Tag Archives: camera

A Beautiful Reality: My Peace Corps Site

I’ve been taking mental portraits and landscape panoramas of my host town for over a year now, but only a few of the shots have made it into digital format, and even fewer have landed in a public forum.

There are at least two reasons for this:

First, I’m not keen on toting my big DSLR or my smartphone around town; it’s not great for my safety OR my reputation. Part of my integration strategy has always been to minimize the “OMGlookatthegringa” effect as much as possible.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, I want to protect the dignity and privacy of my town’s beautiful people. That’s always been on my mind, but the more I get to know them, the more it matters–I care about them, they’ve shown me respect and love, and I want to do the same for them. So I’m trying to be careful to use my photography to support and promote my town, not to degrade or expose it and its inhabitants.

That said, I have spent the past 15 months living a distinctive day-to-day reality in a setting that just taunts this photographer’s eye! Every morning on my ride to school, there’s a view over the aqueduct that the morning sun just glorifies; the afternoon ocean is the bluest of the whole day. The popcorn man has the brightest smile and my students–my students are each and every one of them a portrait just begging to be captured! And at the same time, there are some less-photogenic aspects of our life here: pollution, poverty, underachieving infrastructure and neglected streets, buildings and dreams.

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On Cameras

I talk shop with some guys filming a music video at the pizza place, and the tall one hands over his camera. I feel the heaviness of the Canon 5D and run my fingertips over the manual focus dial. I watch the guys duct tape the camera onto a tripod and the lead singer adjust his hipster white jacket.

Then I look at the table I’m leaning against. Where a few minutes ago, a disorganized mess of empty bottles crowded my line of vision, I now see a collection of patterns, shadows, shapes and shades. I watch them adjust the hot white lights to cast a romantic shadow across the trumpet player’s face while he mimes the sensuous, silent notes.

My camera has been carefully stored in the bottom of my closet, the lenses wrapped tightly in ziploc bags and batteries full and anticipating. I’ve left it there because it’s safe, because I’m already enough of a target and I don’t want to dar papaya, or give thieves any extra opportunity.

But while my camera sits there safely, Colombia is moving around me. There are patterns, shadows, shapes and shades to be shared. I need to open my eyes once more.