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.



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.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra: Markets

Crowded, chaotic, anarcy, action, trading, food, smells, clothes, spices, people, shouting, more people, people everywhere. And in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia and in the biggest market I have ever witnessed, you can add this to the list: tropic humidity, 36c degrees heat, scooters, TVs, speakers, cars, motorbikes, pirated DVDs, shoes, perfume, soap, Christmas decorations, anything and everything, fried chickens, live chickens from a place called Pollo Batman and many many thousands of people including a few mennonites and one gringo, yours truly. I am big fan of markets, especially in Asia and South America. I love the chaos, the people, the food, the smells, the anarchy, there appears to be no rules but it all works. How exactly do they get this unbelievable amount of stuff to and from the street stalls each day?

Trying to make visual sense of any of this can be almost impossible but it is much fun. Apart from the mennonites, I am at least a foot taller than anyone else here. Heck, I’m even taller than the booths and whoever invented those ugly coloured plastic market tents are pure evil. Not good for photography. But it’s fun to shoot markets. I stalk the mennonites as they stick out as I do and provide some interesting contrast. Plenty people stop me and want to buy my Fuji X100. No amigo, I need my precious. This market is maybe 12-15 city blocks. Maybe it never ends. It is daunting in size. I walk and walk and get halfway lost and shoot and get stared it a lot and shoot some more, and walk some more, people duck my camera, no one likes the camera here, if I get just one image I like from today I am fine. Keep walking, keep shooting, so much crazyness going on, I like crazyness, fit right in. Always carry the camera, snap, move, think fast, try not to step on a chicken. The markets of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.