Reecountering Pepe

Iquitos, Peru 2012

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® Willard PateIn Iquitos again with a small and loyal contingent of students. We are returning for the same old, good reason: our unquenchable passion for life.
Willard is taking another workshop. I lost count if this is her 25th or 26th. Linda Kay is nearing ten and Nilo from Italy is at his first. The language barrier (Nilo doesn’t speak English) doesn’t prevent us from engaging in wonderful conversations about photography, about our life.
We carefully look at Willard’s animal images and continue to edit them. I love hearing Nilo and Linda Kay’s perspectives, and, of course, Willard’s. A few images take their final farewell; other resist firmly on what I hope it will become soon her book With Animals, this unexpected journey, personal and poignant, taken up 11 years ago and still going. I look at these images of animals that she has been taken as a meditation on her own existence and of each one of us, and of the world at large. You need to pose and ponder about your own life when you look at these images. That is what makes them special: they are a painful reminder of the passing of time.
The raw quality of Iquitos daily life devours us. We are swallowed into it. As always, we return to the same old places again for another try, a new attempt to simplify and emphasize at the same time some daily occurrences that we will feel drawn to.
I help Nilo recover from the initial shock of being in a place like Iquitos. I suggest to him to leave his personal baggage of prejudice and stereotypes behind. He’s the only one shooting digitally and feels upon himself all this responsibility since we will only look at his pictures every morning. Ss the days unfold his frustrations start dissipating as he starts realizing the importance for all of us to look at his images and to learn from them.
From the initial descriptive images Nilo begins slowly to tune in. The fist good images start appearing. We all cherish and appreciate them.
We return to the animal shelter where I photographed a few years ago and with my great surprise I encounter again Pepe the monkey that had given the name to the workshop and that will give it again this time. He starts jumping on everybody’ head with his playful attitude. Willard (we will discover that a month later) manages to take a beautiful image of our driver with Pepe’s tail wrapped all around his smiling face. Then Pepe jumps on my head and she also takes a good one of me with me just before I try to do a self-portrait with him on top of my head, my arms raised holding the camera pointing at both.
At the end of the workshop Nilo is quite happy. He has managed to capture some very special moments. The images that come to mind are one of a woman breast-feeding her baby in the foreground while a girl sitting on a hammock looks at him and another woman on a rocking chair looks out of the frame to the right; or the one of the passed-out drunk man lying on a bench as two dogs walk by from different directions.
Willard, whose contacts I received a month later, has done exceptionally well and she definitely has a few pictures to add on to her book project like the one of the monkeys and an immaculate white cat hanging from a bush or the one of the little girl playing with her dog.
Linda Kay has also managed to probe even further her own work from here. I can’t wait to post them in the students’ gallery and to share them with you.
If I’m lucky, I might have something as well. EB

Student´s Gallery

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