Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Memory, Photography, and Machu Picchu

Hi there to all of you. It has been a while since my last entry, but times have been and continue to be hectic, what, with the world crisis and all. More later on that boring but serious pit-bull-like subject… For now, on to more elevating stuff: www.fotomission.org!
People that know me will agree I am a lousy photographer. I actually prefer to travel without a camera, as looking at the world through a lens never was my greatest pleasure in life. I really love looking at pictures though, especially if they are good and/or about an area I have recently visited or about my past (so much has happened, so few memories) and so I am a photo fanatic nevertheless. Also, of course, travel and photography are as strongly linked as it is impossible for me to combine the two on a personal level. If it weren’t for Karin, who actually is a great photographer (most of our current best online pictures still come from her Nikon D80!), most of what we do (and sell) would have never made it to the public eye… Now that would have been a true disaster!

Travel photography of course plays an important role in a couple of our most-sold destinations: The Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu. I have been there several times and all of my visits have been truly amazing, although tremendously different experiences:

Jan 6th, 1991, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley: Epiphany or Three Kings Day as it is better known in Peru. Took a cab to Ollanta to participate in the fiestas and enjoy endless quantities of “Chicha” (corn juice, fermented on human saliva additive; yummy!). Somehow made it up the fortress’ ruins and crashed out lying on one of those immense granite building blocks, only to wake up in the middle of the night from the reflective light of a huge full moon. The awe and absolute natural beauty of that moment stay with me to this day, but guess what…I had no camera!
• The only other time I have seen a moon like that was during another midnight escapade, this time to the Geysers of El Tatio in the Chilean part of the Atacama Desert in 2004. During that mind-boggling occasion I forgot to wake up Karin and, in addition to being punished for the rest of that trip, I again have no photographic evidence of what I witnessed.
Jan 10th, 1991, Machu Picchu, take 1: after a disastrously funny “San Pedro – hallucinogenic cactus experience” somewhere near a “temple of the moon”, I woke up sick, having to cancel my planned Inca Trail hike and take the train instead. Getting to see the ruins and somehow making it up to Wayna Picchu made more than made up for Montezuma’s bitter revenge. The view from up there I will never forget, but I would need to become a great painter to share it with you.
Sometime in 1995: First Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: those were the times when you could still do it yourself… so we each hoisted over 25kg of canned food, lighter fluid, cooking equipment, tents, hard liquor and yes, some cannabis on our backs and into the mountains we went. The first night it rained so hard that we literally had a small creek running through our tent. I woke up because Karin had managed to crawl on top of me in her sleep, avoiding the water from running into her sleeping bag. She slept straight through the event, but made it kind of difficult for me to forget the fact I was soaked and very, very cold. The second morning we had to climb some 2,200m (6,600ft) straight up to the infamous Dead Woman’s Pass, where Karin almost became a dead woman herself as she slipped and almost fell down a small crevasse. I’m not sure why, but I had been holding a flap on the back of her pack for quite some time already and managed to steady her before worse could happen. The images that stay with me though are those of the moss dangling in some seriously bewildering ways from the trees in the cloud forest we passed through on day 3. Fairytale type stuff, really, but still, somewhat regrettably, these images live on only in my mind.

I could go on and on, but that would be taking things out of perspective. Maybe one day I will share some of my earlier travel experiences with you, but for now, suffice it to say that sometimes it would have been great to have a camera on me with the actual knowledge on how to use it properly. Had I known the people from Fotomission years ago, I might have become a different type of traveler. Let me share with you some of their “About Us” page:

“Photography is a powerful language; it is the language of light. With it we strive to understand and shed light on the complexities of human activity, its dependence on its causes and in connection with its effects, not merely in relation to how it affects us as individuals, but our world as a whole.

No other form of communication or expression has done as much to transform our sense of self, our daily lives and our society as the photograph. Photography is probably the most influential medium of the modern era.

Fotomission is a volunteer operated non-profit organization dedicated to promoting as well as producing artistic and documentary exhibitions, publications and online presentations of significant and socially conscious photographic endeavors.

Our mission is to utilize artistic and documentary photography as a means of creating positive social change while at the same time promoting the art of photography.”

Pretty cool stuff! Take a look at the following link to get a better idea of a great tour these guys have set up and which might be a great tip for an upcoming photo-traveling experience: http://www.fotomission.org/expeditions/machu_picchu/index.html

Remember, May is a great time to visit Machu Picchu. It’s right after the rainy season and guarantees lush, green views and good temperatures, as well as good late afternoon and evening light for great picture taking. This is actually one of those gems when it comes to organized tours; well-organized, unique, very dedicated staff and great photographic memories for sure! Need I say more?
Happy Trails!