The other day us girls at The Argentine Experience met with the girls from Foto Ruta to talk about their shared creative outlet, photography, and what they are doing with this in Buenos Aires. Joss offered to write us a snippet of why she thinks Argentina is unrivalled from behind the lens…
Beyond the borders of this city that we all adore, Argentina is a photographer’s “paradise” offering up a mix of culture, diversity, natural beauty, and an unbeatable climate that leaves travellers and destination photographers with an endless rainbow of subjects and variety to chose from.
“Freedom from” and “Freedom to.” Argentina has both, which for a country situated in the heart of South America is saying quite a bit. Many of its neighbours, like Brazil, can’t compete.
When it comes to security photographers in Argentina will enjoy “freedom from” war, kidnappings, violent drug clashes, gun-toting criminals, hurricane seasons, food insecurity, wide-spread disease and many other deterring features that plague equally as photogenic countries in Africa, Asia and South/Central America. Instead Argentina – though still an under-developed country – enjoys a peaceful, non-violent society, few arms, a stable climate, clean drinking water and presents itself as generally easy place to walk around with your camera. Sort of a basic necessity as a photographer. On the flipside, Argentina offers photographers the “freedom to” which is largely impeded in North America & Western Europe where video surveillance and a general paranoia around taking pictures thrives. Instead Photographers will have the “freedom to” photograph festivals, strangers on the street, children, people in uniform, famous buildings, inside churches, restaurants, sporting events, abandoned buildings, theatres, on rooftops…all without a single accreditation or permit request in sight. In general Argentines are comfortable with the idea of a camera circulating in their public spaces and Argentina, as a society, has not yet criminalized the act of taking a picture. Sound dramatic? Try taking a picture of La Louve in Paris and not getting chased away with men in uniforms with batons. In short, Argentina gives photographers the security to feel comfortable with their camera limiting them only by their own ideas & time.
Photograph: Street Photography in Microcentro Buenos Aires with an on-coming sunglassed stranger.
2. Diversity of Landscape & People
As a photographer (professional or hobbiest) having a variety of people and places to photograph in just one country is a major source of inspiration. As humans we are each drawn to different faces, places, and contexts. In Argentina you can find almost all of them. In a country that spans 5000+ km from north to south you’re given everything from rugged coastline, Andean Peaks, lush tropical forests, penguins & icebergs, rolling wine growing regions, and even salt flats and prairies. The variety of landscapes alone in the country is enough to keep National Geographic busy for years. Add these expansive contrasts to a distinctive 4 season cycle and you’re options for images are quite literally – endless. Likewise, the Argentine people are different from province to province providing pockets of rich culture and interesting faces from north to south. Let’s not forget Porteños of course (people from Buenos Aires) who many would be hard pressed to tell apart from their Italian, French, and Spanish grandparents who first immigrated to the city. Photographing people in Argentina gives photographers the opportunity to capture both people with European & Latin heritage accounting for a contrasting array of interesting and beautiful portraits of the faces that make up their country.
Photograph: Mate drinking taxi driver from the provinces with Spanish heritage.
3. Buenos Aires
It cannot go without saying that Buenos Aires on its own is reason enough to spend your entire life walking the streets with camera in-hand. A lifelong subject for photographers without question, there is quite honestly no other world city with so much magic for your lens to capture. In fact, bring extra memory for your camera because quite simply, you’ll need it. Every barrio or neighbourhood (of which there are 48) has a different flavour, architecture, ethnic look & feel, gastronomic scene, socio-economic class, festival, sport, and more. It’s like having 30 cities all in one that are equally as photogenic and impressive to shoot and its difficult to even know where to start. From the beautiful cobblestone tree-lined streets of Palermo to the Parisian architecture and boutiques of Recoleta, and the colourful wooden shakes of La Boca, you can’t go wrong. Combine this with some of the most attractive locals in the world and you’ve got unarguably one of the most ideal photographic destinations in the world. Oh, and did we also mention the climate boasts a 6-month long summer and sunshine over 300 days a year? That helps too.
Photograph: Panoramic view from Belgrano looking towards the South.
Argentina is known abroad for many things culturally: Football, tango, gastronomy (namely meat, meat, and more meat), vineyards & wine, Italian family values, a distinctive Spanish accent boasting those flamboyant hand gestures, corrupt populist governments, nightlife, cowboys, cinema, arts, fashion, street scenes. If you’re looking for a highly aesthetic culture to photograph Argentina is it. Perhaps second only to the French, you’ll find just about any piece of Argentine culture has something aesthetically appealing and/or beautiful about it that you’re camera will swallow up just like a piece of their delicious steak. Footboy games are full of energy, action and colour, tango is intense with colour and passion, Argentine gauchos (cowboys) look like they just stepped out of a Malboro commercial in the 70’s. Just pick one and point your lens. Culturally, you’re going to document something good.
Image: Football fan at La Boca stadium / Boca vs River.
As a photographer from a very cold country (Canada) it has to be said that working in Argentina (specifically Buenos Aires) is a bit of a dream. Long hot summer days of golden light at dawn & dusk, very balmy winters with little rain, a summer that lasts not 6 weeks but 6 full months, the list goes on. These desirable climatic qualities make a photographer able to travel and shoot with less production, planning, and gortex clothing than say…oh, I don’t know…. Russia perhaps?! I think we could add a few more to the list if we thought about it hard enough. It’s not to say that the country doesn’t have winter, Patagonia gets to sub-zero temperatures, as does Ushuaia, the southern most city in the world. But all that said a country with 4 distinct seasons and warm weather in some part of the country all year round is an asset to any photographer wanting to get up, get out, and get shooting. I haven’t yet heard the Spanish word for ” getting snowed in” while living in Argentina and I suspect it has something to do with the fact its nothing like Toronto in January or Alaska anytime of the year. Photographers take note. Argentina is a good place to be photographing at any time of the year.
Image: La Morada de los Andes Vineyard, Valle de Uco, Mendoza.
By Jocelyn Mandryk, Foto Ruta
Want to learn more about photography in Buenos Aires and Argentina? Check out Foto Ruta Buenos Aires’s line-up of fun workshops and photography excursions happening every week in Buenos Aires.