On the morning of Mother’s Day, I set out on the streets of Cusco in search of an adequate bouquet of flowers to give to my host mother. I wasn’t expecting to find anything spectacular because I have learned over the months to never expect to find what you are looking for while shopping in Peru. Peru is filled with beautiful markets, but what you find is generally a surprise. I have come to both love and hate this aspect of Peru.
If you have ever looked at a picture of Peru, you have probably noticed the vibrant and varied color palette. The vibrancy of colors was, in fact, the first thing I noticed when I stepped off the plane in Cusco. Before I could even comprehend where I had just landed, my eye was drawn directly to the hillside dotted with a huge array of colorfully painted homes. I can’t speak for the entirety of Peru, but I can say that the Cusco region of Peru contains the most fantastic assortment of colors. Several people are adorned with brightly colored traditional clothing, mothers carry their babies on their back in blankets made with every hue of the rainbow, and houses and doors are painted with an assortment of colors I have never seen gracing homes in the United States.
I arrived in Ollantaytambo only several minutes before lunch so I was taken directly to the residence of my host family. I sat down at the table and eagerly awaited my first taste of authentic Peruvian cuisine. I was greeted with a delicious-looking, yet giant, plate of food. On my plate was a heaping mound of white rice and some sort of potato dish. I will not even try to describe the ingredients because I will most likely be wrong. I can say, that it was delicious and even the rice had a flavoring which I can’t describe, but was very good. The only thing keeping me from fully enjoying the meal was the fact that the entire time I was thinking, “how will I ever finish this. I am going to offend my host family just minutes after meeting them”. I however, was able to finish the plate and all was well in the household.
My host family has asked me a few times if there are any ancient ruins located near my home in the United States. I sadly reply, “no”. The reason they ask is because, to them, it is completely normal to live within eyesight of such old and fascinating structures. To me, it is not so ordinary and I love the fact that I can look out my bedroom window and see ruins of old Inca buildings across the mountainside.
I have experienced my first Peruvian holiday. It is called Carnival. To paraphrase, it is basically a giant water balloon fight with the added bonus of Silly String, dancing, and colorful decorations for extra enjoyment. My host family had told me about this holiday right when I arrived, but I did not quite grasp what it entailed until the day of the celebration. In fact, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I left the house in the morning to visit a neighboring town, Pisac, to attend a large artisan market.
I am quite drawn to architecture. When I travel, part of what I am interested is the differences in architecture from place to place. Though I love Victorian homes and European medieval churches, there is something about these homes and buildings that is extremely comfortable and welcoming. It could be the fact that they are so open (even to the sky) or that they are situated so close together making it easier to welcome visitors. It could also be the fact that the homes are not overcrowded with accessories.
Before I came to Peru a friend of mine told me that I would want to learn the language as soon as possible because the culture is so intriguing that I would want to be a part of it and be able to immerse myself in the daily life rather than simply be an observer. He couldn’t be more correct. The people are lively, the buildings are vibrant and the homes are open and colorful. I am beyond curious to learn more about the life of the family I am staying with and I want to tell them about my life and experiences. At least we can laugh about the fact that it often takes me a while to understand what they are saying.
The weekend of Feb. 13th I decided to explore the area around W Michigan St. and N White River Pkwy. I enlisted two of my roommates to help me navigate. The first factory we found was located on the intersection of these two streets. This factory was a very interesting shape and appeared to consist of the original building with newer additions. The photographs I took were from across the street because it is a working factory (a corn milling factory) and it was surrounded by a fence. Not long after I arrived a few of the workers came outside and watched me photograph. A man walked by and explained to me that there are definitely better looking places in Indianapolis to photograph. Though I somewhat disagree, I laughed and said yes. I figured it would have been too complicated to explain.
The next weekend I went to a building on E. Market St. and N New Jersey St. When I fist arrived at the factory I was disappointed because the building was dull gray and did not seem to have much character. I was a little skeptical about whether or not I would be able to capture anything interesting. I realized, however, that the sky was abnormally blue for winter, which complimented the gray building and the red spots created by rust and exposed bricks. The bright sun created bold geometric shadows leaving patterns on the sides of the building. Had the building been more complex, the shadows would have been lost and the bright primary colors would not have been as obvious.
One of the challenges of Living Monuments was locating factories to photograph. My process of locating the factories started with a google search and an email of a few suggested locations. The first building was between Kentucky Ave and W McCarty st. on Sand st. This was a good building to start with because it embodies exactly what I had pictured when I first decided to do the project. To me, the fact that it is still a working factory makes the pictures even more interesting. The crumbling sides and overgrown plants are a perfect contrast to the lights glowing through the windows.
My project “Living Monuments” captures the beauty of abandoned factories through photographs. I have been interested in the appearance of decaying factories for several years. The exact reason is a mystery to me. It could be the fact that the geometric angles move my eye across the structure from one point to the next. Perhaps it is that the large flat concrete areas create a canvas perfect for exhibiting the shadows created by textured objects. In my photograph “Angels in the Architecture”, the shadows formed by the protruding bricks create a halo effect on the factory wall. My photographs capture the beauty of abandoned factories that many others consider ugly. Some of the photographs contain bright colors creating a bright feeling. Others exhibit subtle tones of color.
Not only are factories aesthetically beautiful, factories are very much full of life. The factories are full of life because they change every day. Their life has been impacted not only by the weather and passing time, the people who once worked in the buildings add to the factory’s history. Not only do my photographs capture the beauty of the buildings, they depict the fact that these factories have lived a life. For example, though the building in “Arose Among Thorns” is crumbling, these imperfections caused by its interaction with the environment contribute to the factory’s subtle colors that were not visible when the building was new. Though abandoned and decaying, these factories now stand as monuments representing strength, history, and beauty.