In Drifting Away my intention is to draw attention to some of the victims of forced disappearances of the Colombian armed conflict. The project is a response to a number of press reports and news broadcasts which explain how the paramilitaries and the guerrillas torture people, mutilate them and make them disappear by throwing their bodies into a river. This is the source of the saying that the rivers of Colombia are the world´s largest graveyard.

To create an expression of this horrible situation, I decided to submerge pieces of clothing or personal objects of the victims in turbulent water, and then photograph them. I print these photographs on glass to convey the feeling of the ethereal and fragile character of life in those parts of our country. 

These very large glass photographs are then displayed upright in the ground, like translucent tombstones in a cemetery. This way people can walk in and around them, and begin to experience the grief of loss. It has been very difficult for the families of the disappeared to feel the healing power of grief, especially since there is often no certainty whether one of the disappeared is actually dead or alive.

I started in Bogotá by looking for clothing or objects belonging to people who had disappeared. Then I continued my search in other areas of conflict, including Eastern Antioquia, Caquetá and Medellín, amongst other places.

During these macabre visits I was able to talk to the families of the victims, who are indeed the voice of all Colombia, clamouring not only for the respect for life, but also for the right to be able to bury their dead.

— Erika Diettes

You can also listen to Erika Diettes talking with Jim Casper about this project in the 7 1/2 minute audio interview recorded at FotoFest in Houston in March 2008.