Bolivia Remembered

Bolivia, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, December 2011. The camera stares at, grins at me lying on my hostel bed in tropical heat–I shoot angry glares back. The camera has been kicking my butt every day for some weeks and I hate it right now. Despise photography. But I need to pick it up and go create something. Need an outlet. A dark storm hovers in my mind, I am depressed, all purpose seems lost and recent events including a suicide made me fall in a black hole devoid of all light. I walk the world feeling completely disconnected from human life. Despising myself and my existence. As always, light this bright casts some very dark shadows. Despite an abundance of sun light in tropical Santa Cruz I have been in the shadows for days. I like extremes–I seek extremes. Fitting then I guess, that I am in the darkest of moods in the brightest of warm tropical weather.

Get out. Walk. Standing still never worked for me. Must keep moving. Or shadows catch up. Grab the damn camera and walk, walk the streets of this hot, weird and interesting melting pot of a city. Get out of this hostel from hell. Walk, damn legs, walk. A market appears. A gigantic chaotic market bigger than any market I have seen in Asia or anywhere else. A world inside a world. No hiding here. Not a single gringo in sight anywhere. I break out the camera. Channel my darkness into looking, seeing, shooting, making images.

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These are two of my favourite pictures from Bolivia and I like putting them together. They look like one image, almost. The top image is from the street I lived on and an easy image to make. The second image is my favourite from Bolivia, women at the largest market ever in the history of all markets–that I have been to. Filled at least 15 square city blocks. Hard to shoot this image. NO ONE wanted to be part of any photos. Had to steal images as I walked around being the most noticeable person in the entire city.

Memories are funny. These words are written about a year after the images were made. And I want to return to Bolivia. Have been on my mind recently. Calls me back. It is one of the hardest places to work in that I have experienced. I was in a dark, dark place for the 10 days I was there. But it was a very interesting place filled with awesome people and places of contrast and extremes. That’s why I want to return of course. The challenge. And I need the extremes. To create. To feel alive.

Walk towards the Mountain

“As long as I keep walking towards the mountain I will be alright”

— from Neil Gaiman’s incredibly inspirational keynote address.

So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.

There is no other path for me. This is it. It is madness for most, but it is what I want to do, have to do, must do, put here to do. Have to go and do it. Walk towards the mountain.

I will listen to Neil’s advice “Make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do. Make up your own rules.”

There is but one path for me. Towards the mountain. Mad and magic dreams, always.

Puedo tomar una foto?

It had proved to be surprisingly hard. Almost everyone said no. Some people even ducked and escaped the streets as soon as they spotted my camera. No amount of small talk by me could convince people to be in the frame. Getting any portraits in the small Andes Mountain towns of northwestern Argentina required stealing images. Maybe I was just having really bad luck. Every day.

But this lovely woman in the desert town of San Antonio de Los Cobres was different. She initially said no as she passed me. Expecting this, I just shrugged, smiled and sat down in the shade. You have to sit in the shade in San Antonio de Los Cobres. The sun in the desert at 3.8k altitude boils your skin. She takes an interest. This tall (I am about twice her height) weird alien is too strange to ignore, and she sits down next to me.

We talk. Well, she talks a lot. I answer in my basic Spanish. I like the way she laughs almost the same way I do. Her face tells the story of living in these extreme conditions. She’s lived here all her life she says. I look at her kind and warm eyes, skin cut like laser by the fierce sun and warm wind. It is very warm here today, her scarf and hat is protection. “Take my picture” she says, surprising me. I lean back so the blinding sun blows out the background. Her expression is perfectly her, the image a perfect memory of her. Wish I could remember her name.

Peru Photo Story: Solitude

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The Andes. Ancient and majestic mountains, windy, cold and unforgiving. The road snakes through the desolate and uninviting landscape. The sky is white, the wind fierce and colours are muted to a stark monochrome mood. Yet, here in this extreme environment people live and make their lives.

More a mood than a story, these pictures were made in the Andes mountains of Peru driving from Arequipa to Chivay. This was the third story I submitted for the group reviews in the brilliant Adam Weintraub PhotoExperience.net workshop with Daniel Milnor.

The solitude spoke to me instantly. I know it well having mapped out that feeling intensely. I chose black and white as I wished to do a different story at this time in the workshop, and it enhances the mood of the harsh environment. The 2nd to last image is easily omitted but I wanted to bring the traveler into this environment, 4 kilometers altitude, unforgiving, uninviting, fascinating.