La Batea is an unconventional book. A collaboration between anthropologist Elizabeth Ferry and her photographer brother Stephen, it combines text and images to paint a picture of the lives of small-scale miners in Colombia in a unique and powerful way. Moreover, the book is physically designed to pull the reader into the topic. Cardboard covers, a specially-chosen paper, and carefully designed chosen fonts provide a unique experience which is topped off by the small piece of gold embedded in the cover.
In this episode of the podcast, Alex Golub talks with Stephen and Elizabeth Ferry about the design, photography, and text of this book. They also talk about the Kickstarter they ran to create the book, and their decision to produce both Spanish and English language versions that were affordable for local communities. Other questions include: What is it like to write a book with your sibling? How elemental a human experience is mining?
Stephen Ferry is a non-fiction photographer who covers social and political change, human rights, and the environment. His books include I Am Rich Potosí: The Mountain that Eats Men (Monacelli, 1999) and Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict (Umbrage/Icono, 2012). He has received grants and fellowships from the National Geographic Expeditions Council, the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, among others.
Elizabeth Ferry is a professor of anthropology at Brandeis University, with interests in value, materiality, mining, and finance, and with fieldwork emphases in Mexico, Colombia, and the United States. Her books include Not Ours Alone: Patrimony, Value and Collectivity in Contemporary Mexico (Columbia University Press, 2005) and Minerals, Collecting and Value Across the U.S.-Mexican Border (Indiana University Press, 2013).
Alex Golub is a professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He studies gold mining in Papua New Guinea and is the author of the open access article "Mining" in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology.