If a photo is worth a thousand words, imagine what Peru street photography can tell you about this colorful country.
In 2014, a group of photographers—some professional, others hobbyists—came together to form an online community to promote street photography in Peru. For some time, this style had been present in European nations, gaining mainstream attention across the U.S., and seeping into Latin America; Peru’s street photography seen, however, had yet to become established.
What began as a Facebook page to attract like minded photographers has continued to grow to this day: the collective, known as Perú StreetPhotography, includes thousands of members across the nation. Besides a popular social media presence, followers can partake in group photography walks in and out of Lima organized by the founding members of Peru Street Photography.
So, just what constitutes as “street” or “urban” photography?
“Street photography is spontaneous, never choreographed…it’s the strange, the absurd…perhaps the most honest photo you’ll ever see,” explains Raul Burbano, acting administrator of Perú StreetPhotography. “Street photography teaches you to observe – to find something that most people don’t see, that most would otherwise walk right past – and to act in the moment and take the photo while the opportunity is there.”
Much like when the group of young men saw a lack of authentic support and encouragement to display their photos.
“We investigated before initiating the group, and what we found was there were few groups dedicated to this type of photography,” explains Jean Paul Merino, a professional photographer and, along with Burbano, the only other administrator to Perú StreetPhotography who currently resides in Lima. “There’s plenty of groups for photographers [in Peru], but most have monetary purposes: to sell their photos, equipment, tours.”
“Our members aren’t treated like clients, they’re one of us,” assures Burbano. “Even the group’s administrators are on a horizontal plane, meant to facilitate and articulate group discussions.”
Perú StreetPhotography keeps a strict watch over what is posted on their page, from prohibiting advertisements to monitoring back-and-forth discussions posted between members. (“The idea of respect is fundamental for us,” insists Burbano.) In such a way, the photos themselves are allowed to take center stage. And the talent behind the lens is evident.
“Eventually we would like to see the group, or some of our photographers, be able to expose in galleries around Lima, to show street art to the greater public,” comments Merino. You may remember his tender photo of an elderly couple sitting astride a bicycle, an image that became one of the group’s most popular (or most ‘liked’) on social media. However, even this image, able to capture hearts of many, was unlike many of the images displayed on tourist sites and glossy magazines promoting a visit to Lima.
“The postcard images of Lima, where everything is clean, there are clean skies and new shopping centers, these only show one side to the city, but it’s not the only one,” says Burbano, who along with Merino, is baffled at the concept that Lima is referred to as a ‘grey’ city.
“The spontaneity in Lima, the criolla culture, is something that no other city in the world has,” defends Merino. “People call it Lima la gris, but it’s not grey. There’s plenty of color.”
Perú StreetPhotograpy has led various group photography walks around Lima, from the historic center to the recently devastated Shipibo community in Cantagallo, Rimac. With popularity growing, a limit of 20 people are allowed on the walks due to there being only two available administrators (the third administrator, Raul Rafael, currently lives in Cusco). Dedicated to full-time jobs, the two Lima administrators try to organize one photo group outing a month, as well as the occasional photography trip outside of the capital city (Ancón, Matucana and San Jeronimo have been some of their favorites).
The group photo walks are not only a chance to meet online community members face to face, but to promote the idea of going out and rediscovering the one lives in but perhaps take for granted (all the while in a secure and encouraging environment).
With the country’s rich history and unique cultures as the stage, Peru Street Photography has become a means for contemporary stories to be told, seen, and heard.
“Many talented photographers feel they need to travel abroad to find work, or at least to be respected for their work,” says Merino. “One of my dreams is that photography is seen as a real career here in Peru, just like medicine or law.”
A group of young photographers have built a community attracting like minded people who are interested in the spontaneous, absurd, and undiscovered side of Lima and beyond.
Cover photo: Raul Burbano/Peru Street Photography
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