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Gilles Peress’ Cajamarca, Peru, 1991

IT HAS ALL, maybe more than I would want, from a photograph of this world. André Breton spoke of the beauty of the “convulsive,” a quality he didn’t necessarily associate with photographs, though the Surrealists liked them. Somewhere there exists a Surrealist map of the world, and Peru figures on it as a place alarmingly swollen in comparison with its neighbors, a Peru of the mind as well as the earth, and the site of this convulsive image.

I first came upon it a few months ago, in a color Xerox made from a slide, one of about 20 such pictures shown to me by the photographer, Gilles Peress. He had returned from a South American assignment on the legacy of Simón Bolívar, for National Geographic. As visceral as so many other pictures he brought from that tour, this one immediately singled itself out as the most enigmatic. Even in Xerox the subject induced a blaze of anxiety and wonder. What

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