Through the lens
Buenos Aires photo tour, Argentina
Sometimes it’s worth looking at a city from a different perspective. The wide-angle through the eyes of a tourist quickly becomes monotonous and the sites take on a bland hue. Through the lens of a camera, though, the streets can come alive. The focus can be heightened, the perspective contorted, and the angle manipulated. A photographer uses the collection of decisions at their disposal as a toolbox to bring energy, meaning and mystery to the images of a city. The story can be told not just with the objects in the frame but through the way those objects have been captured.
When I was invited by Foto Ruta to take a photography tour of Buenos Aires, I was unsure as to what that involved. It turned out I was going to learn a bit about photography, a bit about Buenos Aires and a lot about how those two things can interact.
What the tour operators, Joss and Becky, have created is a unique way of exploring the neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires. The ‘tour’ starts with a one hour talk about the basics of photography (composition and technique, not technical babble) and an explanation of the neighbourhood that’s been chosen for the day (it’s a different one every week). Everyone then breaks up into small groups and wanders the area for the next two hours taking photos which fit ten ‘clues’. The clues are fairly abstract and have a lot of latitude for interpretation – for example, ‘when time stands still’, ‘the colour of speed’ and ‘faith no more’.
The final part of the afternoon is when it all comes together and, in my opinion, is the most enjoyable (not just because of the wine). Seated around a table in a café, with a projector on a wall, the groups share the photos they’ve chosen to submit for each of the clues. Joss, a professional photographer, analyses each of them, explaining what techniques have been used (intentionally, or not) and why they work at catching the moment.
It is fascinating to see the work of the others, to sometimes envy their skills and often marvel at the feelings and thoughts the photographs elicit. Joss put it well when she said “the best travel photography takes you to a place and creates a feeling of being in that place but doesn’t necessarily show you immediately where that place is”. It’s true. Walking the streets with a camera with the direct mission of creating images that fit obscure clues makes you pause, look closely, and think about your surroundings. It’s not about the landmarks. It’s about the people, the moods and, sometimes, the quirks of the city.
There’s an old saying (that’s clichéd and overused) that a picture tells a thousand words. So rather than write any more, let me now share the clues we were assigned and the photos I took for each of those phrases. My pictures are by no means the best that our small group took and certainly not as good as many that the other groups submitted. It will give you an idea of how things worked, though. Take note that there are no famous buildings here – these are the photos from beyond the brochures and the guidebooks.
FROM THE NECK DOWN:
OH MY GOTH:
FAITH NO MORE:
UNDERGROUND & UPSIDEDOWN:
THE EATEN & THE EDIBLE:
WHEN TIME STANDS STILL:
THE COLOR OF SPEED:
YOU’RE BEING WATCHED:
IN ANOTHER MAN’S SHOES:
* Time Travel Turtle was a guest of Foto Ruta but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.