The White City, Sucre, Bolivia, 2014
The sun is barely breaking through the cloud cover over this hilly historic town high in the foothills of the Andes. I made this shot from the top of our hotel, shooting through a window with an iPhone camera. I use the tiled rooftops in the foreground to draw the eye into the image. These roofs fill half the frame and provide the interpretive content of the image. This is not a typical descriptive post-card view of Sucre. The flow of what seems to be randomly placed tiles speak of the passage of time itself – the wear and tear of nature, exposure to wind and rain, years of simply making do with what is there. The red roofs contrast to the pristine buildings of what is known as “The White City.” Such is the nature of Sucre, and indeed Bolivia itself.
La Catedral, Sucre, Bolivia, 2014
The Spanish built this church between 1551 and 1712, adding this bell tower in the late 18th century. The clock, which still keeps perfect time, was built in London in 1772. The most incongruous features of the bell tower are three balconies decorated with statues of the Apostles. The statues are enormous, and seem to balance precariously on their narrow pedestals. I interpret the scene by abstracting it, removing the tower and its statues from the rest of the church by framing only the top two stories rising above the surrounding trees. The billowing clouds filling the background seem to put the scene into motion.
Namesake, Sucre, Bolivia, 2014
Dominating the Plaza 25 de Mayo in the center of the old city is a statue of Mariscal Antonio Jose de Sucre, the Venezuelan-born hero of South America’s independence. He was Bolivia’s first president, and namesake of the city. Pigeons gather on the great general’s head, shoulders, arms and hand, creating a crown, epaulets and a perfect takeoff and landing spot. I converted this image to black and white, taking the statue back to its 19th century roots. I took many images of pigeons aloft and seated, and eventually was able to bring the scene to life by stopping one of them coming in for a landing.
Family outing, Sucre, Bolivia, 2014
To make this image, I first selected the setting itself – a rhythmically repeating row of sculpted trees growing before the ornate architectural features of a historic facade facing the city plaza. I caught this mobile family just as its motorbike passed below the overhead balcony and between the trees. As I shot, the child threw her head back towards her father’s chest. The fender and wheels of the vehicle, along with the cap and helmet of the parents, echo the curved shapes of the overhead trees. My interpretation comments on the relationship between the three “family” groupings here: botanical, architectural, and human.
Mask, Museum of Anthropology and Folklore, Sucre, Bolivia, 2014
The highlight of this fascinating museum is a stunning collection of masks and headdresses showcasing Bolivia’s cultural diversity. I found this mask to be the most striking, and using my spot-metering mode, I was able to make it dramatically pop out of the dark background. The bizarrely elongated mask offers an incongruously dramatic contrast to the tiny bush held before it. Meanwhile, local context is provided by the traditionally designed shirt.
Andean women, Sucre, Bolivia, 2014
Indigenous Bolivians are the country’s majority ethnic group, comprising 62 per cent of the population, belonging to 36 different subgroups. These indigenous women were selling produce in Sucre’s central market. The deep shadows cast by their broad brimmed hats abstract their faces, adding a mysterious mood to the image. I base my interpretation on juxtaposition – while they may sit side by side, I the image offers considerable contrast in attitude.
Professional mourner, General Cemetery, Sucre, Bolivia, 2014
This woman mourns near a tomb at Sucre’s General Cemetery. She is one of the many “professional mourners” hired by others to move from tomb to tomb, honoring the memory of those who rest within them. I photographed this mourner by reflecting her in a tomb’s glass window. The reflection adds a spiritual suggestion to my interpretation. I intensify that suggestion by processing the image as a black and white abstraction.
Life in the cemetery, Sucre, Bolivia, 2014
The atmosphere within this cemetery is so tranquil that many come here simply to study or read. Many of its tombs are stacked within niches set into massive glass-fronted stonewalls. I interpret the scene here as a home for both the living and the dead. The silence was overwhelming.
Life cycle, General Cemetery, Sucre, Bolivia, 2014
Many of the tombs here are set among magnificent old trees. This monument is bathed in shadows cast by a canopy of leaves. I use the play of light and shadow to abstract the monument. I intend my interpretation to suggest the cycle of life itself as the shadows come and go with the passing of the day and the seasons.
On parade, Sucre, Bolivia, 2014
This young flag twirler would soon be leading a parade of schoolchildren through Sucre, demanding better public education. Her colorful costume and makeup contrasts to the uncertainty I found in her expression. Even her grasp of the flag seems tentative – nervous energy, apprehension, doubt all contribute to my interpretation.
Multi-tasking, Sucre, Bolivia, 2014
I was photographing a continual stream of shoppers moving between floors in Sucre’s central market eye – a parade of vivid colors in motion. When I viewed this particular image on my computer screen, I saw for the first time that the woman in the foreground is not only shopping – she is simultaneously nursing a baby. Meanwhile, the baby itself is lost amidst the lavishly colored bundling. I add context to the scene by including two additional shoppers moving up the steps behind her. To Bolivian eyes, the scene would appear routine. Bolivians are conditioned to seeing such colors, and nursing babies is common in public places. Because public nursing is not as common a practice in the US, my own interpretation of this multi-tasking subject is based on the incongruity of the scene.
All in a days work, Central Market, Sucre, Bolivia, 2014
Another incongruous situation found in Sucre’s Central Market: a massive display of sportswear dominates the frame, while three incongruous mannequin torsos show off the goods at the right hand edge of the frame. My own interpretation of the scene is based on the somewhat bored reaction of the shopkeeper tucked into the upper left hand corner of the image. He seems to think this bizarre display is a simply business as usual.