Woah!

Cuzco, Peru 2011

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® Justin MerendithFor the 10th consecutive year in Cuzco, destiny has wanted that only Justin Meredith would come, and only him! I didn’t have any doubts or hesitations knowing that for me being a maestro is a mission. I feel that it will be very special meeting him, guiding him among these mountains and these simple people that continue to live following traditions passed on from centuries. I know that I’ll be helping him refining his way of looking at life. Having just one student gives me the opportunity to explore new locations, to continue going further up among those mountains in search of herds of llamas pasturing undisturbed while farmers are planting potatoes. We stop by to talk to them. They tell us that it will take seven-long month before the harvest. We try to photograph this ritual that consist of placing young potatoes on the earth where knowledgeable hands sprinkle them up with some manure before two oxen cover them up with soil pushing a plow. The farmers are amused and surprised about our presence and they invite us to guide the oxen. I take pictures of Justin, and he takes pictures of me doing so. We are invited to share their food. Justin looks at my face and he intuits from my expression that we need to do so. A child plays with his grandfather while his dogs swirls around them. His mother feeds him a few spoonful of soup while he continues to run around ending up on his grandpa’s arms who grabs him and sit him on his laps. His expression of absolute happiness cheers up our heart. Every time that Justin sees something unusual he goes: “Woah!”. I smile and then we realize it must be the name of our group. It’s a workshop full of adventures, full of photographic moments. We will never forget that village where we were mistaken for workers of a foreign mine. Woah! For that particular situation, I felt it was very appropriate. At dinner, we double with laughter when we relive the moment when, all of a sudden, we were surrounded by a multitude of menacing and suspicious farmers. Walter, our driver, who spoke quechua fluently, saved us. It’s our angel, our hero. In the end, he manages to make them understand that we came with different intentions. I get invited to be the Godfather of a small baby next year. After the incident, I climb up with deep faith and an unstoppable desire the last one thousand meters that separates me from the rest of the mountain where I can see in the distance the silhouetted llamas. I strongly feel that I need to make it to the summit. The llamas curiously look at me. They must be asking themselves what is this strange-looking guy doing up there. I try to photograph them. I’m almost out of breath, but I did manage to get to the top. My eyes get lost in the infinite. I kneel down and looking at the sky I thank for the extraordinary days that we have been given the privilege to live. It’s incredible to see Justin’s daily growth, his ability to slowly enter in syntony with the people and the places. We daily ask each other, which were the thing that impacted us the most, that moved and inspired us. Every morning Justin shows me his select. Each day is able to add a few good images. Back to Lima, after an amazing ceviche, we proceed with the final editing session. I’m very happy, we are very happy of this revealing experience, and for the new images of my only student, the new images by Justin. A few months later in New York, I get to see him again along with his wife Kirsten. At dinner, she tells me that she cried when she first saw her husband’s images. I smile and perfectly understand what she means. Going over his images, you might, perhaps, feel the same energy that they carry within.

EB                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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