At the age of eighty, Nereo López Meza made the most important decision of his life: He reinvented himself in order to live a life free of the fears that were taking a toll on him in Bogotá, close to the axis of power of a country that he has photographed from top to bottom and from left to right, documenting major moments in the history of Colombia.

In 2000, Nereo Lopez Meza took a trip to New York in order to make a name for himself as a photographer in a strange city where he had to explain just who he was. "I visited nearly all of the city's galleries, always looking for the opportunity to make myself known, but it is very hard for us artists to sell our work," Nereo says.

"Some of the visits were traumatic. The applications were all the same. Not one had as much as an iota of creativity," Nereo recalls.

The applications were so short that he was notable to put down his life achievements. The application asked for dates and Nereo retraced his life. He recalled when, in 1955, he played the role of an American photographer in the production of an experimental film titled La langosta azul [The Blue Lobster].
The coolest dudes from Colombia and, perhaps, from the entire country took part in the making of that film. The Blue Lobster is the only cinematographic reference to the beginnings of geniuses such as Gabriel García Márquez, Álvaro Cepeda Samudio, Alejandro Obregón, and Enrique Grau. "We were young," Nereo says, and a mischievous spark shoots out of his baby-blue eyes.
"It is the only 24-minute experimental film that has had four directors. The truth is that the participation of García Márquez is not what the promoters of the film make it out to be at times. García Márquez adapted Cepeda Samudio's story and fine-tuned the screenplay.
"We all, the protagonists, contributed something: Cash, a tripod, a camera, the knowledge, and the talent to pull it off," recalls Nereo. "Furthermore, García Márquez makes all that very clear in his memoirs."
One step forward, and he is in touch with the present world; one step backwards, and he continues to feed from those memories, remembrances of the round of applause given at the ceremony when he was decorated with the Cross of Boyacá. In his walk down memory lane, he vividly remembers the day when García Márquez received the Nobel Prize. And so forth and so on, that is how he reviews the flashbacks of his life.
Even though Nereo longs for the past, he is displaying his photographs at the Union City Art Gallery at City Hall until August 20, 2011.
He just turned ninety-one, and with his camera in hand, he seeks out the stories behind the stories. He demonstrated his expertise in the lectures he gave on "The Colombian Caribbean" at Harvard University, and once again with his latest illustrated report: Willets Point: The Garden of Ashes.
Nereo was one of the photographers who inaugurated the 1964 New York World's Fair with one of the most beautiful photographs of all times ever taken of Cartagena de Indias: "The Balconies of Cartagena." Forty years later, Nereo is living in New York and has finally arrived at the very same spot where his work was shown for the first time in New York.
Published on July 22 2012
Photo Jacqueline Donado - Summer 2012