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.