Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Authentic Photo



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I asked Ramiro to stop the car in the next small village along the road. Most places we went there were people waiting, often soliciting, to have their picture taken for a small coin. They had traveled to the places where tourists congregate in their costumes.  I have no objection to this and distributed coins for pictures at many points along our way, but I felt frustrated at not being able in the time we had to get behind the facade that is put up for us tourists. 

I never knew the name of this town. It was similar to many we had passed where mud brick shops and houses lined the main road and often a small grid of streets behind it. There were no costumed people soliciting for photographs at such places.  Together with Ramiro I walked down a narrow lane that intersected the main highway, part of the village grid such as it was. I looked for an interesting doorway, maybe a goat and some laundry hanging out. A slight incline, a gentle wind put the end of the street out of site. I looked for pictures but I couldn't help thinking of our car where Jane and the driver waited, of Ramiro at my side, of how utterly hopeless it was that I could concentrate with the clock ticking and the world waiting.

As we turned back, this woman carrying her groceries turned the corner and came toward us along the lane. When she reached us, I pointed at my camera and at her to let her know that I wanted to take her photograph. I had the coin ready, but Ramiro and the woman began speaking in Quechua and then the negotiation was concluded, and I took my "authentic" picture, and we returned to the car and drove on.