WILL BYERS | Photography | Portland, Maine

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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.

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A Nahuel Huapi Boat Tour

A Beautiful Ride to Isla Victoria and the Bosque de Arrayanes

There are many guided tours around Bariloche, but if I had to choose just one, I'd go for the boat ride on Nahuel Huapí aboard Cau Cau catamaran tour. Well-priced with a terrific blend of sights and enjoyment, the Cau Cau tour to Isla Victoria and the Bosque de Arrayane is an easy choice.

With this blog I'd like to give an overview of the day, and share a few photos that I'm happy with. It's early fall here in southern Argentina, and there have been more wet and cold days lately, but we lucked out with tranquil, warm weather.

Going out on the water anywhere, though, even in summer, can be colder than expected, so bring a layer. There is plenty of comfortable seating inside the cabin, if you prefer, and you can even spend a little more for the upstairs dining room experience. I'm getting ahead of myself, though.

Catch bus 20 out to Llao Llao peninsula, and get off at the last stop. There, across from the Llao Llao Hotel, is Puerto Pañuelo - port of call for several boat tours. We boarded the catamaran Cau Cau, and shortly after were on our way.

The tour begins like an airplane flight: everyone seated, receiving instructions. It began to feel like a long time to be seated listening to a crew member going over relevant information (if not overly informative), but all of a sudden: freedom!

I'll admit that I didn't understand a lot of what was being said by the crew member, so it was a surprise to me that feeding seagulls from the deck is part of the trip. A significant part of the trip.

At first I wondered how so many people came prepared with crackers, but then I realized that there were a couple of crew members roving with cameras and snapping souvenirs photos that would be seen later. The birds and the crew knew exactly what to do - it was impressive to watch the whole operation. It did, however, make the top deck area very crowded and difficult to savor. For more space, stay on the main deck where you can walk entirely around the boat with relative ease.

As I mentioned, there's ample space inside to hang out. There are big windows, AC, bathrooms, a commissary, and a few tables even. Before long, though, the boat neared the Bosque de Arrayanes near mainland Villa Angostura, and the herd moved onto land.

The forest has a boardwalk through it, with a short route and a slightly longer route. It's safe for all ages and physical capabilities. Zoë's broken foot was still healing, but even with her limited walking endurance she had an enjoyable time.

Arrayanes are a beautiful protected species of myrtle native to Chile and Argentina that can live hundreds of years. Often slender and wavy, they grow in a variety of shades of orange/red/yellow and have smooth bark. It apparently bears fruit, and its flowers can produce a nice honey. Indigenous Mapuche had medicinal uses for the tree, too.

Some of the crew came along to provide information about the forest, and there was a friendly English-speaking guide who offered his services. There isn't much time allotted for the Bosque - enough for a walkthrough, and a few photos. They began blasting the Cau Cau's horn to keep everyone moving when time was up. Cau Cau then headed for Puerto Anchorena on Isla Victoria.

Your blood sugar might be dipping at that point in the day, and if you forget snacks there is a commissary that serves anything from candy bars to a jamon crudo sandwich. I wasn't overly impressed with the coffee, and wished that I was as smart as all the Argentineans who came prepared with their thermoses and mate gourds!

Isla Victoria is gorgeous. The boat arrives in a protected cove, and as you disembark, perhaps you will meet Sergio. Sergio has badass muttonchops. There's more time to explore Isla Victoria than the Bosque, and your options are a short trail loop, or a visit to nearby Playa del Toro down another nice trail.

On the way to Playa del Toro you will see cave paintings left by Mapuche inhabitants of the island. The region around Bariloche is steeped in Mapuche history. The name Nahuel Huapí originally referred specifically to Isla Victoria, meaning "island of the jaguar." No jaguars survive in the area however. If you're lucky you might spot a pudú, the world's smallest deer.

I turned around when I got to the sunny beach and had enough time to do both trails. There's a settled area of the other hike with some buildings and a pear tree. I didn't stop long enough to investigate what they were, and returned to the trail underneath sequoias and coihues. I also spotted a small cluster of Arrayanes that had an even more vibrant orange/red hue than those in the Bosque. The little I glimpsed of Isla Victoria showed me that it's an inspiring, bio-diverse, magical place.

As the afternoon light faded, we came back to the boat to return to Llao Llao. I felt content with the tour experience even though it seemed to fly by. Zoë and I have never been drawn to guided travel experiences, and being ushered around, but we felt comfortable with the ebb and flow of the day. It was nice, and genuine.

The crew wrapped up with a speech about conservation, and our place in the universe, so that was cool, too. By the time we were close to Puerto Pañuelo the sun had gone behind the mountains and was filtering through. It made for a good last photograph that I went top deck to get. It was a lot calmer up there at that point.

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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.

expo-auto-2017-12.jpg

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.


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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.

Outbreak

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

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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.

ohiggins.JPG

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

Capture.JPG

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.

NEW GOGGLES

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.

REACH THE INVADERS

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.

THE LAST RIDE

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!

THE PHILOSOPHER

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

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Street Photography in Buenos Aires

Exploring the Barrios of Palermo, Villa Crespo, Recoleta and Chacarita

In 2017 I had the chance of a lifetime to explore the neighborhoods or barrios of Buenos Aires for 3 months, while living in Palermo and Villa Crespo. The freedom to go out everyday and practice with my Fujifilm X-T10 helped grow my confidence in composing shots on the fly. Here I'll share my lengthy experience exploring the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and practicing street photography for the first time.

Is This Real Life?

It had been a long time in the making for Zoë, but we had only recently met, and fallen in love, when she learned she had received a Rotary International scholarship. I remember her nerves when she first brought it up, before it had been granted.

She didn't know how it would go for us, given that it would send her to South America for 3 months, twice. I assured her I would be joining her. I am lucky to work for ReVision Energy, an employee-owned, B Corp solar energy company in New England, and they are supportive of their employees leading full lives. They approved my leave of absence and the game was on.

We left icy Maine in late January, dropping into steamy summer in the city of Buenos Aires (Bs As, as the cool kids say). We had a week to explore before I started Spanish language studies with Academia Buenos Aires - mostly we figured out where to withdraw money, where to find groceries, and how to navigate the subway, but we also had plenty of time to run through huge neighboring parks and swim in our building's pool. The 3 months ahead of us felt endless.

Though a partly cloudy day here, this became my Maine babe's tannest February yet.

Turn Me Loose

I was soon roaming block after block of Palermo (where Borges lived and wrote), experimenting with street photography. Language schooling went for three weeks, and was rigorous, but afterward I was completely untethered from having to show up anywhere. I realize how rare a thing that is.

I have been pushing myself to get better at photography for a few years now, developing my eye and technique, but time to really immerse into a practice is usually scarce. Here was a chance to shoot until I was exhausted, to dig into a new culture and explore one of the famous cities of the world. I had been dreaming about this prospect for months.

Everyone should exercise their own degree of caution, but I will first say that I never felt unsafe while walking Buenos Aires with my camera, often off the beaten path. The core barrios are a little rough in areas, but I never sensed the type of desperation that could lead to a mugging. Just check your surroundings and be conscious of other people, but not to a paranoid extent. Never, however, leave your camera unguarded at a cafe, for instance, because I have no doubt that non-violent crimes of opportunity could happen in nice places - especially Palermo Soho, where wealth is on parade.

Also in my favor: the mirrorless Fujifilm X-T10 I carried is small and reminiscent of film SLRs from decades ago, and so on that level I felt comforted that my gear did not shout, "DIGITAL! EXPENSIVE!" As well, at 6'2" I am not a small man, either, so I'm aware that I also experience a certain privilege of physical wherewithal. Nonetheless, I had 3-4 different people across the city tap my elbow to express concern for my camera. I thanked them and assured them I would be careful, but privately it never matched up with my intuitive sense of safety. Like I said, the core neighborhoods are not desperate places, especially during daylight hours, and even big city Argentines are often remarkably genteel people.

I did not explore La Boca. It has huge appeal, and you may be very interested in seeing it, so just know that it is widely advised to stick to the beaten path there. Probably wise to join a tour group, even.

Casual breakfast views of Palermo, Villa Crespo, and on the fringe, Chacarita.

Battery Steele is a decommissioned WWII bunker on Peaks Island. I took this with an iPhone 4 while working a carpentry job out there my first summer in Maine. I was beginning to look for photographs everywhere I went.

A Little Background

Northern New England and its difficult moods have contributed a lot to my interest in photography. After a substantial stint in Vermont, there was Downeast Maine over the fall and winter of 2013, where, from the deck of a Dutch mussel boat in the Mt. Desert Narrows, I captured brilliant skies, and scenes of austerity and silence that felt otherworldly to me. 

In 2014 I moved down the coast to Portland, a fortified harbor town that still has the hardscrabble community and salty, weathered aura of an early colonial city, I imagine. I kept seeking scenes possessing what I could only describe as "magical realism," having some hint of energy from elsewhere.

Don't Sweat the Technique

Plaza Armenia rap battle, Palermo, 2017.

Hunkering down and photographing New England in this way without any major trips elsewhere for a couple of years made me feel like I had a particular style that would carry over wherever I went. It turns out that shooting in new places requires me to redefine my awareness and style, and that's alright because I'm finding that the observation involved is something I'm pretty good at.

In Argentina, I had nearly 100 days to explore, immerse, and absorb. Cumulatively this was as much time as I'd ever shot anything anywhere, and it wasn't long before a new style started coming through. But it wasn't until I went inside Cementerio de la Chacarita, or Chacarita Cemetery, during the second half of our trip, that I realized what was missing from my work: a project... but hold that thought!

I roamed the neighborhoods for a month or so before I found Chacarita Cemetery -  I was always searching for old facades, tree-lined streets, funky cars and stylish Argentines to photograph. There's no shortage, and I feel confident saying Buenos Aires must be one of the coolest cities to practice in. There's such a juxtaposition of style and decay, Old world and New.

If I could have more time to photograph Buenos Aires' streets again, I would push myself to seek more photos of Porteñas, the women of Buenos Aires. I can remember sweet pairs of elderly mothers and grown daughters walking arm in arm, or young women enamored with enormous, studded platform sandals that boosted their height, and I wish I had a photo that captured it.

I suppose it was shyness, in part, that kept me from aiming my camera at the women of Buenos Aires, and in a way I was overly sensitive to the idea of how some women might be uncomfortable with a stranger snapping shots of them. There's nothing wrong with respect, but I need to get past my shyness, or the thought that people are largely against having their photo taken.

There was one occasion when Zoë was with me that we asked a pair of nuns for their portrait. They reluctantly obliged, and smiled, and then requested that the photo never be published! It is too good to not share it, someday, perhaps. 

I'm practicing approaching people for portraits a lot more nowadays, and often they're happy to oblige, and are maybe even flattered. If they don't want to, they just say, "No," and life goes on! After the portrait, I feel like I should offer a copy to the individual, to make it worth their while, but I usually don't act on that feeling. How do the other photographers reading this approach that situation?

The Gates of Chacarita

All of that exploring led to my first significant project as an emerging professional photographer. We had seen an immense cemetery on the map, close to our upcoming neighborhood, Villa Crespo, and thought about doing long runs around it, since we were leaving Palermo and the traffic-free parks nearby.

Chacarita Cemetery's corner gate, 2017.

I love graveyards (cemeteries, dolmens, sarcophagi, etc.) so one evening just before we moved apartments, I went far out to go have a look at the cemetery. After a lengthy walk past boutiques and kioskos, across train tracks and thoroughfares, I approached a quiet corner of a massive wall as the sun moved behind it. "CEMENTERIO DEL OESTE" is engraved above a large gate, and through it I saw golden streets of mausoleums.

Still In Awe

I was fairly stupefied by the size of the wall. I followed a silent, tree-lined span of it to eventually find a central front gate. The hours were 7 am - 5 pm. I couldn't wait to tell Zoë. I had a feeling this was where I needed to look, but I still didn't have any idea what really waited in there. 

I'll tell that story, soon, but suffice it to say, this was my first project, and the first time it felt necessary to put words with my work.

I've yet to write an artist's statement but I'm beginning to see how helpful in can be in attracting an audience. Lately I'm noticing that having a better idea about what I like to shoot has made me better at describing what I'm looking for. I feel that as I get better at creating images, and honing my expression, the seemingly distant notions of having my work valued as art or being sought for hire will begin to happen naturally in recognition. So, make work, share ideas, and maybe someone will dig it.

What say ye?


Read more about the truly amazing Chacarita Cemetery


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