Updated: Jan 13, 2021
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. I threw the wrapper away quickly and saw the camera I was dreaming of for a month. The next morning, my parents took my brother and me to La Paz to meet Father Cyrillus. We received so much during our Christmas celebration, and my parents wanted us to give back. I took my camera with me because I wouldn’t let go of it.
We met Father Cyrillus and headed down to La Paz, a vulnerable neighborhood where we met many kids and families with nothing. Everyone in La Paz was getting together for: “El Sancocho Comunal.” Every Sunday, Father Cyrillus organizes an event where he provides sancocho, a traditional Colombian soup, for the members in La Paz. Many kids noticed my camera, and they asked me if I could take a picture of them. I was intrigued because I believed the pictures I took were simply images, but to the kids in La Paz, they meant so much more. The pictures came out, and I gave each of them their picture. I saw their excitement and their incredible smiles, as they showed their families the polaroids. I never knew a picture could do so much.
After that day, I started to see the power of photography.
My passion for photography started to grow throughout the years. When I was visiting my mother and brother last summer, I went to Villa Caracas, a temporary Venezuelan refugee settlement built by refugees themselves. The settlement’s 20-minute proximity to my elitist neighborhood perplexed me. Having grown up with so much, seeing the sorrow of poverty always filled me with anger. 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 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 see Villa Caracas for its true vibrance. It is a place filled with hope and courage to continue fighting for a better future, a better life. Photography allowed me to show this, and it allowed so many other kids to be heard 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 show how there is so much more to life than our black and white view. Photography has the power to illustrate the color and light hidden within the black and white.