s on a job site in Inverness taking a break from his carpentry work to talk about his photography show now on exhibit at the College of Marin Learning Resources Library. Dezza traveled to El Salvador in 1990 as a volunteer with the non-governmental Human Rights Commission.

His photography hobby was soon put to the test. Dezza was supposed to volunteer at the commission for two months and instead stayed on for four years—and photographed the tail end of the Salvadoran civil war that raged from 1979 to 1992.

“My job was documenting human rights abuses,” says the 58-year-old native of Italy and resident of Fairfax. “The basic human right we were focused on was the right to life.”

His photos are haunting and visceral. There’s one of a young child perched atop a pile of garbage; another shows a toddler in the foreground with Salvadoran security forces in the background, looking quite scary and intimidating.

The work was as politically dangerous as it was artistically fulfilling. Dezza went to El Salvador as part of a shield program initiated with the Marin Interfaith Task Force. The mission was to document human-rights abuses and diminish the possibility of the Salvadoran military targeting members of the commission. He didn’t flinch. “You’ve got to get close, you’ve got to be there, you’ve got to smell it, you had to see it, you had to feel it,” Dezza says in a statement from the college.

The country was ravaged by its civil war, and there were numerous assassinations, interrogations and instances of torture directed at human-rights workers during the conflict.

Dezza’s show is part of a semester-long enterprise at the school called “Eyes of Compassion: War, Immigration and Transformation.” The opening this week was timed to coincide with the California Undocumented Student Week of Action.

The school will also welcome Salvadoran poet (and College of Marin graduate) Javier Zamora on Nov. 7, at 1pm in Fusselman Hall, room 120. Zamora was born in El Salvador during the civil war and his parents brought him to the United States to escape the violence.

Dezza is headed back to El Salvador this week, he says. The mother of his child is Salvadoran, and so is his wife (who is not the mother of his child). “I go there as much as I can,” he says.

As for his show, he hopes people will come away “with a sense of humanity, maybe their hearts and minds are a little more open.”

‘Giuseppe Dezza: Beyond the Image’ is up through Dec. 21 at the College of Marin Kentfield Campus, Learning Resources Center, Second Floor, 835 College Ave., Kentfield.

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