Betty Laura Zapata

From the series X-Rays. Patients wait in the ‘trauma service’ área for approximately 4 to 6 hours before receiving any medical attention. For an operation, the wait could take as long as 4 to 6 months. ©Betty Zapata
From the series X-Rays. Patients wait in the ‘trauma service’ área for approximately 4 to 6 hours before receiving any medical attention. For an operation, the wait could take as long as 4 to 6 months. ©Betty Laura Zapata

March’s featured photographer is Betty Laura Zapata

Betty Laura Zapata was born in Coro, Venezuela. She is a documentary photographer and journalist focusing mainly in social issues in Latin American and different cultures, with the desire to work on stories around the world, which are under-reported but deserve more attention.

Betty has worked as Journalist in Venezuela in different medias such as the TV Station Televen, and Semanario Quinto Dia. After many years she decided to focus in Photography as a new way for her to continue discovering stories from all over the world.

She recently finished her MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography At London College of Communication (University of Arts London)

Her work has been exhibited at the group exhibition ‘Consider This” at London College of Communication and at The Free Range in 2013 (London)

To see more of Betty Laura Zapata’s work visit here.

X-Ray

Project X-Ray tries to touch on how public hospitals in Venezuela are immersed in their own emergency; an internal photographic documentation of the decomposition of public healthcare facilities and the suffering of vulnerable patients in a moment when the country has been immersed in one of the biggest economic and political crises of its history.

The Venezuelan public health care situation is a microcosm of the situation in the country as a whole. Poverty, violence, internal political conflicts, corruption, negligence and abandonment are the constant realities that are present both within the walls of public hospitals and amplified within the borders of Venezuela.

Censorship has slowly changed the way journalism is operating in the country. Even when there are some newspapers, or radio and TV stations the general fear of being careful of what is written or denounced is very extreme. On occasion doctors, nurses and even patients protest about the conditions in these places, and these are sometimes written about. However it is almost impossible to see any images from the inside. That is why ” X -Ray “ became an undercover project.

I managed to visit nine hospitals in Venezuela and I did a general portrait of the bad conditions there. I focused to show within the images the lack of supplies, equipment and staff, shortage of beds, low wages, poor conditions of the operating rooms, broken lifts, malfunctioning air conditioners, as well as rising insecurity and outbreaks of violence.

The intention is to show this project to Venezuelans and people abroad to create awareness of the situation in Venezuelan public hospitals. For many people is unknown the bad conditions of these places and how much suffer is for the common people to have a dignity attention.

This project is not trying to change the situation in the country. But as a Venezuelan who knows the reality and the suffering of people there, I aim to spread the word and touch the viewers with these images. Considering that there is an enormous lack of information and that not many people know what it is really like to live as a Venezuelan and to confront some of these tragic situations in hospitals.

From the series X-Ray. A mother and father accompany their son who underwent eye surgery at the ‘Universitario de Caracas’ hospital. The hospital provides no beds for visitors, therefore the father created a makeshift bed on the floor out of cushions, lying beneath the baby’s bed. The family came over from the Amazon state (710 km from Caracas) and had already been living in these conditions at the hospital for fifteen days. ©Betty Zapata
From the series X-Ray. A mother and father accompany their son who underwent eye surgery at the ‘Universitario de Caracas’ hospital. The hospital provides no beds for visitors, therefore the father created a makeshift bed on the floor out of cushions, lying beneath the baby’s bed. The family came over from the Amazon state (710 km from Caracas) and had already been living in these conditions at the hospital for fifteen days. ©Betty Laura Zapata
From the series X-Ray. Sometimes, the only guardians in public hospitals are stray dogs. Because of this lack of security, doctors have often been robbed during both day and night shifts. ©Betty Zapata
From the series X-Ray. Sometimes, the only guardians in public hospitals are stray dogs. Because of this lack of security, doctors have often been robbed during both day and night shifts. ©Betty Laura Zapata
From the series X-Ray. ©Karla Gachet. A pregnant woman gets a check-up prior to giving birth. Due to the lack of medical supplies, many patients need to buy their own medicines, needles and bandages.
From the series X-Ray. A pregnant woman gets a check-up prior to giving birth. Due to the lack of medical supplies, many patients need to buy their own medicines, needles and bandages. ©Betty Laura Zapata
From the series X-Ray. A puddle of urine features in a morgue in a public hospital in Caracas, 1 of the 41 morgues which exist in the whole of Venezuela.©Betty Zapata
From the series X-Ray. A puddle of urine features in a morgue in a public hospital in Caracas, 1 of the 41 morgues which exist in the whole of Venezuela.©Betty Laura Zapata
From the series X-Ray. Patients’ medical archives are heaped together haphazardly. Because of this disorganisation, patients cannot gain Access to their medical history with ease, and it is sometimes unobtainable.©Betty Zapata.
From the series X-Ray. Patients’ medical archives are heaped together haphazardly. Because of this disorganisation, patients cannot gain Access to their medical history with ease, and it is sometimes unobtainable.©Betty Laura Zapata.
From the series X-Ray. A woman helps an elderly woman to use the deteriorated common toilets in a public. ©Betty Zapata
From the series X-Ray. A woman helps an elderly woman to use the deteriorated common toilets in a public. ©Betty Laura Zapata
From the series X-Ray. Within Venezuelan public hospitals only 16,000 hospital beds are used out of the potential 42,000 beds available. A lack of privacy for the patients is common throughout the majority of hospital bedrooms. ©Betty Laura Zapata
From the series X-Ray. Patients wait long hours in corridors with unsightly ceilings and lacking lights. The Venezuelan Medical Federation confirms that 90% of public hospitals have problems with their infrastructure, medical supplies and staff. ©BEtty Zapata
From the series X-Ray. Patients wait long hours in corridors with unsightly ceilings and lacking lights. The Venezuelan Medical Federation confirms that 90% of public hospitals have problems with their infrastructure, medical supplies and staff. ©Betty Laura Zapata

Interview with Betty Laura Zapata

Foto Féminas: How did your Project, X-Ray, come about?

Betty Laura Zapata: X-Ray was born out of my final project for my Masters in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography, which I took at the London College of Communication. The motivation behind my idea was to reveal a Venezuelan reality, which is unknown to outsiders. Even though problems regarding public health are not exclusive to my country, and can be witnessed in many other places throughout Latin America, I considered it important to show the real struggles that numerous Venezuelan patients and doctors have to go through on a daily basis. What further motivated me was the more I investigated this problem the more I realised that, due to government’s censorship of various media, it’s almost impossible to know what exactly goes on behind closed doors through the information given by the press or television. Although thanks to the help from doctors, nurses, patients and workers I managed to access various important hospitals on a clandestine basis and captured the sad reality of what occurs in these spaces, trying in some way to give a voice to those who are frightened or simply don’t have the opportunity to make others aware of this situation.

FF: Who would you say are your photographic influences?

BLZ: That is a question I’ve asked myself since I began my photographic career. I think my influences have come from observing various photographic works that I admire, from classical pieces to new talents that always surprise me with the great stories they portray. However, the photography that never fails to move me is always centred on human beings and their surroundings. Currently I would say people such as Christopher Anderson, Walter Astrada, Alex Webb, Edmund Clark and Dana Popa are influential to me.

FF: What is your perception of photography in Venezuela?

BLZ: It seems to me that Venezuelan photography is growing significantly in a positive way. I have seen the work of many incredibly talented photographers who want to show a new side of Venezuela; a different side through the use of great ideas within the art of photography. I believe we are a country that will start to receive a lot more recognition over the next few years, against the backdrop of new projects being developed by these talented people. Furthermore, I think it’s necessary for Venezuelan photography to show new things that will give people a lot to talk about.


Betty Laura Zapata nació en Coro, Venezuela. Betty es fotógrafa documental y periodista, enfocada principalmente en temas sociales latinoamericanos y diferentes culturas. Su deseo, es trabajar en historias alrededor del mundo que sean poco conocidas, pero que merecen  más atención.

Betty ha trabajado como periodista en Venezuela para diferentes medios como la televisora Televen y Semanario Quinto Dia. Después de muchos años, ella decidió enfocarse en la fotografía como una nueva manera de continuar descubriendo historias de alrededor del mundo.

Recientemente se graduó en “London College of Communication”(University of Arts London) con un Master en Fotoperiodismo y fotografía documental.

Su trabajo ha sido expuesto en la muestra grupal “Consider This” en London College of Communication y en “The Free Range”(Londres) en el 2013.

X-Ray

La intención del Proyecto X-Ray es enfocarse en los hospitales públicos de Venezuela , los cuales siempre están inundados de emergencias. X-Ray es una documentación fotográfica interna sobre el declive de la accesibilidad de atenciones médicas públicas  y el sufrimiento de pacientes vulnerables durante el tiempo  en el que el país ha estado sumergido en una de las mas grandes crisis económicas y políticas de su historia.

Los  problemas en las atenciones médicas venezolanas son sólo un microcosmo en medio del entorno del país.La pobreza, violencia, conflictos políticos internos, corrupción, negligencia y abandono, son las realidades constantes que están presentes entre las paredes de los hospitales en Venezuela.

Lentamente la censura ha cambiado la manera en la que el periodismo funciona en el país. A pesar de algunos periódicos, emisoras de radio o de la televisión, el temor general de tener cuidado con respecto a lo que se escribe o lo que se anuncia es muy extremo. Algunas veces, doctores, enfermeras y pacientes también protestan sobre las condiciones de estos lugares y a menudo son sobre escritos. Sin embargo, es casi imposible ver imágenes del interior de estos lugares. Por eso X-Ray se convierte en un proyecto secreto.

‘Logré visitar nueve hospitales venezolanos e hice un retrato general de las malas condiciones de allí. Mi enfoque fue enseñar dentro de las imágenes, la falta de provisiones, equipo y personal, la falta de camas, sueldos bajos, las malas condiciones  de los quirófanos, ascensores rotos, el mal funcionamiento de los aires acondicionados y además, el aumento de inseguridad  y los brotes de violencia.’

La intención es enseñar este proyecto a Venezuela y a los extranjeros y crear así conciencia de la situación en los hospitales públicos de Venezuela. Para mucha gente las fatales condiciones de estos lugares son desconocidas y también el gran sufrimiento.

Este proyecto no está intentando cambiar la situación de Venezuela sino que como una venezolana que sabe la realidad y sufrimiento de la gente de allí, intento compartir una conciencia y tocar a los espectadores con estas imágenes. Esto es porque hay una falta enorme de información y gente que realmente no sabe lo que es vivir como un venezolano y hacer frente a estas situaciones trágicas dentro los hospitales.

Entrevista a Betty Laura Zapata 

Foto Féminas: ¿Cómo surgió tu proyecto, X-Ray?

Betty Laura Zapata: El proyecto X-Ray nació como parte del Proyecto Final para mi Maestría de Fotoperiodismo y Fotografía documental en el London College of Communication. Mi idea estuvo motivada por el deseo de exponer una realidad venezolana que para muchos en el extranjero es desconocida.

Aunque el problema de salud pública no es un caso exclusivo de mi país sino que se ve en muchos otros lugares de Latinoamérica por ejemplo, consideré importante denunciar las grandes dificultades que muchos pacientes y médicos venezolanos viven día a día y me motivo aún más el hecho de que mientras más investigaba sobre esta problemática me daba cuenta que debido a la gran censura del gobierno de mi país a los medios de comunicación es casi imposible saber a ciencia cierta lo que se vive dentro de estos recintos en la prensa o televisión.

Gracias a la ayuda de médicos, enfermeras, pacientes y trabajadores logre acceder clandestinamente a varios hospitales importantes y recoger la triste realidad de lo que se vive en estos espacios, intentado de alguna manera darle una voz a aquellos que tienen miedo o simplemente no tienen la oportunidad de denunciar esta situación.

FF: ¿Quiénes dirías son tus influencias fotográficas?

BLZ: Esa es siempre una pregunta que me hago muchas veces desde que comencé esta carrera y creo que la influencia ha venido de observar el trabajo de muchos fotógrafos a los que admiro desde los más clásicos hasta los nuevos talentos que siempre sorprenden con grandes historias, puedo decir sin embargo que me mueve siempre la fotografía que está conectada al ser humano y a su entorno, en este momento podría nombrar personas como Christopher Anderson, Walter Astrada, Alex Webb, Edmund Clark y Dana Popa.

FF: ¿Cómo ves la fotografía en Venezuela?

BLZ: La fotografía en Venezuela esta creciendo significativamente y de manera positiva a mi parecer. He visto el trabajo de muchos fotógrafos súper talentosos que quieren mostrar una nueva cara de mi país, una cara diferente con grandes ideas dentro de este arte de la fotografía. Creo que somos un país que empezará a darse a conocer mucho más en los próximos años en este ambiente con nuevos proyectos que todos estos talentos van a ir desarrollando. Además que considero que hay una necesidad del fotógrafo venezolano de mostrar cosas nuevas y eso dará mucho que hablar.

Para ver más del trabajo de Betty Laura Zapata aquí.

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