It is OK to look how you feel   Leave a comment

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

I wrote recently how I discovered something new about people who live in another culture who are not exposed to the cultural customs associated with photography, like smiling on queue for the camera. We have become quite expert as a society in hiding our true emotions, especially when they are permanently recorded on a medium like photography.

The Shipibo children of Peru, who live along the Ucayali river in a remote area of the Amazon rain forest expressed a range of emotions when confronted with a camera, and to my surprise and delight they were always genuine, vulnerable and completely honest. I have many pictures of smiling, truly happy children, but have chosen to show three here that are anything but.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

It is impossible for me to strip away my own deep-seated cultural filter, to interpret what these images say to me outside my upbringing and “trained” eye. Yet what I love about each of them is that they challenge me to do so. While I have the benefit of having personally met and interacted with each of these children, I am still moved by their expressions. No doubt there were many moments of pure joy and happiness that I captured, but at the moment these images were taken, these children looked how “I thought” they felt. Only they can say for certain.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

The picture above is my favorite picture from the trip. I snapped a half dozen pictures before the young girl stared off into the distance, reflecting on something only she knew. It is a reflection of my own feelings of my experience; sometimes melancholy, sometimes deeply moving and most certainly thoughtful and introspective. Visiting a culture vastly different from my own, certainly one as remote as this, forced me to see myself and the world I live in, in a very different way. I knew it would be a gift I would leave with, forever shaping and challenging my notions of human expression.


Posted June 29, 2012 by Paul Coffin in Art, People, Photography, Portrait, Travel

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