WILL BYERS | Photography | Portland, Maine


Will Byers is a photographer and writer based in Portland, Maine. Here is a growing record of as many far-flung things as he can manage to put accurately and articulately. Music videos. Sweet links.

Posts in History
Diana, Holga, and LOMO: Lo-Fi Toy Cameras

Cheap, Classic Film Cameras and Their Experimental Appeal

If you dig the retro, grainy, saturated look of the hipstamatic photo app for smart phones, you may be interested in the world of inexpensive, plastic medium-format film lo-fi cameras like the Holga or Diana F+. As well, photographers who want to loosen up creatively, or experiment with film might enjoy working with these lightweight, basic cameras. I obtained a Diana F+, and have enjoyed shooting some rolls of Kodak Portra 120 film around Portland, Maine.

Here's a brief run-down of some available toy cameras, and the emergence of lomography as a community and aesthetic.

LOMO & Lomography

LOMO LC-A shot by unknown LOMO enthusiast.

As I understand it, the LOMO LC-A started it all, and brought it all back. It's a Russian camera that some Austrians revived in the early nineties. They formed the Lomographic Society International, known broadly as Lomography. In their own words:

"Lomography is a globally-active organization dedicated to analogue, experimental and creative photography. With millions of followers and friends across the world, the concept of Lomography encompasses an interactive, vivid and sometimes even blurred and crazy way of life. Through our constantly expanding collection of innovative cameras, instant products, films, lenses & photographic accessories, we promote photography as an inventive approach to communicate, absorb and capture the world."


A Holga shot by Marky Ramone Go.

The Holga is the first toy camera I ever heard of. Despite sounding like a Scandinavian creation, the Holga was from China. Created by Lee Ting-mo in Hong Kong in 1981, it is largely responsible for the global swell of toy camera enthusiasts. The factory closed in 2015, and that is that. Luckily there are thousands to be found for sale, after its boom in the 2000s.


The Diana was also created in China, during the 1960s, and is now known as the Diana F+. Dianas are a little more pricey than Holgas, but they are lighter and smaller.

I own a Diana, and am very pleased with the balance it offers. Its photos have the lo-fi, bright appeal, but are often crisp and rich. The focus and colors are a little more accurate than with the Holga, but the corners are vignetted in the same manner.

It's a system camera that came with a flash, but I haven't used it. As with other toy cameras, it's all too easy to experiment with double-exposures — most of mine are accidental from forgetting to advance the frame. It’s my habit to not wind it, because of how I toss it in a backpack often, where it could fire).

It's possible to load film two different ways with a removable template. One results in 12 large square frames, the other produces 16 smaller square frames. I have yet to shoot a roll in the smaller 16 frame format.

 My gallery of successful Diana shots is below:

Posted by
A Blind Sea Dog in Portland, Maine

Loretta and the Fishmonger

When I first moved to Portland, Maine in January 2014, I found part-time work on the Maine Wharf with the fishmonger George Parr and Upstream Trucking. George and his crew are a small outfit that deliver seafood to around a dozen of the most prestigious restaurants in town. Down on the waterfront, the spoils went to Loretta, a blind harbor seal, or sea dog, who always found her way back to our wharf for snacks.

Graceful and patient, Loretta would always find her snack before it drifted down too far. Usually George, his son Jimmy, the mountain Josh, or the butcher Niles would save leftovers of Arctic char for her - first hollering to get her attention, then flinging the fish rack to the water.

I grew up in the mountains down south, and the whole experience of working on the wharf with salty, hilarious characters, and delivering to bustling kitchens during winter in a hardscrabble old city like Portland was a vivid time. Loretta was a fascinating addition - she made everything special, and completes the memory in my mind's eye.

Too broke to buy a real camera, I photographed her with my iPhone 4. She was both a regular fixture, and a disappearing act, at times. We'd wonder how she'd go anywhere with purpose, lacking sight, and then make it back. She did, though, for several years.

I started working with ReVision Energy by February 2015, and haven't visited the crew much since. I heard she'd disappeared again for a long time, presumably forever.


Around that time I made friends with Kazeem Lawal, proprietor of Portland Trading Co., and I would stop by his store to enjoy his music taste and ever-changing selection of impeccable wares. I couldn't afford much in his store at the time, but Kazeem never minds visitors. He enjoys conversation, and one day was telling me about his idea to create a documentary series of Portland's "unsung" citizens.

I was quick to share my knowledge of George and Loretta. The story of an authentic fishmonger on the Portland waterfront who had a loyal, blind sea dog captivated Kazeem, so I said I'd make the necessary introductions (he didn't mind - he's been interviewed before).

I still visit with Kazeem from time to time, but never caught up with him about how the project went. He's busier than ever with his store, and travels regularly to seek new and different wares, but it turns out, the project got made - the first chapter, at least. Working with filmmaker Sam Brosnan, Kazeem interviewed George not long after I suggested his story, and the video they produced is very good - though Loretta isn't featured.

When I get home, I want to talk to Kazeem about his project again, to see if he wants to do more, and maybe take on another cook in the kitchen.

As for George, I should visit him too. His partner Dana Street (restaurant dynamo of Portland), has finally opened Scales. It's on the same wharf as Upstream and Bangs Island Mussels, where Three Sons Fishing used to be, and there may even be an Upstream retail space now. I'm still grateful for the all the fish guts, scallop sorting, and sub-zero boat work that keep me gainfully employed on the Maine Wharf when I was starting out in town.

Working on that wharf shaped my experience in Portland in ways I still notice, though my life has evolved beyond the circumstances of the 2014.


Long live Loretta!

Posted by
Argentina's Ford Falcon: A Truly Durable Car

Shooting the Classics

This dive into Argentina's history began when I magnified my photograph of an unfamiliar classic car, and discovered what was surely a missing Ford emblem.

Playa Centenario, Bariloche, 2018.

I took a lot of photographs of classic cars while in Argentina in 2017, and I'm back at it again. The above photograph is a recent example, and the catalyst of this story. Argentina's Ford Falcon had been right under my nose.

I shoot classic cars in the States, too, but there are just so many more still on the road in Argentina. I prefer photographing cars that aren't showpieces, or that are at least in an "everyday" setting - like this spiffy Comet in West Asheville (a spin-off, it turns out).

Unlike our classic car culture, which in many cases revolves around polishing them up for a Sunday drive, Argentina is still getting a lot of use out of their relics.

At first many of the foreign models here were new to my eyes. I would know whether something was an Audi, Chevy, Fiat, or Peugeot, but I didn't go the extra step to look up the models and their potential year of manufacture. This year I decided to pay closer attention.

An Inanimate Living Fossil

So there I was in my photo-editing cave, zooming in on the grille of this yellow classic, thinking surely it was a European staple. Instead, the oval I saw, though blank, could only be the Ford Motor Company emblem, I realized.

I was a little confused, because in its body I saw the elegance of 1960s design, but its headlights belied the economy of the1980s. Suffice it to say, I am not a fan of many cars from the 80s, especially from the Ford lineup - but I really liked this car.

After several minutes of research it became clear. This was a Ford Falcon, circa 1980. Furthermore, the American Falcon didn't continue until 1980. It barely made it to 1970. This was proving to be a wholly Argentine incarnation, born from American design.

Born in the U.S.A.

But whence in America didst the Falcon cometh? Sorry - How the heck did the Falcon come to be? Before he was the controversial Secretary of Defense from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Robert McNamara was with the Ford Motor Company. The Falcon hatched from his mind in Detroit during the late 1950s.

A notorious number-cruncher, he pondered saving costs by designing a smaller car. He thought that people might prefer a more nimble wheelbase, as well.

The Ford Falcon made its debut in 1959 and was offered as an inexpensive alternative, both to purchase and operate, to the full-sized cars in the Ford lineup.

The inexpensive family car had its critics, but it was very successful against early "compact car" competitors. The Falcon wouldn't just put Ford ahead of their competition - its simple platform went on to inspire the Mustang, probably the most important car ever made by Ford.

Robert S. McNamara was made president of Ford Motor Company on November 9, 1960, the day John F. Kennedy beat Richard Nixon to the White House. Barely eight weeks later, on January 3, 1961, he resigned to become Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense. In that role he infamously oversaw the escalation of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile in South America...

In the late 1800s, Argentina's economy grew at an unprecedented rate rendering it one of the wealthiest nations in the world. By 1914, around half of the population was foreign-born, having arrived to farm and ranch on Argentina's vast and fertile territory.

The young Ford Motor Company of Dearborn, Michigan took notice of the burgeoning market, and in 1913, Ford Motor Argentina was created as a subsidiary. Its La Boca factory rolled out a Model T by 1917, and by 1960 a bigger factory was needed to meet the national demand. The Pacheco factory opened in 1961 in Greater Buenos Aires, and still assembles Fords today. 

The Argentine Falcon

McNamara's Falcon went into production in Argentina the same year it began in the US. As mentioned earlier, the US Falcon had initial success, but it dwindled. Design changes were made to revive it, to no avail, and by its last year in 1970 it was barely the same car. 

It carried on strongly in Argentina, though. By 1979 Argentina's Ford Falcon was the highest-selling vehicle in the country, and remained so for 6 more years. The design continued to evolve, too, and became distinctly Argentine.

The tough and reliable Falcon also became a symbol of middle-class mobility, and versatility - it was popular and loved as their own. After all, only 26 of its 3,500+ parts were imported.

Birds of Prey

There's a very ugly side to this story. On March 24, 1976, in a bloodless military coup, the Argentine army took control of the government and ushered in a period of terror and brutality.  

Military coups have happened frequently in Argentina, contributing to much of the economic instability since the early 1900s. The first came in 1930; others followed in 1943, 1955, 1962, 1966 and 1976.

The election of 1989 marked the first time in more than 60 years that a civilian president handed power to an elected successor.

The coup of 1976 began the "Guerra Sucia," or Dirty War. A junta ousted Isabel Perón (3rd wife of Juan Perón) and began targeting students, union organizers, artists, journalists, and anyone else suspected to be a left-wing activist. Paranoid of communism's spread, the CIA had a hand in supporting this state terrorism.

Unfortunately for political dissidents during the Dirty War, Argentina's Ford Falcon was a symbol of terror. Secret police and death squads kidnapped thousands into dark green Falcons — some 30,000 people disappeared between 1976 and 1983.

Atrocities committed by the successive military juntas created a state of dissociated insanity in Argentine society. Kidnappings in broad daylight, mass executions, and child murders were "normalized." People were disappearing into Falcons all the time and many were too terrified to do anything except pretend it hadn't happened.

In recent years, Ford Argentina has been implicated in supporting these dark regimes, which they of course deny. It is hard to deny the 2018 conviction of two former Ford Argentina executives, Pedro Müller, 86, and Héctor Sibila, 90, for the kidnapping and torture of 24 employees, though.

Since 1977, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo have marched in protest of these evil secrets that were hidden in plain sight. They are still demanding answers for crimes committed, and now must also confront "alternative facts" of the modern world, spoken by those in power who wish to diminish the numbers of those lost.

Amigos del Falcon

Considering the horrors of that time, it is understandable how the sight of a green Falcon could bring back fear for the many still around who lived through it. Yet, the Falcon was also beloved as a taxi, a farm truck, and a family station wagon - a good car is a good car.

In 1997, the Friends of the Falcon Club formed in Buenos Aires. It started small, meeting monthly on Saturdays in the forest outlying the city, but has since outgrown its meeting place twice. Around 13,000 people follow the club on Facebook.

The only requirement to join is to own a Falcon that is in generally good condition. Their hope is to round up as many Falcons that are in good condition as possible, and encourage the preservation of them.


I have also learned of the prestigious FanaFalcon Club, through a reader of this post — they are numerous as well, with over 21,000 Facebook members and a very active forum that pertains to all matters of their community.

It makes me happy to witness their camaradería.

A Truly Durable Car

A Ford Falcon fording...

A Ford Falcon fording...

Once I learned what the Ford Falcon was, I started seeing them everywhere. I looked back through my photos from last year's visit, and realized I had photographed several already. So I'm on a mission now, and I don't know exactly why, but I can't stop photographing these cars.

For every Argentine Falcon I see in good condition, I see at least one more that is uniquely, and spectacularly dilapidated - but so many of them still run.

After about 30 years of production, the last Falcon rolled off of Ford Argentina's line in 1991. About 500,000 were made, and I suspect nearly all of them are still out there somewhere, either getting beat to hell or maintained with love. There isn't much in between. For better or worse, this is the car that became as Argentine as tango.

1964 Mercury Comet, Asheville, North Carolina, 2014. Shot on iPhone 4.

Exhibit A. "Computer: Enhance!"

A 1960 Ford Falcon Futura.

The grille of a 1930s Ford V8 that was possibly a schoolbus. I took this photo in Tigre, in 2017, not far from the La Boca factory where it was produced almost 100 years ago. I would love to know the story behind this fly that adorns the grille.

The Argentine Falcon was the ubiquitous taxi cab of the era.

Colegiales, Buenos Aires, 2017. "NUNCA MAS" is the Argentine cry of "Never again."

I made an Argentine friend over Instagram who sends me snapshots of Falcons he spots around his town. His family loves Chevy, and auto racing, and he added:
”Mi papa era “zurdo” y que seamos fanaticos de Chevrolet tiene que ver con eso.”
which means:
”My dad was a "lefty" and that we are fans of Chevrolet has to do with that.”

Scroll down to see a few Argentine Falcons spotted in the wild,

or visit The Argentine Falcon gallery.


Want to read more about Argentina? Check out my experience roaming Buenos Aires with a camera for 3 months.

For more automobile history, check out The Return of the Electric Vehicle.

Posted by
A Short History of Electric Vehicles

From Edison to EV1 to Tesla

There are decades of history behind the electric car. First in motion in the United States over 100 years ago, the EV (electric vehicle) is, at long last, having its day in the sun. With over a dozen all-electric vehicles on the market today, and manufacturers committing billions to research and development, the transition to zero emission vehicles is accelerating. The electric vehicle has returned for good, and will soon dominate older, dirtier, less-efficient internal combustion engines.

Steampunk Era

Electric vehicles were initially a very viable option for many in need of urban transportation in the late 19th century. Steam, electrical, and gasoline power were all present in this experimental period as the world underwent a paradigm shift from horse-powered personal transportation to “horseless carriages,” as early car prototypes were dubbed, but electricity was the clean and quiet option many preferred.

By 1900 many innovators around the world were exploring ways to improve the technology. In the first years of the century, Thomas Edison, who believed that electric vehicles were the logical champion, worked toward increasing their battery capacities. Even Henry Ford was open to their potential, and, in partnership with Edison, considered producing a low-cost electric vehicle.

A Pivotal Chapter

Despite his interest, it was the rollout of Ford Motor Company’s Model T, in 1908, that delivered a substantial blow to any marketable electric vehicle. Inexpensive, mass-produced Model T’s, absent a laborious crank-starter, and the Texas crude oil boom, gave rise to the gasoline-powered motor vehicle. Along with filling stations, motor vehicles spread out from cities into rural America, where electrical infrastructure had not yet arrived.

1922 was the apex of horse ownership in America, and 120,000 people were employed in the harness-making industry. By 1928 the automobile had become dominant, wiping out the harness-makers, but unleashing decades of exponential job growth and economic development associated with the U.S. auto industry.

Gas prices remained low, and the American automobile industry flourished without much of a mention of the electric vehicle, until the 1960s when the Environmental Movement began influencing legislation to help clear the increasingly smoggy, unhealthy air Americans were breathing as a result of motor vehicle emissions.

Oil Shock

It was the oil crises of the 1970s that truly brought the electric vehicle back into consideration, though – Americans were suddenly finding themselves at the mercy of foreign oil interests, and many recognized that revitalizing the development of a swift, long-range EV was the solution.

A couple of automakers created prototypes, and Congress even authorized government support of research and development. But, by this time, much of America was enamored with the rumble of a motor, and with their limited speed and range, and often unusual appearance, these EVs did not reach the necessary broad appeal to advance, and their slight popularity diminished again in the 1980s.

The GM EV1

Then, in 1996, spurred by strict emissions regulations issued in California earlier in the decade, General Motors began leasing the first mass-produced electric vehicle of the modern era from a major automaker: the EV1. Customer reactions were very positive – it could keep up on the highways and travel as much as 100 miles on a charge.

Other major automakers attempted to follow suit in order to continue selling vehicles in California, but sadly this technological momentum was again hindered, this time by relentless pressure from entrenched oil interests, attacks of misinformation, and even interference from former president George W. Bush’s administration. GM declared the EV1 commercially unviable due to high production costs, and by 2003 the EV1 program had been discontinued, and leased models were removed from the road, then, largely, destroyed.

Surging Forward

After another initially hopeful chapter concluded so dismally, it might seem like the notion of an electric vehicle was ill-fated – but you can’t keep a good idea down. Consumer demand continued to grow with increasing environmental awareness, while the photovoltaic technology to harvest a clean energy supply, and the battery technology to store it, began to leap ahead, as well.

A 2017 Chevy Bolt at a level 2 charging station in Portland, Maine.

Companies like Toyota and Honda produced HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles) that were well-received and affordable, but they were not free from the world of oil, emissions, and engine maintenance.

Then, in 2006, along came the Tesla Roadster – the first mass-produced, all-electric vehicle to reach the American market in the decade since the EV1’s arrival. Tesla’s Roadster and their S sedan have been extremely successful, and they have more all-electric models in the works, compelling other major automakers to renew their efforts in the research and development of the modern EV, with more and more of them producing HEVs and PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) to fill the gap.

Now, in 2017, everyone from BMW to Ford has produced an all-electric vehicle – the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Bolt are two of the most affordable and competitive of these EVs on American highways today, each pushing the other ahead.

The electricity we drive on is only as green as its source, however, and efforts to further improve battery technology, and widely distribute clean solar energy are vital to the overall success of the EV.

Moreover, installing charging infrastructure, reducing charging times, and increasing driving ranges are all essential to winning over American drivers and transforming our auto industry. Our clean energy transition is far from complete, but the American psyche has already begun to embrace the next paradigm shift in transportation – driving on sunshine!

Read the rest of the series on ReVision's blog: 

Part 2 - An introduction to EV charging and infrastructure.

Part 3 - What makes EVs even better? Solar power.

Posted by
Chacarita Cemetery of Buenos Aires

A History of Argentina's Magnificent, Broken-down Necropolis

In Buenos Aires there is an immense oasis sprawling over gentle slopes, and beneath the earth: a cemetery in the quiet neighborhood of Chacarita, nestled next to barrios Colegiales, Palermo and Villa Crespo. Graveyards are one of my favorite places to explore and photograph – they often have lovely old trees – this one, Chacarita Cemetery, has an origin more grim than ordinary, and is one of the most fascinating places I have ever been.

Spread over 95-hectares, Cementerio de la Chacarita is almost twenty times bigger than Cementerio de la Recoleta, the famed resting place of Eva Perón and many other wealthy families. Almost half of barrio Chacarita's territory is occupied by it.

17th century Jesuits lived on the land where barrio Chacarita is today, but they were expelled in 1767 by the Spanish Royal Crown. The name Chacarita comes from the Spanish word chacra for small farms like the ones belonging to the Jesuits.

It was clear once we looked at a map that Chacarita's cemetery is massive. It is not just a dominating landmark of the barrio, but also a significant feature of the city. There are other extensive green spaces, like Los Bosques de Palermo, and numerous other parks spread throughout the city for the enjoyment of some 3 million residents, but this cemetery is a distinctly quiet place.

I didn’t really grasp the magnitude until putting eyes on it after trekking across Palermo before an upcoming move brought us to the adjacent neighborhood. Zoë and I were living in Palermo, the hippest hood in town, on Guatemala y Armenia (not far from Tufic). We had thoroughly enjoyed that arrangement, but were moving one neighborhood away to Villa Crespo to seek a different experience, and perhaps more peace.  

With what must be 30 foot high walls around much of the property, Cementerio de la Chacarita is like a fortress. I wrote about this first encounter briefly in an earlier essay, and the stupefied feeling the sunset introduction gave me when I glimpsed golden streets of mausoleums through a gateway.

I returned to explore within shortly after we moved apartments. I strolled up and down the somber streets of tombs, and quickly observed that some were cared for and others were falling apart. One mausoleum's marble surfaces would be so pristine that I could see my reflection, whereas the one next door may have broken panes of glass and trash accumulating inside.

I wove through, trying not to miss any details, and eventually emerged at a new segment of the cemetery. It didn't look like much: an expanse of grass with several large concrete awnings spread across. It was also a hot day, and I wasn't overly interested in spending much time in the sun without water, but I went out to get a closer look. 

I remember approaching a railing and looking over, down into the earth, and seeing a verdant courtyard several levels below ground. It was surrounded by layers of catacombs. I realized, then, that those great awnings were entryways down into the underground galleries of Argentina's past lives.

I returned again and again to wander the catacombs. I love the vibrancy of Buenos Aires, but silence is what truly nourishes me, and down there I found a new experience with silence that was enhanced all the more by the scenes I saw. I spent hours underground trying to be lost, trying to find every last corner and seek photographs that could describe the feeling. I was struck by the contrasts – shades of lost civilizations and brute futurism, vastness and intimacy.


1871 was a devastating year for Buenos Aires and neighboring cities, and Cementerio de la Chacarita is intrinsically linked to it. An outbreak of yellow fever, the mosquito-borne virus, struck the barrios near the port, lowlands, and floodplain areas where mosquitoes could easily proliferate, and soon it was everywhere. Mosquitoes are difficult to avoid even when one is aware of the threat they can pose, but at the time it was not even understood that they were the carrier. 

The Episode of the Yellow Fever, circa 1871, by Juan Manuel Blanes is a haunting rendition of the pain brought to Buenos Aires, but also a depiction of illness befalling a specific household. One wonders how many scenes like this the People's Commission had to see. José Roque Pérez is depicted in the center with with his hands clasped.

The epidemic wreaked havoc in the city, with hundreds of deaths every day during its height. Also known as "black vomit," the illness upended daily life as businesses closed, residents fled, and thieves ransacked.

The dead were so many that wagons couldn't transfer them quickly enough, furthermore, the existing cemetery space that would accept victims of the fever became full. Coffins soon accumulated at the gates as the disease spread by leaps and bounds. 

The city needed to increase its burial grounds, and Chacarita was chosen as the location for a new cemetery. Cementerio de la Chacarita was inaugurated on April 14th, 1871. The first to be buried was a bricklayer named Manuel Rodriguez.

The Western Railway quickly extended a line that would transport the accumulating dead. The train that performed this twice-daily task was named La Porteña, but became known as the "train of death."

The People's Commission was soon formed to handle the ravages of the epidemic across the city. The leader, José Roque Pérez, a prestigious lawyer shown in the painting to the left, succumbed to yellow fever along with many others who did not flee.

Over 13,000 people of the city's some 180,000 residents died in just several months, before the cold arrived and killed off mosquitoes. Normal life resumed in time, but this quote from Guillermo Hudson's "Ralph Herne" indicates that the city was haunted by the catastrophe for years after:

"...But the years of peace and prosperity did not delete the memory of that terrible period when during three long months the shadow of the Angel of Death extended over the city of the nice name, when the daily harvest of victims were thrown together — old and young, rich and poor, virtuous and villains — to mix their bones in a communal grave, when each day the echo of footsteps interrupted the silence less often, when like the past the streets became desolate and grassy."

Cementerio de la Chacarita has since become a place of worship and remembrance. Everyone is welcome in Chacarita, from the less-fortunate to the famed. The soil there is for intellectuals, artists, boxers and ordinary people. Cementerio de la Recoleta, which turned away victims of the epidemic, has always been more aristocratic and exclusive. 

While Chacarita receives more residents than Recoleta, it has far fewer visitors. During my time there I never saw any other rovers like myself, just visiting relatives, caretakers, and a funeral gathering. I found it comforting that it's still a very personal place for Argentines. I felt privileged to explore the grounds and tried to maintain a respectfully low profile.

It was inaugurated as the "Cemetery of the West" in 1886, but its popular name stuck, and it was officially renamed in 1949.

Over the years its mausoleums became equally as splendid as Recoleta's, with an abundance of styles and design. Its grandeur endures, but has become worn down in many places. Though some of its aging is serious, I never thought of it as anything but beautiful.

Recently the union workers formally expressed their concern about the aging. There is a degree of abandonment, and water damage, which has resulted in the crumbling of masonry and deterioration of ceilings.

The underground galleries are the most worrying in regard to potential structural issues. In many ways they are lovingly tended to, but there are damaged ceilings and broken floors all around. As well, many of the elevators are out of order, lights are missing, and there are pigeons nesting all over. Saplings have sprouted in odd places and some of the gardens are in need of pruning and attention.

I do not know when the catacombs were built, but based upon some of the building methods and mechanical features I would guess it was in the 1960s. Thinking back on how many nameplates I passed, I could've looked for dates to try to ascertain a general period of time, but the number was overwhelming.

Around the world there has been a shift, over the last few decades, toward cremation instead of burial. It seems this and the correlating decline of visitations have contributed to delinquency in payments for the niches of the galleries.

The declining number of burials and visitations signifies a cultural change in how people remember their loved ones. This could be confirmed by the florists that are found around the outside wall. Those who come to leave flowers in the tombs and in the niches are often elderly people who still retain the customs of other times.

If Cementerio de la Chacarita is to remain a safe and beautiful place, it may need monetary help in a big way before much longer. For now, in its massive underground breezeways there is a pull between the polished, sterile spaces that are both immaculate and neglected, and the lush groves that are at the same time cultivated and wild.

I'll conclude with with this description I wrote after my first day in the catacombs:

"Daylight filters in from the surface with the chatter of swirling green parrots, all else quiet. There is an allure to staying in the cool air of this geometric cavern, wandering what seems like an unknowable layout, but much of the sense of calm I feel may be reliant upon this subterranean library of the dead's frequent connection to the sky and wind."

View more photos from Chacarita Cemetery

Posted by
Patagonian Hermit: A Contemplative Badass

Notes on "The Impassive Hermit" and VICE

At the foot of the Southern Patagonian ice field in Chile (the second largest such ice field in the world outside of a polar region), and on a remote peninsula of Lago O'Higgins, a man named Faustino Barrientos has carved a stoic, almost entirely solitary existence since 1965. I do not know if he is alive today.


Faustino sipping yerba mate in his home made from an upturned boat.

Faustino Watched the Mountains Rise

When the world at large last heard from him in 2011, he was 81 and still living the as a gaucho. Another gaucho, George Lancaster, who was living nearby, would inherit his land. Even with the presence of this relatively new companion, it would be splitting hairs to argue over referring to Faustino as a proper hermit. Since 1965 he lived alone, and only traveled to the nearest town every few years to sell cattle, before retreating once more. 

In the long history of people "leaving the world," the motivations generally boil down to either seeking a spiritual state of being, or avoiding other humans. The spiritual type, from Siddhartha Gautama to Thomas Merton, in general, paradoxically feel that leaving the world brings them closer to to it.

Those that leave the world because they are uncomfortable with society have a variety of perspectives. From a cabin in Montana, Ted Kaczynski lashed out with bombs sent through the mail at what he saw as a world led astray by technology. Christopher Knight, the North Pond Hermit, who simply felt he didn't fit into society, haunted a relatively populated lake area in central Maine for decades, pilfering food items and belongings from the hundreds of surrounding homes and cabins.

Whoever they are, and whatever their motives, it seems clear that they all just want to be left alone - yet we insist on looking in. To many of us who cherish companionship of loved ones, the thought of someone who would prefer unending solitude is too strange to ignore. Even Heimo Korsky, who started a family in the far reaches of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge of Alaska, said, "The stomach needs food, the mind needs people."

The Impassive Hermit


A reporter, Roberto Farías, talked to Faustino in 2oo8 and wrote "The Impassive Hermit," a compelling article that explored Faustino's contemplative nature, and inscrutable exterior. VICE caught on to this story and sent a film crew for their program Far Out in 2011. They did a decent job of documenting Faustino's life at 81. It's truly impressive to see the man wielding a chainsaw, or jumping up onto a horse, but they did not delve into his contemplative ways. VICE was successful at bringing him plenty of media attention, how much of it ever reached his shores I don't know.

I believe the more compelling study of Faustino is the original by Farías, which I've had to roughly translate from Spanish. Even with my incomplete understanding, I find it far more helpful to understanding Faustino, though VICE's video serves as a beautiful illustration.

Since 1965, Faustino Barrientos has lived alone on the shores of Lago O'Higgins in a house built from the remains of a fishing vessel. He's a pastoralist, living mostly off the land and his livestock, with few modern amenities. His nearest neighbors are in Villa O'Higgins, a small community of several hundred people, 25 miles away, accessible only by a two-day horseback ride through rugged mountain animal paths.

Every few years, Faustino makes this ride to sell his cattle in town. At 81 years old, Faustino's self-imposed isolation was being increasingly encroached upon by the forces of government, economy, and tourism. However, Lago O'Higgins is one of the most remote areas of Patagonia and is the least populated region in Chile. It is also one of the world's most sparsely populated places outside Antarctica.

Faustino's land has two buildings - a small hut where he sleeps, eats, listens to the radio and pours over stacks of newspapers when they are delivered to him twice a year. The other building stores boxes of food - tins of soups and desserts, bags of sugar and flour, tubs of lard - which are delivered by a boat that has started passing his quiet corner every ten days.

Glaciers Retreat, Mountains Rise

Excerpted from a follow-up article written by Roberto Farías, the observant Faustino witnessed isostasy, a fluctuating geologic equilibrium between topography and the weight of ice upon the earth's surface, in this case:

The first time I was with Faustino, in January 2008, among many silences and monosyllables, he showed me a rock on the beach in front of his house where he sat down to watch the sunrise on the same day in October for many years, and he released the first of many deep thoughts:

"The shadow of the mountain range has run from here to there," he said. The shadow of a peak range that the October sun projected to reach the rock, had run, oddly, a few centimeters in those years. He had not told anyone, but from the shadows, had deduced something alarming or the mountains was rising or soil beneath our feet was sinking. Maybe mention it again all day, but the puzzle was more than enough for me. We talked about a few other things, showed me around his daily life, I left and began the long walk back. Then I checked with scientists that their observations were correct: the mountains were rising.

Here's the original conversation about the mountain's shadow and the full original article here: The Impassive Hermit

On the frigid, barren shore of Lake O'Higgins, at the foot of the homonymous glacier, at the end of the Aisen region, in a great nothingness, the hermit Faustino Barrientos lives in a house made from the remains of a boat's cabin. With Tibetan patience, for more than 15 years he sits on the same day of October on the same stone to see how the dawn casts the shadow of a mountain peak on a rock of the ground.

"In the last ten years the shadow of that peak that is there-points to a very noticeable curved tusk, 10 km on the other side of the lake, has run from here to here-accurate.

In principle, look at the small and supposed displacement of the shadow, does not produce anything. It is a subtle 2 cm increase.

"Tell me if I am correct - continues. Is the mountain range rising or is the ground sinking?"

"It is a riddle?"

"No, then. It is true. I'm asking you"

The wind that comes down from the Southern Ice Fields curtains the skin. The calypso water of the lake is half Chilean and half Argentine. Waves splash icy drops that burn the face. In winter, small icebergs pass by the wind. On the shore there is no grass, just some stoic bushes and charred trees. Difficult to take the question seriously.

The overwhelming intrigue is deep and enigmatic for Faustino Barrientos. He is 77 years old and has spent the last 51 living alone in the middle of Patagonia avoiding contact with people. He is, strictly speaking, a hermit.

Again, the above quote is from the original article which can be found through this link.

Below, is a follow-up article by Roberto Farías, shared in full. I have only been able to locate it on a random Facebook page, in a very unrefined state. I have no idea where this was originally published, but I do believe it to be written by Roberto Farías after Vice's Far Out documentary. I have attempted to edit for clarity, as the original was likely pushed through Google Translate:

APOLOGIES FOR A HERMIT Four years ago the journalist Roberto Farías published The Impassive Hermit for Paula magazine, the story of a lone inhabitant of Patagonia, who had detected subtle signs of climate change. The article was replicated many times and even a television station in New York made a documentary about the character. Now, Farías tells how to emerge from anonymity, the hermit was harassed, threatened and even invaded. This report is a mea culpa and a reflection on how journalism, when reporting a story, you can dramatically interfere in the lives of its protagonists.

Bernardo, Adriana, Peter and John: a director, a journalist, a photographer and a producer from New York come to Patagonia to do a documentary for the Far Out program, agency and editorial vice on Faustino Barrientos, a kind of hermit on which I wrote four years ago and that Paula had 51 living alone in O'Higgins Lake at the foot of the Southern Ice Fields in southernmost region of Aysen. I, on principle, I'm just going to visit Faustino Barrientos and accompany to guide them on their land.

The article that I wrote about him four years ago, entitled The Impassive Hermit, took flight itself. It was replicated on many websites and even an artist made drawings with Faustino's impassive face with their lenses as the last century. Other students wanted to make a visual for his thesis. And from New York wanted to make this documentary.

Finally, last December, we went to record it for a week. VICE had recently been in Alaska with a bear hunter Heimo and his Arctic refuge. For the next chapter the choices were between Faustino and a horse breeder in Siberia. The mini documentary came out this March in 30 languages, in the Far Out program, which was reissued in cable television and internet. It is directed by Bernardo Loyola, a neoyorquinomexicano (New Yorker/Mexican) filmmaker, who has worked with Michael Moore. It's called: The Withdrawal of Faustino in Patagonia, and can be seen on youtube (you can watch it below this article).

Since my trip four years ago, I had not returned to the land, until now, accompanying the documentary. As we went deeper into Patagonia, from Coyhaique, Cochrane, Villa O'Higgins, the difference with my companions Americans became increasingly marked. For them everything was new and surprising. Each waterfall or river jumped from the truck as astronauts reach Mars. For me, however, soon took a turn that had not foreseen: I began to notice the dramatic changes that my article had caused in the life of Faustino. Much more dramatic than the melting-threatening environment.


The first time I was with Faustino, in January 2008, among many silences and monosyllables, he showed me a rock on the beach in front of his house where he sat down to watch the sunrise on the same day in October for many years, and he released the first of many deep thoughts:

"The shadow of the mountain range has run from here to there," he said. The shadow of a peak range that the October sun projected to reach the rock, had run, oddly, a few centimeters in those years. He had not told anyone, but from the shadows, had deduced something alarming or the mountains was rising or soil beneath our feet was sinking. Maybe mention it again all day, but the puzzle was more than enough for me. We talked about a few other things, showed me around his daily life, I left and began the long walk back. Then I checked with scientists that their observations were correct: the mountains were rising. I spoke about in the article I wrote.

I remember on that first visit, the wind from blowing the Southern Ice Fields ruthless on the shores of Lake O'Higgins. Sometimes reached 90 km per hour and the faint sparks of water given off by the waves turned into hurtful ice projectiles reach the shore. To get around it, Faustino had done with his own hands a beautiful goggles browser horsehide and glass lanterns he saw in a magazine. As a geographer who visited him after his appearance in Paula gave him better, high mountain goggles, on this second trip gave me the old ones. Before I had given some maps of 1900.


When I wrote that story did not know what this intelligent man separated from the rest of the world was a subtle balance that would break like a wall of sand.

The text of the report came over the Internet to Villa O'Higgins, the last village of the southern highway and the nearest land-Faustino but the authorities did not seem so good. At six months, police ordered to search his house for guns and the rifle that I had said that he had in his possession. The court cited the Cochrane 400 km north. He did not answer the first call and the second time he was picked up. First taken to Cochrane and then Coihaique. He had 60 years without stepping on the regional capital, and now was again as a defendant.

The world had changed. Vehicles, streets, buildings, light at night seemed day. He did not know how far it was from home, because he still uses as leagues. All were surprised, but still recognized him. "In a store," he recalls, "I was approached by a girl and she said, 'Are you the man from the depths of Patagonia, which appeared in a magazine?' And I said, 'Yes, that's me.' And she hugged me for a long time, as if hugging a tree." He paid a fine, bought clothes, the first mattress of his life and returned to his camp. But, as he had no weapons, animals were at the mercy of thieves and cattle rustlers, and himself, was at the mercy of Twisty Tiznado, his nephew and archenemy with whom, years before, had come close to death in the mountains over a land dispute and cattle. Thirty horses bred in the mountains, only one was left. Of 300 wild cows, only about sixty. He was losing everything.

The simple article suddenly pulled him from obscurity 51 years and shattered their silence and their property. "Until I was afraid they would kill me," he said. "Here nobody knows anything. Would have died without more." And thanks to the report, the government, so jealous of her solitary life, began to reach out: sending food, he donating an installation of hoses for water, installing VHF radio wave that does he not use, and he even had the mayor of Aysen to take a picture with him and give him a pension of grace under President Bachelet.

Then, with Piñera, solar panels led him to give birth to her home, but also because it interferes uses shortwave radio is their only contact with the world. Now, I resigned, stoic he accepts all visits. Years before, he would loose the dogs. And as word spread through Patagonia that he had no heirs, remote relatives came from all over to collect his inheritance in advance. They whet the appetite of uncles, nephews and grandchildren by inheritance or sell their lands in life. Appeared a brother who was living in Argentina, and then came back threatening Tiznado Twisty, his nephew, supposedly claiming unowned land.

Faustino finally realized that all was worth more dead than alive. He was afraid. For me, the article had been a source of satisfaction. For Faustino, it had just brought a ton of problems.


From our first meeting, Faustino has aged. Is now 81 and realize that this time might be his last ride into the mountains where once raising his wild cows. Giving away several rivers, cliffs, forests burned, beaches and lakes to reach the foot of the Ice Fields, which has a seat canoe (a kind of tiles made of hollowed logs), which remained the summer months gathering cattle for undertaken every two or three years the long trip to Villa O'Higgins to sell to traders of meat. Since 2007 not up to the mountains and just did. Basically, it was a farewell.

We arrived in front of Cerro Santiago where the mountainous horn cast its shadow on the stone. They remember it. But Faustino seems indifferent. No longer can go to the beach because your knees hurt a lot, watch the sunrise from her house through a window. He heard, like all Chileans, who in the 2010 earthquake the Earth's axis shifted a few degrees. "I want to develop a facility with a Goldy in the window you could see if it moved the Earth's axis as they say." No one knows, but that thing called gnomon (fin of a sundial) was invented by the Greeks to make the first astronomical observations. After the earthquake did the installation, tightened the Goldy and the floor of his home made a hole to drive the reference point. And set out to observe the October 20, which is the peak that reaches the sun on Cerro Santiago. But the 2010 and 2011 dawned cloudy and has not seen shit.

Difficult to understand the philosophy of life Faustino. It is not just for entertainment, but the basic cordura más allá por mantenerla (something like "to stay sane") survive. I'm not sure I've grasped the director of Far Out, who shows Faustino killing a sheep, sawing a log, crossing rivers on horseback, but nothing more nor nothing less!


In my version, Faustino Barrientos remains a contemplative. You just have to stop and listen. Leaning on the mount overlooking the horizon like those jeans Bonanza, I suddenly said: "Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe. That there is more to life than us." Nor is there much life at the end of Patagonia where he lives Faustino, almost no human being and it seems that nature had not yet finished form. So its strange conclusion is not surprising at all.

"It amazes me that so many lives on Earth," he continues. "Not only a few animals, but many plants, bugs, fish, bacteria, insects. Life on earth made every attempt to stay afloat you know? He tried all forms and single man could take off from the others. Why is that? "I abyss inexhaustible curiosity. Depth. As frequently heard Faustino science programs for BBC radio, France and Beijing International usually know more than you'd think. In a confusing mess, funny and even magic of atoms, molecules, cloning, fertilization, black holes and particle accelerator, concluded: "I think the man with his intelligence, will be able to create life. It will be his own God."

"Sure do many monsters before we create a similar nature to Patagonia. In their land there are twelve streams. Among the stream does not freeze and dirty stream, there are 1,720 acres of mountains and as many streams as yet unnamed. "This only God could do it," says Faustino. "I do not know why God. But God did." It is the nearness of death that leads to these depths of thought. "I know I will die sooner or later," he says preparing breakfast in the mountains. "But I'd rather die here on this earth before anywhere. So I prefer to give to poor man Villa (O'Higgins) before selling it to a millionaire.

Mea culpa

Andronico Luksic has been buying since the beginning of this century thousands of acres each year about Villa O'Higgins, near the lands of Faustino. As the only buyer, everyone wants to sell land, which has sparked a furor unusual trading in the small town. Many relatives or pseudo-relatives of Faustino also pressured into selling their land (valued at approximately 200 million). He had no choice but to give in his own way. Made an agreement with George Lancaster, a settler who sold their land on Lake Alegre Luksic to go to live with him in exchange for aid and protection. So at the end of this chain of changes in your life, now has a neighbor Faustino. Thanks to the media, the hermit ceased.

I apologized for all the trouble I caused. He remained with it a herd of wild horses on the shore of Lago O'Higgins: "It's fate," he said. "What can we do! But now I'll be famous, I will see in theaters around the world," naively ended referring to the program recorded. Now we just need that after seeing the beautiful landscapes on television comes the insufferable "entrepreneur" and after him the obnoxious tourists. My only consolation is that Faustino at this point will be dead.

"While there is a frontier, there's a place for misfits and adventurers," said Thomas Jefferson. Faustino is a mixture of both. I, however, I'm just a journalist who messes up from time to time. My horse, perhaps in retaliation, shot me twice. I know what you meant. Three condors hovering in circles in the sky because down in the cliff, there is a dead cow.

The VICE Far Out: Faustino's Patagonian Retreat Documentary

The Withdrawal of Faustino in Patagonia

Posted by
Stereography and Japan

From Feudal Isolationism to Global Excellence

I stumbled upon these old colorized stereographs showing facets of mid-nineteenth century Japanese life. For those of us who aren't easily prone to motion sickness, a GIF rendering of a stereograph is an exciting way to experience an image so that it nearly seems like the three-dimensional sight we receive through our binocular vision -- it is especially so for me when the image reveals another realm or cultural era.

Stereography was brought into public use by Sir David Brewster of Scotland in 1851, as the lenticular stereoscope. Simply put, two photographs are made a small distance apart, and when viewed simultaneously will create a left and right eye effect. Brewster was an accomplished intellect who experimented with optics in a myriad of ways, also giving us the kaleidoscope. (Curiously, despite his scientific proclivities he was among the first to speak against the theory of evolution.)

Europe and America could not get enough of his novel invention and over the years millions of stereographs were produced with the latest photographic processes and equipment, beginning with the daguerreotype print. Even Queen Victoria couldn't hide her excitement upon stereography's mainstream debut at the Great Exhibition of 1851. (This first world's fair was held in London and housed in the incredible Crystal Palace, something akin to the world's largest greenhouse.)

The lenticular stereoscope followed Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy after he strong-armed feudal, isolationist Japan into opening their ports for trade in 1854. These colorized stereographs were thus created in this period when the Victorian world was freshly enamored with this visual experience, and when they were first becoming aware of a culture that had long been preserved from global influences.

The newfound might of the American navy exposed the weaknesses of the long-running Tokugawa shogunate, which was still holding power with its traditional tools of war. For better or worse, it was not long after these images were made that Japan began transforming into the modern imperial power that the United States Navy met again in the Second World War.


Today Japan is one of the most technologically sophisticated nations in the world, with a long history of excellence in precision optics engineering. They are also home to a few mobile phone manufacturers that are among the elite developers that continue to propel smartphone technology forward, and imaging capabilities are part of this evolution. 

Stereoscopic technology has continued into the Internet era, being utilized by phone manufacturers as early as 2002. With the arrival of ever more powerful processors, Samsung, LG, and HTC have all produced 3D-enabling smartphones.

There is not yet a large demand for these devices, and it remains to be seen if excitement for stereoscopic imagery in some form can be renewed. In its time it was the most remarkable way to convey an image, but everyday smartphones can now record in time-lapse or slow-motion, instantly deposit images into a virtual cloud, and can even generate augmented reality (I'm looking at you, Pokémon GO). With so many citizens of the world holding a powerful camera in the palm of their hand, there will be no paucity of images for future armchair anthropologists like myself to peruse. I hope to give them something worth looking at.

Posted by