This month I traveled to the town of Sarhua and Pampa Cangallo on assignment for Pension 65, a social program of the government for elderly living in extreme poverty. Besides the financial assistance they provide, the program is working to give recognition to ancestral traditions and knowledge.
Sarhua and Pampa Cangallo (located in the Morochucos area) are well known for their strong traditions such as dancing, singing and weaving. Sarhua is also famous for its tablas, wooden planks decorated with drawings representing life milestones. Originally they were given almost blank as gifts to newlyweds, placed into the rafters of the roof and as time passed, new drawings were added. Not many families follow this tradition anymore but the tablas de Sarhua are still made as an art form. Pampa Cangallo and surrounding areas have the tradition of the morochucos, skilled horsemen who have been dubbed the “cowboys of the Andes”.
Walking around El Ayllu I ran into Orestes. He seemed to be having lots of fun playing by himself with a foosball table. I offered to play with him and he gave me a huge smile back that I took for a yes. As I put my hands on the handles I realized there were only three players left on the dusty table. I felt sad but didn’t say a thing about it and continued playing. It was one of the most entertaining foosball games ever. We tied 0-0.
I’ve been working on a documentary project about the residents of the old Hacienda San Agustin, in Callao, just behind the airport. This community will disappear very soon, as the land will be turned into the airport’s second runway. I recently met Mrs. Digna, or Mama Digna as her neighbors call her.
Morococha is a small mining town located 4,300 meters above sea level, just off the Peruvian Central Highway. I have driven past the town dozens of times, on my way to visit relatives further down the road. I never thought much of it, after all, it is just a mining town without much to see. Or so I thought.
A couple of years ago I heard for the first time that the town of Morococha would be “moved” to give way to a large mining project. Project Toromocho will become one of Peru’s largest copper mines and millions of tons of copper will be extracted from the ground where Morococha now stands. I have moved several times and lived in different cities throughout my life. But the idea of moving an entire town seemed hard to understand. The company that has the mining concession, Chinalco, has built a “new Morococha” just a few miles away. Some love it, and some hate it. Depends on who you ask. About a year and a half ago, I decided to start documenting the town and its residents during this unique transition.
Coincidentally I was recently assigned by the New York Times to photograph the story. You can see it here.
I spent a few days in Cusco covering the 475 anniversary of the Cusco Diocese. While there, I had the opportunity to photograph the procession of te Lord of the Earthquakes also known as Taytacha Temblores, one of the most important religious figures in Cusco.
I am back from the 64th Missouri Photo Workshop that took place in Troy, Missouri. During the weeklong workshop each participant develops a documentary photo essay about a person from the community. I had the privilege of meeting Olive, a 96-year-old piano teacher, who allowed me to spend time with her for a few days. She thought of herself as someone living a “very ordinary life”. I disagree. Through our conversations I realized she has a very unique perspective on life – a perspective only someone who has lived fully for 96 years could have.
77 Years of Beautiful Music
Olive Haffner taught her first piano lesson when she was 19 and hasn’t stopped since. That was 77 years ago. “Teaching piano is my big love,” she says.
Every June Olive organizes a piano recital, which has been performed uninterrupted by three generations of students, the children of the children of her first students.
She loves to play classics, but her hands are not as agile as they were. She stopped driving two years ago and needs help from her son and friends to get around town. But that doesn’t matter. Olive teaches Monday through Thursday.
“When you get to my age you are ready. I am looking forward to it. It is going to be glorious. All my siblings are up there, my son, my folks. I am ready to go.”
This is an invitation for an exhibit I am having in Lima September 11 through 14. The photos are of Basilio, a recycler in Lima, and will be shown during a human rights event at Peru’s Catholic University. See a video about Basilio here.
Del 11 al 14 de setiembre pueden ver las fotos de mi trabajo documental acerca de Basilio, un reciclador en el distrito de Jesus María. La muestra será presentada durante el VIII Encuentro de Derechos Humanos en la Universidad Católica.