On my visits to Cantagallo, I have the privilege of being welcomed into people’s homes, generating a wealth of what might be called in-between moments—times of stillness that seem to contain the entire world, even though not much is happening. The textures of these moments are what constitute the relationships I get to build here, and will carry with me when I leave. Hours spent sharing stories and small joys—playing with Christy’s puppy as her mother practices for her singing lessons; sitting around the kitchen table eating hot cachanga (fried bread) with Christy and Karoly as we talk about love (just a few days before Valentine's Day), and they share their dreams and recall difficult memories from their childhood. In moments like these, too, I am struck by the thoughtfulness and resilience of these young girls, only 13 but so lucid in their understandings of themselves and their circumstances. They tell me they don’t want to waste any opportunities. We’ve been through hard times, they say, and we don’t want to let ourselves get lost. We want to learn! And as our conversation snakes through both sober and silly territory, I marvel at how fortunate I am to be learning from them.
On Friday I sat on a small stool in Christy’s living room once again, as she and her parents worked making backpacks to sell at a nearby market. Their component parts were stacked neatly in piles nearly covering the floor, dozens of backpacks-to-be lying in wait as Christy and her father worked diligently behind two sewing machines, and her mother wielded the scissors. They asked what was new with me, and how my family was doing—including my cat. (Their tiny kitten, whom Christy discovered crying on the street last week and brought home, is jokingly being called “Huga,” the female version of my cat Hugo.) We talked and joked for a few minutes before it was time for us to head down the hill to Karoly’s house and start the day’s lesson.
We’ve spent our past two sessions together looking at, reading, and learning about photographs—noticing details, constructing interpretations from observations, and getting familiar with the key elements photographers may manipulate in creating images: framing, timing, point-of-view, light, shadow, shapes, lines, gesture, expression, symbols… And now they’ve begun exploring what they might say in such a language, as they continue to build toward their own multimedia representations of the many histories surrounding them in Cantagallo. Below are some of the photos from their experiments in Karoly’s living room, and along the rocky paths of their community, which we walked gleefully with Karoly's little sister in tow. I am delighted to see, and share, what comes next.