Peru In The Heart Of Washington

Rope Weavers
Peruvian rope weavers expertly build super-strong ropes from simple strands of natural fibers. [Click on photo for larger versions]
Cloth Weaver
Weaving colorful cloth requires both incredible talent and coordination.
Dancer Mask
Traditional dancers hide their faces from the audience after making their offerings to the Virgin Mary.
Hat Maker
It takes a minimum of eight hours of continuous weaving to make a single straw hat.
Peruvian Masks
Masks are everywhere at the festival and each one of them had a different meaning for those who made them.
Peruvian Weaver
There is always some curiosity when a camera is pointed at you, but a smile always makes up for the surprise.

One of the great things about living in the Washington, DC area is that you get to experience world cultures without having to leave the city. Of course, this is mainly because of the great Smithsonian Institution, which sits royally in the heart of the city and acts as beacon of culture that is second to none in the world. On this particular weekend it is Peru that has their attention, with a celebration of Peruvian culture and traditions at the Folklife Festival smack in the middle of the Washington Mall. In fact, after visiting several of these festivals in the past, it is my impression that this one is one of the best festivals I have ever seen at the Mall, and I’m not just saying that because of the copious amounts of Peruvian food I came in contact with. Really, they even have Alpacas there, which you can go check out after trying your dance skills at the sound of some rhythmic Andean tunes.

But what was most impressive for me was the sight of weavers and boat-makers who could turn simple threads and straw into incredible works of art. In a city where the first thing that comes to mind when talking about “ancient skills” is having to type on a manual typewriter, actually seeing people who can build something with their hands is a quite a big deal. And after several hours observing them at work, I never saw a single one of them using a cell phone. Amazing that people can survive without them. Gracias amigos.

 

Who Was That Man?

Sometimes someone catches your eye by the way they walk, by the way they dress, or by the way they contrast with the scene around them.
Sometimes someone catches your eye by the way they walk, by the way they dress, or by the way they fit into a scene.

I was headed to a museum today to photograph old, Oriental relics for a change.  But as it happens in far too many occasions on my way to a photographic interest, something catches my eye that turns out to be a little bit more interesting (from a photographic perspective) than what I had originally intended to photograph.  It is the proverbial “seeing of a photograph before you actually get to take it.”  So here I was today, standing in the middle of the street while cars maneuvered around me, waiting for this gentleman to fill a little more of my 50mm lens frame.  A quick three-frame burst later I was done and the subject of my photographic inspiration simply continued on his merry way.  Maybe this city is not as hostile to photographers as I once thought, or maybe it was because I was using a Leica instead of a bulky, in-your-face DSLR.  Who knows.  I guess only this “international man of mystery” would know.

Of Kites And Cherry Blossoms

Kite pros discuss their tactics during the National Cherry Blossom Kite Festival in Washington, DC.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED.
Kite pros discuss their tactics during the National Cherry Blossom Kite Festival in Washington, DC. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED.
Kite events at the National Mall soften the edge of an otherwise serious city.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
Kite events at the National Mall soften the edge of an otherwise serious city. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
Sometimes it was hard to separate the kids from the adults, and that was a good thing.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
Sometimes it was hard to separate the kids from the adults, and that was a good thing. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.

So how do you get Washingtonians to relax?  Combine the National Cherry Blossom Festival with an all-out kite festival at the National Mall, and suddenly like magic the city becomes one great, big party.  Picnics, laughter, and games do have a way of softening this city’s rougher edges.  And if there’s a time when you actually feel that our national parks do belong to the people, it is at times like these that we all feel that the ground we all walk on is part of the great heritage of America.  This feeling is always made a lot more special by the yearly blooming of our National cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin, which mark the unmistakable arrival of spring.  Granted that the blossoms had not fully bloomed yet (next weekend is the projected peak bloom), but for the sun-starved Washingtonians, the start of the yearly festival is good enough transition from the cold, dark nights of winter.  What’s more, it was reported that someone at the festival even saw a politician smiling this weekend, and that my dear friend, is a very good sign.