Photo exhibit opens gallery series with look at Guatemalan Mayans

The first public art exhibit of fall semester at EMU, which opens Thursday, Sept. 3, is featuring photography by Aaron H. Johnston in the third floor art gallery of Hartzler Library.

Johnston’s photographs document the lives of indigenous Mayans in the resettlement community of Union Victoria, Guatemala, where he has lived as a solidarity worker since March 2007 while serving in Brethren Volunteer Service.

Guatemalan child and flock by Aaron Johnston
Guatemalan child and flock by Aaron Johnston

A reception for the artist will be held 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5, in the gallery.

“Aaron Johnston’s sensitive documentation of the cultural life in Union Victoria shows keen attention to the wider social and political issues that continue to haunt Guatemala,” said Steven D, Johnson, associate professor of visual and communication arts at EMU.

The displaced peoples of Union Victoria

As survivors of Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, the displaced peoples of Union Victoria continue to struggle. They are part of the “Communities of Population in Resistance,” a group of some 20,000 people who nonviolently resisted the violence and oppression against the indigenous Maya during the armed conflict. After the civil war, the government relocated many of these groups throughout the country.

In 2001, some 80 families resettled on a former coffee plantation and formed the community of Union Victoria. Today they have rebuilt houses, offices and schools and have a water system and health clinic. Yet, daily many grapple with the consequences of war and relocation. Their ongoing struggle is the subject of Johnston’s photography exhibit at EMU.

About the photographer

Johnston, a native of Salisbury, Md., graduated from Milligan College in Tennessee in 2002 with a degree in business administration with a minor in photography. He was staff photographer with the Salisbury Daily Times newspaper prior to going to Guatemala. He produced a photo documentary of the work of crabbers and oystermen working the Chesapeake Bay that was published in the Salisbury Daily Times.

Some of Johnston’s images can be viewed on his web site at

The exhibit is open for viewing daily during regular library hours free of charge through Sept. 25.