Tag Archives: portrait

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…

IMG_1110_edited

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

IMG_0896-1

Suspicious knitter

IMG_0893

Don’t distract me…I’m knitting

IMG_0892_edited

Maria, the friendliest by far on the streets of Arequipa

IMG_0894

Hard work

IMG_1161

Shy weaver

IMG_0967

Hiding behind my llama

IMG_0985

Artisan sewing in modern colours

M xx

Advertisements

Knockout

I have a very animated way of talking which involves waving my hands around a lot. Not a big surprise if you take into account my Italian background. Then add in a pinch of enthusiasm, a hint of energy and a  drop of flamboyant personality…and you have a recipe for knocking over many glasses of water! Yes, I have spilled a lot of water in kitchens and at restaurant tables in my adult years, not to mention my childhood ones.  Recently, I managed to knock over a series of full glasses of water in fancy New York establishments onto the lap of my great friend MC. In both cases I had barely touched my glass of wine, so I really had no excuse other than my own over enthusiasm and excessive gesticulations to blame! Thank you MC for being so patient with my water spills!

Water glasses are not the only casualty from this intensity in communication style – I have (accidentally) knocked people in the face with my elbows on the dance floor (to the chagrin of their boyfriends nearby!) and practically and unintentionally tripped myself over, rifled phones to the floor and ruffled many feathers.

The unintentional “knockout” moment. It is amazing what you discover when it happens. Some people laugh as you collect yourself and clear the spillage. Some people respond as if distressed by the invasion of their peace and personal space. Some people start up a conversation in the wake of the damage, as if you broke the ice and opened yourself up to a fresh, genuine interaction. It is impossible to be inauthentic in that (embarrassing) moment! Caught off guard by your own imperfection and unconstrained passion for the topic of the day.

That “knockout” moment is not always bad. In fact – in the creative process, it most often manifests itself as a moment of inspiration, of  eye-opening wonder. When you suddenly seize the moment, filled with a sense of vision. It happens in writing, it happens in art, it happens when you get that perfect shot, without trying. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does – it’s great. I find travel often wields these artistic “knockout” moments, more than normal life. Maybe it’s because our hearts are more open to them. We are more relaxed, more liberated. Maybe it’s because what we see is somehow new and makes us feel renewed, novel and different. Bill Bryson put it beautifully:

To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.

– Bill Bryson

I share a couple of “knockout” visions. They are by no means the best photos ever taken at all, but I can remember feeling a sense of satisfaction when I took them. A random selection to inspire over the weekend.

1. Composition

IMG_5556

The art of gelato: it was too good to pass up, the moment of dripping, melting gelato in the Springtime sun on a backstreet in Milan with my sister’s bright multi-colored necklace shining in the background!

IMG_0276

Seal Rocks: the most gorgeous outlook to the Pacific Ocean on the north coast of NSW, Australia. The turquoise waters shimmering in the summer sun and the green shrubs in the foreground, both a lovely contrast to the deep, dark blue hues of the watery expanse.

2. Intense color and contrast

IMG_5146

German tulips: brightening your day and the tiny dew drops topped off one of my favorite flower photos.

Africa 435

African sunset: it doesn’t get any better than an African sunset along the Chobe River in Botswana. It took your breath way.

IMG_1985

Micro China: red, the color of fortune and royalty. These slippers from a market stall in China were a bright reminder of a regal past. I love the messiness of the close up, entangled tassels and all.

3. Ambience / enigmatic human interest

IMG_0440

Rainy reflections: stuck on a rainy night in the backstreets of the charming, quaint town of Suzhou, China about an hour or so outside Shanghai, the reflections of the bright lanterns with these lone girls huddled under their shared umbrella just captivated me. The blur of the photo felt in tune with the drizzly outlook from underneath my own umbrella.

Old fashioned Shanghai street: This is by no means the most fabulous set of photos, but it felt like I’d capture a moment of humanity passing by me in those moments. I was standing still and alone on a standard back street somewhere in the metropolis of Shanghai, with people, cars and mess passing by me. In those moment, two elderly gentlemen cycled slowly past, and 2 elderly ladies wandered in the opposite direction. Each a slow solitary figure in this overcrowded city. Each simply going about their own daily business and happening to have intersected with my own travels, in a moment when I too had stopped to take stock.

4. Nature: stunning scenery

antarctic294 EDITED

Antarctic ice sheet reflections

antarctic365

Iceberg depths

antarctic141 EDITED

Spot the penguin

antarctica002

Iceberg graveyard

5. Great smiles

IMG_1110_edited

Colca Canyon Joy: traveling through the Colca Canyon in Peru, we would stop along the road to look at the beautiful local scarves and textiles, occasionally buying something or chatting with the locals. This mother and daughter captivated me – in their traditional colorful patterned dresses and hats of the local area. The warmth of the mother’s expression, the hand of the daughter leaning close to her mother. A great smile lights up a portrait like nothing else. We all look better smiling! 

IMG_0892_edited

Maria de Arequipa: I managed to garner from my basic Spanish that this lady’s name was Maria as she sat smiling on the sidewalk of the old town of Arequipa, Peru making small dolls and keychain dolls – artisanship slowly being lost. Her positivity was palpable.

Have a great weekend!

M xx

Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those eyes?

I always find myself invariably distracted by random human interest articles,  attracted to artistic reviews rather than practical current affairs in my online news wanderings.  My latest distraction was an article in the NY Times about a photographer who took photos of 4 sisters over 40 years – every year since 1975!  Gorgeous, simple, raw photos – all in black and white.  Capturing sisterly connection, youth, changing fashions and hairstyles, aging.  They were really beautiful, an insight into an interesting story.

It reminded me of how portraits, both paintings and photography, are a special and incisive way of capturing relationships, emotions, human essence. It reminded me of some of the photos I took in wilderness of Botswana of the San Bushmen, a small fading group of nomadic peoples whose fate, as they are driven off the land and can no longer hunt, is reminiscent of many indigenous peoples globally. Reviewing the photography portraits of the hour or so I spent in their presence, learning about their culture, their clicking language, their expert knowledge of the wilderness and the wealth it offers us, their relationships,  I reflected upon the  intensity in their eyes. And ironically, in the comfort of my New York apartment, the old Louis Armstrong song came to mind…

When the weather vane points to gloomy
It’s gotta be sunny to me, when your eyes look into mine…

…says mother looking into her child’s eyes.

Africa 1258

Mother smiles and plays with her child, warms him, cleans his snotty nose. Maternal love does not change across cultures!

Intensity in the expressions shared between them; many inside jokes we didn’t understand as they laughed at us no doubt! There was happiness with their children, generosity and humor among themselves. There was also a sense of uncertainty about the future. A certain sadness.

Africa 1244

Young Proud San Man

The only young man in their presence, although small and fine in stature, was a proud and strong man. He is the heir apparent to lead the community here in the San community in southwestern Botswana. Apparently he was also the brother of the Botswana Ambassador in London…what a different life choice. His elder was a wispy, thin man full of sinew and filled with a sense of responsibility as he scoured the ground and earth for its riches. The most excited we saw him was when he showed us how they make fire – which literally burst into flame and lit up his whole expression.

Africa 1248

Elder

Africa 1311

 Feeding from the egg

Africa 1246

Twilight

Africa 1214

Sleepy child

Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those peepers?
Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those eyes?
Gosh all git up, how’d they get so lit up?
Gosh all git up, how’d they get that size?
Louis Armstrong – Jeepers Creepers Lyrics | MetroLyrics

There was a part of me that felt a deep sadness in the eyes of the San Bushmen in the orange, dusk lighting of the African plains – despite flashes of laughter, of fascination, of love. A loss of engagement, a loss of their community space. Sharing their portraits is partly my way to share in the awareness of the diversity in this world. To open up our horizons to different lives. To share in humanity, through the eyes and portraits of others.

M xx

Pride
Pride