Friday, June 14, 2013

La Paz, Bolivia

May 10

Bug bitten and sunburned, I have been in the company of a painter/photographer, and all around artist, this past week. Although my frequency of modeling is nowhere as hectic as I was accustomed to in the US, I feel as though once again I have emerged as my model self.

I have been based in La Paz, Bolivia this past week and will be here for about another week, as every couple of days my schedule has included day trips and several day adventures to beautiful places for photography sessions. The first day of my arrival in La Paz, I had my first figure modeling session in months, posing for five to fifteen minutes for each pose as the artist, Sergio, sketched in charcoal. This led way to an impromptu photo session with the fading window light and later using the lights below the glass floor of his painting studio. The next day we would head to the Valley of the Animas (souls) so having a short shoot in the warmth of the house was a good introduction to our working styles.

The variety of the landscape and the vastness of beauty that Bolivia offers is incredible. When I first arrived I imagined La Paz to be a stopping point to visit the city, but touring with a local artist, I am now well aware of the abundance that is around the city. Setting out with backpacks loaded with enough blankets to survive the cold, gas to create a fire to make hot chocolate, a tent, a camera, and a little makeup, Sergio and I headed out of the city in a local bus and embarked on an hour long walk uphill to the Valley of the Animas. We pitched the tent, made hot chocolate and watched as a few cows came to join us to camp, and called it an early night. At 4:30 am we rose to prepare to shoot and by 6 am I was modeling at dawn, lit with a campfire and a gradually rising sun. By 7 we were hiking uphill and creating photos in the gorgeous landscape. The weather was chilly, but with the environment to play with, I was super happy. We returned to warm up with more chocolate and packed up to trek down and return to the city.

My days have become a bit of a blur, but there have been days with heading to the markets for lunch, shopping in El Alto (the city north of La Paz that is known for its huge market) for a new tent to survive the rain that I will likely be facing in the upcoming months, wandering around exploring the city, drinking tea made with flour of coca, and reading my new book (in Spanish of course).

One evening Sergio invited his model friend to come by and we had an impromptu shoot with two models. I always enjoy the energy working with models who want to be modeling, and my shoot with Marissa was absolutely enjoyable. We began by working with projections of images on our skin and moved to his dance studio to make use of the wooden floor and contrasting light at my request. After this session, we went to a Milonga where I was probably bright red with shame at my fumbling attempts to tango having only had one lesson beforehand, but now I want to learn more.

One of the days we went hiking up a mountain at sunset and although the plan was not photos, as often is with Photographer, model, beautiful locations, good light and no one around, I found myself stripping free of my clothes to model. The session was short as we had just caught the sunset and had to return while some light remained to illuminate the path.

This past week we headed to Coroico for a dose of the Yungas and another environment for photography. Just two and a half hours by bus from the city, the environment turns from snowy mountains to jungle. This is where I was attacked by Mosquitos even with my bug repellant. A friend of mine from this journey was still in Coroico when I arrived an the evenings were spent with a humble fire and good company. During the full day there, we took a shared taxi to a waterfall about 6k away from town, and while the waterfall was pretty, it did not lend itself well to photography, so we followed a small path away from the waterfall, and that was where inspiring plants and locations were found. With the heat of the weather, the water in the stream felt good, but I was horrified at how many bites I had by then. The day was ending and we took advantage of the perfect light before walking back to town in hopes to find something to eat.

These past two days I have been back in La Paz and the next location will be an arduous hike on Sunday, so I have been doing a bit of reading and exploring, and of course, checking in with the world. Yesterday we did a bit more shooting in the house as the light was too beautiful to waste, and I needed a break from reading and my clothes.

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