Sunday, 9 November 2008

Ecuador Summer of 2000

There is a mask which acts as an omnipresent façade that will always stand between any photographic transaction we may conduct when dealing with our sitters, while travelling through the highlands of Ecuador and photographing some of its many characters in towns, plazas and market places.
It is a long process, which we might start by calling it Picturesque, for lack of a more adept name; since that is, in essence, the defining factor of most portraits taken when going abroad. In trying to avoid the picturesque I begin by wiping off the smiles from the faces in my subjects.
The faces are their only masks. And they conceal nothing. I feel they hide nothing because they do not have to pretend to show other than what they are, hence the ever-present sad countenance in many of my subjects portrayed here.
Nothing can be gained by hiding what they are. The only true face is the stoic sculpture chiselled out on their skin. These faces say nothing and expect nothing, save a few worn-out coins and sometimes nothing.

It started in the summer of 2000 in Quito, followed by stops in Baños, Riobamba and ended in Cuenca, in the Southern part of that beautiful country.
These are faces we have to discover by ourselves. Not only their physical make-up, there is a lot to answer to their silence since we are the visitors, we live abroad, we have a lot more in our pockets. We have to make head or tails of their presence in front of the camera and start by trying a lot harder to understand, first the defiant stance that make some of them challenge our complacency and then our own role on this equation of North vs South.
The portrait photographer who travels to Ecuador to trap the picturesque would do a lot better by staying home reading travel catalogues. For if one is to go to a place such as this Andean region, one had better be ready to encounter challenges not found in the glossy pages of any magazine and accept that we are mere intruders.
The camera sometimes sees what we want to see ourselves. It is better to let it be independent of our prejudices and desires for that way a natural order of things will come into being a lot easier.

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San Fernando, Cali 1975