Baldomero Alejos was a photographer who worked for over half a century (1924-1976) in the Peruvian city of Ayuchuco. The artistic quality and the historic value of his images has caused Baldomero Alejos to be recognized as one of the most important Peruvian artists of the last century. His photographic archive consists of of more than 60,000 images documenting life in Ayacucho. The photographs portray the social, civic, religious and cultural life of this special city during the peaceful decades before terrorism gripped the city, and eventually the nation.
Alejos’ unique feeling for natural light and his ability to bring out the most characteristic expression in his subjects made him not only a visual historian of note but an exceptional artist as well. Alejos always searched for beauty in each of his photographs, a search he made for beauty’s sake alone, not for posterity. In that respect, he was a perfectionist. Those who knew him say he would spent long hours in front of a window working on prints and negatives. With a characteristically delicate touch, he had the ability to soften expressions or features that his customers wanted de-emphasized. He would patiently work on the same image repeatedly until he achieved the desired effect, and sometimes he would abandon the day’s work to begin again in search of perfection.
Baldomero Alejos’ life was completely devoted to the art of truthfully depicting people and their lives. He was a privileged witness of his time, faithfully portraying life in Ayacucho, a city isolated from the capital. Alejos’ photographic art portrayed a traditional yet complex society of landowners and indios and he was able to document the slow change that came about as a result of democratization, economic fluctuations, and the increased influence of the native Indian population in the city. Unlike many of his contemporaries, his unique eye regarded all elements of society. Even the poorest in Cayachuco – Indians and farmers – would come to Baldomero Alejos for their family photographs, as his prices were affordable and his studio was centrally located.
The images of the photographic archive documented a period of peace in Ayacucho history. But shortly after the photographer’s death in 1976, Ayacucho was riven apart by the activities of the Sendero Luminoso ( the Shining Path) which began at a University in Ayachuco and soon spread to the rest of Peru. For twenty years ( 1980-2000) the images of peace documented by Alejos were replaced by cruel scenes of sadness and pain.