Rebecca Wilks

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

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Woman with a Rooster and Other Marvels


Girl in a compelling spot, Santa Catarina Palopó

Like many things which are destined to change our lives, this one crept up on me. Some Rotary friends mentioned (OK, repeatedly) that they were involved with a great literacy project in Guatemala.  “You should come and check it out,” they said.

That was about 15 years ago, and I’ve lost count of the number of trips I’ve made now.  Maybe 10?  It didn’t take long to get my husband hooked, too.  The nonprofit we work with (Cooperative for Education) is top-drawer, the project effective and important.  Guatemala is gorgeous, its people lovely, kind, and hospitable.  What’s not to like, right?


Youngster lost in thought, Zaragoza Guatemala

After so many visits, the last specifically for photography, I’m shooting more sparsely.  I have lots of the classic shots in the catalog, so I’m relaxing into smaller photogenic moments and sometimes just leaving the camera in the bag and enjoying.  The other thing is that folks are mostly wearing masks in the schools we visit and masked portraits are not so compelling to me, though they do tell a story of our world in 2023.

Woman with a Rooster, Santa Catarina Palopó

My favorite work from this trip is the street portraits.  This was my first visit to Santa Catarina Palopó, on the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlán.  We had about an hour to explore.  I was so excited about meeting this woman who, in addition to wearing traditional clothing (traje), standing in front of a nice background in soft light, and being friendly and willing to pose, was HOLDING A ROOSTER.  This passes for a thrill in my world.  But seriously, this kind of scene is typical of rural Guatemala, and says something about the culture.

Besties, San Pedro Yepocapa School, Guatemala

Portraits during the official school visits are a bit like street photography.  Photographing the students is such fun; it’s something of a party atmosphere when we visit and it doesn’t hurt that brightly painted walls are the norm.  Typically the whole town shows up, but during this trip I wasn’t seeing elders.  That’s a shame because their faces are so interesting to me.  No one seemed to know why; perhaps it had to do with the pandemic.

During our last few days we hung around to catch up with some friends and be tourists in Antigua, the previous territorial capitol.  Antigua is a special place, with a view of three volcanos (one active!), cobblestone streets, and fascinating details.  I’ve created photography projects for myself around these during the last few visits, and presented them in poster style.  During past trips projects have included doors & windows, door knockers, and “look down” which highlighted interesting things underfoot.

This year I put together what I call a sampler, letters and numbers from all over the city. 

Sunrise over Volcanos Atitlán and Tolimán, Lake Atitlán Guatemala

There are always a few landscapes, too.  Who can resist?

I’m beginning to think there’s a book brewing…

More from the trip are in the Guatemala Gallery on the website.

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