As I opened my present on Christmas Eve of 2015, I prayed that my parents got me the new Instax Mini Film Polaroid Camera everyone had. As I threw the wrapper away quickly, I saw the camera I was dreaming of for a month, and I couldn’t wait to use it. The next morning, my parents took me and my brother to La Paz to meet Father Cyrillus. After the cheerful Christmas celebration we had where we received so much, my parents wanted us to give. I took my camera with me because I wouldn’t let go of it.
After meeting Father Cyrillus, we headed down to La Paz, a vulnerable neighborhood where we meet many kids and families with nothing. Everyone in La Paz was getting together for: “El Sancocho Comunal.” Every Sunday, Father Cyrillus does this event where he provides sancocho, a traditional Colombian soup, for the members in La Paz to come together. Many kids noticed my camera, and they asked me if I could take a picture of them. I was intrigued because to me, the pictures I took were just pictures, but to the kids in La Paz they meant so much more. The pictures came out, and I gave each of them their picture. As they went to show their friends and parents their pictures, I saw their excitement and their incredible smiles. I never knew a picture could do so much.
After that day, I started to see what photography could truly do. My passion for photography started to grow throughout the years. When I was visiting my mother and my brother last summer, I went to visit Villa Caracas, a temporary Venezuelan refugee settlement that the refugees have built for themselves. I lived 20 minutes away from the settlement, and I had no idea it existed. This concerned me greatly because I was so close, yet so far from what was happening in my own city. I worked with Father Cyrillus by spending time in the settlement, and during one of my visits I took my camera.
When photographing the inhabitants of Villa Caracas, I didn’t ask them to smile or pose because I wanted to show Villa Caracas for what it truly is. In my head, I had a vision of purely despair and suffering. However, most of the kids I photographed decided to smile. They would pose, smile and make silly faces at the camera. Behind their smile, you could see the bravery and hope in their eyes. This made me realize that Villa Caracas is happiness. It is hope and courage to continue fighting for a better future, for a better life. Photography allowed me to show this, and it allowed so many other kids to show their voice too.
While editing the pictures, I decided to edit them by contrasting their smiles with a black and white background because I wanted to evoke that life is too black and white from time to time. Sometimes we tend to see life through an unbreakable barrier of stereotypes and bias, when there is so much more. Their occult happiness, and their bravery shows how there is so much more to life than our black and white view. Photography has the power to show the color and the light hidden within the black and white.