Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Through Each Other's Eyes

Not a Zombie.  Tecpán Market

Cows.  That was the running joke because Geoff wanted, repeatedly, to stop the car and photograph cows and more cows.  As you can see, I came home with a cow shot as well.

We were in Guatemala for 10 days, completing the exchange that began last March here in Arizona.  Our Guatemalan counterparts returned the favor and hosted us in their country in grand style.  These cultural exchanges are the primary mission of Through Each Other’s Eyes (TEOE), which I’ve been involved with for a couple of years now. 

Until this trip, I’m not sure I’d fully grasped the concept embodied in our foundation’s name.

My traveling companion, Geoff, and I noticed and formed an impression of things in Guate that surprised our hosts.  Like cows.  I have some other examples for you. I think some of them seemed ordinary or at least unremarkable to Rony and Javier.
Dog as Foreground, Volcán Pacaya
Dogs.  There are dogs just about everywhere you look there, making a living on their own.  Though wealthier Guatemalans often keep pets, indigenous people in the highlands seem unsentimental about them.  I joked that I’d do a series of images called “Dogs as Foreground,” but in the end I only really liked this one.  I particularly liked this girl, and if she had been, for example, on the Navajo Reservation she would have come home with me.

Street food.  Wow.  It all looked so good, but Rony and Javier, looking out for us, wouldn’t let us eat it. I particularly wanted ceviche but of course they were right.  I’ll give him credit because Geoff and I both got through the 10 days with our intestines intact. Their one concession was churros (what bacteria could live through deep frying?).  They made up for our deprivation by taking us to some really great restaurants and cooking memorable meals as well.

Markets.  People really do their shopping in these open-air emporiums.  The guidebooks all tell us to go to Chichicastenango, but our hosts did much better.  I’ve been to Chichi and found vendors really hesitant to be photographed.  We were in markets in Guatemala City and Tecpán and had a much more photo-friendly experiences.  In Tecpán, we saw (for example) live crabs, a woman walking around with piglets to sell, and a guy who was clearly not a zombie (opening image).  Really, I was walking around with a silly grin on my face all morning.
Family. Sunset. Lake Petén Itzá
Family.  The emphasis on family in Latin America is almost Cliché, but it’s a thing.  We saw families working together in markets and playing together along the shores of lake Petén Itzá.  For better or for worse, kids are out with their families.  I must admit I cringed whenever I saw Dad, Mom, and 2-year-old together on a motorbike, without helmets.  Some cultural differences are harder to bridge.
Graveside on Día de Todos Los Santos, Sumpango Guatemala
We spent a morning in Sumpango witnessing celebration of All Saint’s Day.  Folks come to honor loved ones who have passed, decorating the cemetery.  Meanwhile, there’s a festival of giant kites.  And street food. And crowds (yikes).  It was all a bit overwhelming, but in a good way.
Javier, Geoff, Doña Isa, Rebecca and Rony at the party
That afternoon Javier and his family invited us to their party.  It was a big celebration at Doña Isabel’s house with 50 or so people.  Her husband had died just a month before.  It was a testament to her graciousness that we gringos were invited.  She seemed to me to be all heart.  The delicious traditional Guatemalan food for Dia de Todos Los Santos is called fiambre.  It’s a mixture of pickled and fresh vegetables with meats.  Doña Isa leads the preparation of this fabulous meal each year, which is concocted in a huge plastic vat which everyone calls her “jacuzzi.” As if there weren’t enough people to feed at the party, the fridge was packed with fiambre for friends.

Color; in the cemetery, Sumpango Guatemala
Color.  Geoff kept saying the we need more color in the states.  I think that sounds good in theory, but for some reason my suggestions about colorful clothing for him in the markets fell on deaf ears.  At any rate, we loved the colors of structures as well as the colorful clothing that indigenous Mayan women often wear.  Both are photogenic and help us convey a sense of place.
Sunset at Lake Petén Itzá
The landscape.  Guatemala has plenty of relief (including volcanoes) and beautiful bodies of water.  As much time as I spent making images of people, I was happy to return to landscape; my first love.

There’s more of my work on my website.  

Work from all four of us will be exhibited in Arizona.  February 4 – April 12 you can see it at Grady Gamage Auditorium in Tempe.  Gammage is open to the public Monday afternoons.  April 14 – May 31 we’ll be exhibiting at Burton Barr Library (the main downtown branch) in Phoenix.  I'll let you know when we have the reception scheduled; we'd love to see you.  I hope you’ll come out and perhaps see a bit through our eyes.

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