I was extremely excited to join another Momenta Workshops trip last October, travelling to Colombia to provide photographic services to Luca Love. This opportunity was long-awaited. A chance to visit South America again – Colombia in particular – and learn more from Momenta “guru” Chris Anderson. Irresistible! We comprised a small group of four students, our Colombian expert, Emanuel Echeverri and of course, Chris. We were based in Medellin, a city which has fortunately outgrown its reputation for being the drug capital of Colombia. There are still areas not safe to travel in as a tourist but it is increasingly visited by travellers from all over the world. There is a museum of work by the Colombia artist and sculptor Fernando Botero, whose work I have loved for years and it was a special treat to see the massive sculptures in Plaza Botero and his paintings and smaller sculptures inside the gallery.
But my main activity was working with the non-profit Luca Love, a fairly new organisation set up by Paulina Tobin (based in Houston) and her sister Daniela and mother Marleny in Rio Negro, Colombia. Marleny’s husband Jorge is also involved behind the scenes. Luca Love sells bracelets made by local women around Rio Negro, about an hour’s travel south of Medellin. Marleny designs the bracelets and teaches the artisans how to make them. By visiting the women to deliver materials and collect finished work she enables them to work from home and still look after their families. Luca Love currently funds an English teacher to work in the local school in La Esmeralda and have provided other local community support on an ad-hoc basis. Currently they are developing their product line and growing their small business to be able to put more of the profits back into the local community.
My task was to spend time with Marleny and her artisans and also visit the school benefiting from Luca Love’s support. I could then provide a portfolio of images to be used in marketing, blogging and on the Luca Love website. With regular technical and planning guidance from Chris, I built relationships locally with those involved and created lots (and lots) of images. I was able to see the process from design and selection of the beads through to seeing Marleny train the women in new designs and then watch them making the jewellery and gift bags. I spent time with the children in their English class and in the playground and local swimming pool and met many of the parents and teachers. The kids loved practising their English while teasing me about my funny Spanish! The final selection of images delivered to Luca Love are those that Paulina and her team can use to create visuals that tell the story of Luca Love. They illustrate its inception, its purpose and the direction they are headed in. It is a very exciting new venture for the family and the community.
Below are some of the images from this collaboration and I will blog again with more about this project. For me it was extremely rewarding; I met many fascinating and friendly people, I improved my Spanish, enjoyed excellent wines and delicious food and I improved my story-telling photography skills. I also made new amigos (!) among my fellow students and Marleny, her family and friends. It was a really wonderful trip.