Portrait of a Peruvian Lady

The face is an insight into each unique life lived. The wrinkles, the expressions and above all the eyes. A window into the soul. So says the cliché. I suspect it contains a very large dose of truth.

I was reminded recently of one of my favourite sets of old portrait photos: a series of beautiful, strong Peruvian women I encountered on my travels in 2009. These photos, taken on a small point and shoot Canon camera I’d gotten for Christmas of the year before, were nothing sophisticated – but they were honest and reflected a desire to connect with a new culture I was experiencing and loving. Tucked away in my photo folders on an old external hard drive – they have traipsed around the world with me and are a nostalgic reminder of uni travels.

And so, on a cold winter’s night after perusing textures and colours at an exhibition of Latin American contemporary art at the Museum of Art & Design or “MAD” in NYC, I came home in search of my old archives! They brought back memories of how mesmerized I was by the Latin American continent when I first arrived in Peru for the first time. The colours, the smells, the chaos, the people, the food. The faces. Travelling through the countryside – the Colca Canyon region and Arequipa beyond the touristy Cuzco and hectic Lima – the clothing in particular was infused with a dash of texture, shape, pattern and colour that was representative of the strong and diverse personalities of the women that I came into contact with.

Crafts, textiles and weaving are a big part of the Peruvian culture of artisanship, skills held primarily among the women. Wandering along the streets of small towns, I was reminded of the need to provide for family and children. Many of these women keep up traditions not for just pure passion but for necessity and income – tourism and selling traditional arts remain an important source of growth for Peru. Much like in any other country, some encounters were friendly – others were distracted as the women were engrossed in their creations, or suspicious of tourists. Invariably – a little bit of Spanish helped.

These photos are a short storyboard of my travels through Peru – interacting with women on the street, in museums, on tourist tracks between canyons and trails. They speak to my own love of the textures, colours and patterns of the Peruvian culture and the interesting Peruvian women I met along the way…

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Mother and daughter – colourful hats, sharp eyes, overlooking the Colca Canyon

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Suspicious knitter

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Don’t distract me…I’m knitting

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Maria, the friendliest by far on the streets of Arequipa

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Hard work

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Shy weaver

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Hiding behind my llama

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Artisan sewing in modern colours

M xx

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Perpetual Motion

I sustained a hip stress fracture injury late last year.

Diagnosis: too much motion.

Symptom: pain.

Recovery plan: s-t-o-p.

I was basically overdoing it. I was training for a marathon and I was simply running too much for what my body could handle. A bit like a repetitive strain injury. The immediate need to stop walking, stop running and generally limit the weight-bearing activity I did was rather depressing for someone who loves being active and wandering around like me. It also highlighted how hard it is to accept limitations to our mobility – I was grateful not to have a chronic mobility issue. Especially in a city like New York where the public transport system is NOT geared to the mobility-challenged. Suddenly I became incredibly aware of how much I loved walking around everywhere, how much I missed having a car, how much more I was going to be paying for cabs over the coming months – not a happy thought!

It also made me realize that the big cities we live in are hives of activity. Constantly in flux and transition. Tiring – no, exhausting! A grand tide of movement we cannot control. Overwhelming even. High density living above all creates this effect: bustling shops, packed streets, trafficked avenues, cramped subway carriages, much opportunity for human observation and interaction. Much of the power of cities – the energy they create, the vibe and reputation they develop – comes from their population density and the ability to encourage ideas to flow and interact, to integrate into new ways of thinking, innovations and creativity.

Crazily enough, at work this topic seems to have come up in one of the many chat sessions I observed, one day discussing the percentage likelihood of dying of the flu (a happy thought, right!? I believe in response to the free vaccination option during a cold winter!). This raised (somewhat randomly) the fact that New York does not even arise in the top 100 most densely populated cities – so while it is plenty dense by developed world standards, it doesn’t feel as tightly wound up as it could be! Another talk I went to with a well known architect spoke about population density as an opportunity for effective resource management: indeed, if the population density of Manhattan (sprawl up, not out) applied to the world…all 7 billion population in the world could fit into the State of Colorado – crazy! Check out this cool website for more info: whatismissing.net!

All this is to say – we live in a world of perpetual motion. Of unmitigated change. So why not allow our photos, our art, to sometimes show this? Rather than pretending that the world stops for us to capture a moment, why not embrace the blur? The imperfection, the fleeting stance, the transient moment, where the characters within our story are not still, but in the process of completing some action, some movement. The below are some of my experimental shots taken while meandering the city – some in coffee shops, some hidden behind poles near Central Park trying to carve out space from which to capture shots, some in public parks. They are all imperfect. They were all taken while I was not perfectly still – no tripod – just my shaky hands. They are an authentic touch of real life in action.

More on the need for meditation to come…and thank goodness I am mobile again!

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Green Tea Layer Cake at Lady M, UES

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Undecided – chocolate eclair or mont blanc? Lady M, UES

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Opposites Attract or Matching Moment – Black and Pink, Pink and Black? Lady M, UES

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Uncertainty – who’s doing what? Unsure where to look… Lady M, UES

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Pink shirt on generic subway platform

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Pidgeons waiting for the next carriage patron, Central Park

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The Plaza, The Pole and That Yellow Cab #1

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The Plaza, The Pole and That Yellow Cab #2

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The Plaza, The Pole and That Yellow Cab #3

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Dimlit brunch, UES

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Play me a song Mr Piano Man, Washington Square Park

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Pink jacket stands out in the Bloomingdale’s crowd

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Cycling through, Central Park South 

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Move on – crossover; 5th Avenue

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Quiet amidst the storm

M xx

Everything you can imagine is real

Who said this? None other than the great master creative, Pablo Picasso. When I read it (…it actually ironically came up as the quote of the day on my Bloomberg screen of all things!!), I felt immediately inspired! #qotd! What a wonderful reminder that our lives are filled with hopes and dreams, with desires and imaginings. To remember that what we hope and dream of can become real, can be made real, is a very empowering statement. As an artistically minded creative, it was also a reminder that our creative pursuits and creations bring something alive. They can represent something living and vibrant – in the way a photo can capture a moment, or a portrait can capture the essence of a heart or a soul.

It has been some time since I have posted on my artsy blog – life got busy, I went home to Australia for some sun, I felt uninspired, I didn’t allocate time to being creative. Don’t we all sometimes feel flat or overwhelmed? Too busy and overscheduled to really meditate properly on our intention to create. It had been a while since I have felt really creatively inspired. My easel and my camera have been quiet.  Until recently – this past week or so has been a moment of frenzied motivation in the aide of some animal portraits!

I never really grew up with pets. I was allergic to their shedding hair and had a failed series of pets including a set of reproducing mice (so much for being de-sexed!), a fat stray lazy white cat which we gave away, a fluffy rabbit and some other random visitors (including ducklings which even got eaten by local cats!), after which we decided that pets weren’t for our family! But I must admit that seeing 2 of my friends – C a colleague at work and K a great friend of mine through soccer – express passion and childlike enthusiasm when sharing photos of their beloved pets – a beautiful golden retriever Summer and a badass cat Oscar – I felt inspired. Nothing like the pure and unconditional love of a dedicated pet to start one imagining and wondering how to create an image of the essence of these animal souls. To give a permanent image in watercolor and pastel to enshrine their personality, their warmth, their vulnerability – their neediness that makes humans adore and cherish their loyal animal companions.

I tried to capture the essence of these furry friends – their cheeky watchfulness, their windswept cute messy fur, their eyes as their window to their soul. I hope you can see it, or imagine it.

Everything you can imagine is real. Pablo Picasso

Happy new year!

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Meet Oscar, 2015

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Hello Summer, 2015

M xx