aguaje in iquitos

Back in November I traveled to Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon to film for the Center for International Forestry Research. A fruit called aguaje grows on palms in the swamps near the city. In Iquitos alone 20 tons are consumed daily. Aguaje is a yellowish-orange fruit with a bit of a gritty texture. It’s eaten alone or used to make juices and ice cream and is rumored to boost libido and fertility. Others will tell you that it contains “feminine hormones that turn men gay.” The project took me from the swamps where it grows to aguaje wholesalers and the market. Here are a few images I made along the way.

Measuring carbon in the Peruvian Amazon

Aguaje at market in Iquitos, Peru

Aguaje wholeseller in Iquitos, Peru

filming in a peat swamp

Back in November I traveled to Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon to tell the story of several scientists working with the Center for International Forestry Research. CIFOR is seeking to improve the scientific knowledge of carbon stocks and greenhouse gas fluxes in undisturbed peatlands in the Amazon basin. It was my first time shooting video in a swamp. Filming while trying not to slip or get stuck in the mud was a challenge. If I stood in one place too long my rubber boots got stuck and, without a tree nearby, there was no pulling myself out. Let’s just say we earned our aguaje ice cream at the end of the day! In addition to shooting and editing this video about the project, I also put together a video that features scientist Kristell Hergoualc’h.


fives years after the eruption

Oscar and I just returned from three weeks in Chile, my first time visiting our neighbor to the south. We started in Coyhaique and made our way north to Santiago. One night we stayed in Chaitén in northern Patagonia. About five years ago Chaitén Volcano erupted. Lahars followed the eruption, ruining homes and filling them with mud and ash. Some of the owners never returned and their houses sit vacant, slowly decomposing. Other residents, like Ismelda Villegas, returned, despite warnings that another eruption is likely.

aftermath of chaiten volcano eruption

aftermath of chaiten volcano eruption

aftermath of chaiten volcano eruption

aftermath of chaiten volcano eruption

yawar fiesta video in the new york times

Last week Oscar Durand and I published this video for the New York Times about Yawar Fiesta, the ancestral tradition of bullfighting with condors in Peru. Don’t miss reporter Willie Neuman’s and photographer Tomás Munita’s coverage of the event. We are now at work on a more in-depth edit for Storyhunter that looks at the conservation of the condor and the impact the tradition has on the population in Peru. It should be published in the next couple of weeks.

missouri’s natural beauty

Fall is my favorite time of year in Missouri. While I spent most of my time in Troy, Missouri, documenting veterinarian Scott Falls during MPW.64, I did stop to make a few pictures of the state’s natural beauty. How did I not make it to Cuivre River State Park when I lived in St. Louis? Sometimes we forget to enjoy the gems in our own backyard.

8Y6A6916web Cuivre River State Park

8Y6A6940web Morning drive on Frenchman Bluff Road

recycling in lima

In the early evening Osvaldo rides a bus from his shantytown to one of the nicest neighborhoods in Lima – Miraflores. Here he will walk the streets for hours, searching through the garbage of Lima’s upper class. He finds an old picture frame that doesn’t look special to me. He peels the front of the frame off. It’s silver and will fetch him around $20. Later he finds a watch that looks new. His eyes light up and he smiles, something he doesn’t do often.

After about 8 hours of scavenging Osvaldo calls a cab and hauls his treasures to La Parada – one of Lima’s best known street markets where stolen goods are sold alongside items from Lima’s trash. It’s a rough place. Osvaldo gives a second life to many of the items thrown away in Miraflores. He also collects metal, plastic bottles and newspaper to recycle – stuff that would otherwise go straight to the landfill.

Trash that isn’t trash gives Osvaldo his income. Districts are slowly starting to adopt recycling programs in Lima. Some programs are doing their best to include recyclers like Osvaldo. Others are shutting them out and making it hard for them to make a living.

I took these pictures for an on-going project about recycling in Lima that Oscar and I are working on. If you are in Lima this month, check out Oscar’s exhibit – The Value of the Invisible. If you aren’t in Lima you can still watch the video.

oswaldo recycling in lima, peru

oswaldo recycling in lima, peru

oswaldo recycling in lima, peru

cacao as an alternative to gold mining

I always like a good excuse to go hang around the source of chocolate. Juana and Andrés, two farmers in the Peruvian Amazon, recently started growing cacao. In the past decade a gold rush has brought thousands to the area, and farmers are looking for ways to earn more and hang on to their land. Catholic aid organization Cáritas Perú says cacao may be their best bet. We told their story for Catholic News Service.

public transportation in lima

We’ve all taken pictures for stories that don’t get published. Oscar Durand and I recently shot a short video about new public transit offerings in Lima for a video we edited for the Bienal de Fotografía de Lima. A week or two before we inaugurated the exhibit the story got cut. Thanks to Vimeo and our blogs we can still give this video life.

Lima is a giant city, about 8.5 million people. Only in the past few years has the city started to develop a system of mass transit. Most in the city rely on an informal system of transportation that consists of micro-buses and vans known as combis. They follow the same routes every day and pack Lima’s main avenues. They are affordable and come frequently. They are crowded and lack formal security. For a new arrival to Lima they are a bit tricky to understand, even worse if you aren’t a native Spanish speaker. The best way to know whether you are getting on the right combi is to ask the cobrador, who usually hangs from the side of the bus, shouting out the route and trying to get more passengers.

Metropolitano – a bus system with a dedicated lane – came to Lima about two years ago. You swipe a rechargeable card and pass through a turnstile to enter the stations. They have video surveillance. Your commute time is almost certainly shorter than braving traffic in a combi. But riders aren’t all happy. They complain that the buses are too crowded and don’t have air conditioning in the hot summer months.

Another recent addition to public transportation options in Lima is Línea 1 – Metro de Lima, known more commonly as the Tren Eléctrico. Construction started decades ago on the line but was later halted. It was finally inaugurated last July. A north-south line, it reduces commute time considerably and has 16 stations with escalators and modern infrastructure. Work on a second line has already begun.

Both projects are a step in the right direction but are only a start to responding to the needs of public transportation in a city the size of Lima. Until a larger and more inclusive system is complete, the combis will fill the streets of Peru’s capital.