Fruit of a six-year collaboration between photographer Stephen Ferry and his sister, the anthropologist Elizabeth Emma Ferry, La Batea looks closely at small-scale gold mining in Colombia. The title refers to the wooden pan used in traditional mining since Pre-Columbian times.
La Batea documents the struggles of gold mining communities in Colombia to defend their way of life against armed criminal organizations and multinational corporations seeking their gold. Colombia reflects the situation of local communities worldwide who face violent repression for opposing large-scale mining projects in their territories. While exploring the complex social terrain around gold mining, La Batea engages with the charismatic nature of both gold and mercury.
Carefully integrating images, text and design, La Batea engages the reader through touch as well as sight. The cardboard cover is stamped with a circle of 22 karat gold leaf of the kind used by restorers of religious paintings in Colombia. By combining anthropology, photography and the craft of bookmaking, the Ferry siblings have created an experience/object that is at once highly informative and vividly poetic.