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Thanks everyone!

Somos Fotógrafos (We are Photographers)

An exhibit with a vision, Somos Fotógrafos is a captivating collection of photographs from Philadelphia photographer Seth Shimkonis and the kids of New Hope Children’s Home in Arequipa, Peru.  Somos Fotógrafos hopes to raise financial support for and awareness of the void in these children’s arts education by presenting greater opportunities in photography and, in the process, aid in emotional recovery and build self-esteem.  From black and white to color, abstract to realism, this collection from Somos Fotografos contains works of art that capture the diversity of perspectives which these kids always possessed; now they are able to show the world.

Gallery info:

Sunday, September 13th, 11am to 6pm at St. Stephen’s Cathedral House, 221 North Front St. Harrisburg PA 17101

Read more about the Annual Harrisburg Gallery Walk we’re a part of (click on links below):

Press Release

Art Association of Harrisburg

Hope to see you there!

Two for one plus so much more.

Last night we had our pizza party! I’d like to thank everyone who supported me on this trip, because a portion of the support I received went towards 18 pizzas which were gone in under 30 minutes. I’ve never seen such excitement over pizza. We even had four kids who had never eaten pizza in their life!!! As someone who used to eat pizza morning noon and night, hearing that someone had their first taste of pizza via something I had a part in, well, that just makes me smile. Giodano, one of four who tasted pizza for the first time. The other three were his brother (age 4) and sisters (both age 8).

Why don’t you go fly a kite!

Go fly a kite you say? Well, why sure! Why not August is kite month in Arequipa, the only time of the year when it’s windy enough to let your string out. Julia bought a few kites for the kids and they went nuts flying kites in close spaces all around the home, running to keep their kite up. A few times strings got tangled or caught in things, but these kids are so resourceful that when the sticks or string breaks, they didn’t just discard the kites, they taped and tied the kites back together without any hesitation or even breaking a smile. I forgot how fun kites were until I saw the huge smiles on the kid’s faces when Julia gave them the kites.

Vanity or Memories?

Here at New Hope, we aspire to enrich the kids lives with photography in many ways. So the kids take the cameras and enrich their lives with photos of themselves, their friends and their family through their photos.

How do they do it? Almost every kid, comes back after their turn using the camera with a picture of themselves. Whether its them taking a picture of themselves or someone taking a picture of them for them, they always have a photo of themselves amongst the ton of photos they shoot (some have taken over 100 in one hour! I used to think 24 photos on a roll of film was impossible to use up!).

Probably the most interesting example I’ve seen yet is little John looking pretty fly with some sun glasses and holding a picture of himself which his sister took when she used the camera just a few days ago. It doesn’t bother me that they take pictures of themselves all the time. I think it just shows how kids in Peru are the same as kids all around the world. There is something about using a digital camera as if it’s a mirror.  If you look at peoples Facebook and Myspace pictures you’ll notice that there are a lot of pictures taken by the person with their arm extending towards the camera lens with a serious expression, as if to say “Yeah, I look good”. However vain it seems, I want the kids to have photos of themselves and their friends for the future; to have memories and to look back and laugh. That’s pretty much been my goal for this trip, to provide the kids with memories of friends, family and yes, even themselves as they looked when they were younger. But at the same time, we’re planting seeds of photography and giving them something fun to do, and so far the kids are having a great time making memories.

Gone and here again.

Greetings from the place I like to call “The AQP” (the airport abbreviation for Arequipa, Peru). I’m back at New Hope doing a bunch of photography stuff for two weeks and I’ll be the first to tell you that this is a very different trip for me than my previous. First, I’m only here for two weeks instead of six months. You can get a lot done and become really comfortable in six months. Being here only a few days has been hard to get adjusted (physically and emotionally), and when my time is up after two weeks I’ll have just started to get my high altitude lungs to say the least.

This is also the first time I’m staying at the home by myself (without any other gringo friends) and things can be a bit frustrating language wise, and a bit lonely in the mornings and evenings when all is quiet (that is if it ever is quiet with 50 kids). However, the loneliness is temporary and when the kids see me they ask “Classes de la fotografia?” and then they make the camera gesture in front of their face as if they took a picture. I can never tell them a definite yes or no for a class because it all depends whether their homework and chores are done, and they have to ask their tutor too. There are kids that have been able to take pictures, but not as many as I had planned.

When planning this trip I had grand visions of photo classes galore, kids pasting, cutting, and coloring a grand photo craft and all the rest that goes along with it. But I forgot one detail when planning for these classes. The kids are already in a bunch of classes, normal school classes that is, and a ton of homework to boot. To say the least, they only have so much time to take pictures.  The project I had planned isn’t  going to happen this time around, but  the kids who have finished their chores and homework will be able to use a camera and shoot their little hearts out with the subject I give them.

My grand vision is probably a bit too much for one person for only two weeks during the school year. It’s been really hard to let that photo project go for right now. So, instead of the glorious project, we are shifting gears to do something special for the kids with pictures. I’ll post more about it in the future as it gets closer to being finished and unveiled.

Being back has been great in many ways, I’ve hung out with kids I’ve missed and thought about a lot, and I’ve also met some new kids. Victor just arrived three days ago, and since he isn’t enrolled in school yet he’s just wandering around kicking stones and day dreaming. So, I gave him a camera and we shot some pictures together. He seemed to enjoy himself and he got a few good shots, the one of the fish that you see below. It was his first time using a camera and I think that’s the coolest part about doing all of these classes, when someone who has never used or seen a camera gets to take pictures.

Beyond cameras, I get to do some things that photographers don’t do. Like, pick up kids from school. This is one of my favorite things to do while I’m here. I get to walk in the warm sun (get stared at because I’m so tall and foreign) for about a half mile or so and then the kids come out of school all excited and run up and give you a hug. This is where you really get stared at, because all the little kids coming out of school have never seen anything like a gringo, let alone up close and knowing some of their friends from school. The kids are all smiles since school has just finished for the day and then once we have everyone we walk with partners to ensure everyone makes it home safe (usually about 15-20 kids). The kids usually pair up with a good friend and horse around the whole way home. Its hard to keep that many kids in line, but you do the best you can.

Some days you pick up the older kids, which I described above, and then some days you pick up the nuggets (aka: Luis, Julio and Nilar, the little boys). If you’ve ever had a hard day for any reason, picking up the nuggets is best cure for the blues. These little boys are so funny and cute. I once bought them ice cream when I picked them up from school and apparently its engrained in their minds that gringos picking you up after school means ice cream. And of course we spoil them with it, one ice cream is only 30 centimos, or 10 cents in dollars. So we walk home hand in hand licking our ice cream and talking about their day at school (most of which I barely understand, but I like hearing them talk about it anyway). They’re still at that age where they’ll go on and on about school instead of responding with a “nothing” to your “How was school today” question.

Two weeks is a short lived experience. It will have many memories and emotions wrapped up in these days. But this trip is more than photography or projects, its to stay connected to the kids, love them and just spend some time with anyone who wants to hang out with a tall gringo. Enjoy the photos, I know I have.

Victor taking a self portrait
Victor’s self portrait
Victor’s fish
Pickin up my homies from school. Makiver (left) Me (middle, duh), Jhon (right) Miguel Angel (top)
Victor and Fredy making fast friends as they walk home from school.
Me with a two piece nugget. Luis (left) Nilar (right)
Nuggets getting a sweat treat (ice cream)
Mission accomplished.
Crazy boys. Oh I missed their antics.
Giordano (left and now the youngest at New Hope) Carolina (back left) Sandra (front right) and Nilar (aka a nugget). New to me, but this little bunch of brother’s and sisters have been here for about 3 months. Carolina and Sandra are twins and they are the funniest set of girls I’ve ever met. They make some killer crazy faces. And Giordano thinks so too.

May 22nd 2009, The Gallery, back in the States and the future.


 

Hello everyone. I have officially changed my network on Facebook back to Philadelphia, so, yes, I am back in the States and still (unfortunately) unpacking and reorganizing a bit. However, I have seen a ton of people since I’ve been back which has been great. And a little note: My parents and brother meet me at the airport with Sombreros and a big sign which read “bienvinedos a casa Seth.” Seriously, I’m so stupid for not having my camera ready. But due to the lack of sleep on the plane and bringing some good ole’ Peruvian parisites with me, I only recorded the great welcoming with my memory instead of my camera (that would have been a great photo to go in today’s post). Since being home, culture shock has had little impact on me. The thing that was weird at first was when I got off the plane and heard so many people from many backgrounds, and all the rest, all speaking english and living in the same country. People in Peru are typically of Spanish descent or Natives who all appear to be from Peru, whereas the US has people from all over the world and it’s hard to tell where people are from just by looking at them. This is an amazing thing about the US, and I’m really glad that we’re all here. And another thing: I think all my friends have grown about two inches since I last saw them. Seriously, when I got back, I was astonished how everyone had grown while I was away and how much taller they appear now. This has to do with me being in Peru for six months and being surrounded by people about 5′ 4″ or shorter. I think I was the tallest person in Arequipa for six months. 

I would like to share a bit about the gallery we put on of the kids work before Andrew and I left for the States. We hung 26 framed photos in the common room/banquet hall at New Hope and invited the community to see what wonderful things the kids had created. We had refreshments, and everyone who showed up was able to cast a ballot for their three favorite photos. In the end, we had a first, second, third place, and two honorable mentions. But due to my lack of forethought, I didn’t document the winners with their photos because of running the show. But there are two to enjoy: Julia and her art guide, Agusto, take in the sights, and Alvaro stands beside his prize photo. The winners were shown above:

1. Axshel - La Lluvia del gato (The rain of the cat)

2.Alvaro - El Perro y su sombra (The dog and his shadow)

3. Elizabeth - Mi Perro (My Dog)

HM Sofia - Los chanchos de la comida (The pigs of food)

HM Franklin - El perro de los vecinos (The neighbor’s dog)

Also, please note that this is just the beginning of what we are doing, and I will be posting one or two photos a week from the kid’s work, in a format much like I have in the past. So don’t worry… more wonderful work from the kids is on the way. And we are now selecting the final group of photographs which we will be shopping around to galleries, coffee shops, etc. in order to raise more money for projects in the future. So, be sure to check back and see what will be popping up each week from the kids and any updates on the gallery. And one last thing. I will be posting my favorite wedding photographs from each wedding in addition to the kid’s photographs. So, if you know people who are tying the knot, send them the link to my blog. 

Finally, a big thanks to everyone for following the kids’ work while I was in Peru. Please continue to check back, as this is only the beginning.

April 21st 2009, Baptized!

My little Peruvian Friend Fredy has taken the plunge. The other day, the church and our crew from New Hope headed out to a river in Yura, just outside of Arequipa, where about 9 people were Baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Among those who were Baptized from New Hope were: Fredy, Benildo, Efrain, Jorge, Maricruz, Estefania, and Paty. For me, it was great to see Fredy take the plunge and make this commitment to God. The reason I say this is because, when he first arrived here at New Hope, he was one of the biggest trouble makers New Hope had ever seen, which is probably saying a lot when you have a home taking in abandoned and abused children. A lot of them come here with all sorts of feelings, but Fredy was the wildest one they had ever seen. He would beat up on girls, talk back to adults, and was just plain old ADHD. But, as of now, he is making good progress. By the time I left, we were great friends, and he had learned what it meant to respect adults and to not beat up on girls (don’t worry, he still thinks they’re icky). So, with the help and love from his Family at New Hope, and most of all, the love of Christ, I’m sure Fredy’s future will continue to be brighter. Please keep these kids in your prayers.

April 16th 2009, Beatrice and the boys

I love this photograph that Beatrice shot of her brother Henry (green shirt), Fredy (orange) and Jesus (red). It kind of looks like a serious sandwich, with Fredy being the fun tasty flavor in the middle, and Jesus and Henry being the dry rough bread. In addition to being a fun photo, it’s also great on many other levels: the boys are framed in by the white vertical strips in the wall, there are three people (odd numbers are good for composition), there is a contrast in expressions, the light is good, and they are not placed in the middle of the picture. As of right now, I don’t have a portrait of Beatrice but hope to have one soon.

April 15th 2009, here and gone

This photograph was made by Beto, a young boy about the age of 11. Beto is a fantastic photographer and has a very creative eye. When you give him a camera, he always has a huge smile on his face, and he really gets an attitude boost when he hears how much you like his photographs.

However, the difficult truth is that, like other kids at New Hope, this is not Beto’s permanent home. Beto was only here until his mother was able to get things sorted out. It was only a matter of time before one of my photography students moved back with their family; I just never knew when it would happen. Goodbyes rarely happen when someone leaves; one day they’re here, and the next they are gone. Most of the time you find out that someone has left by hearing it through the grape vine.

I only wish I could have said a few words to Beto before he left, perhaps a goodbye or maybe some encouraging words about how much talent he has. Maybe Beto and I will have the chance to cross paths again in the future. I know that the photographs Beto was able to create while he was here will have a lasting effect in his life, and knowing that gives me some joy.