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Karla Gachet September 17, 2012

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Bolivia.
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Mennonite Community, Santa Rita, Bolivia 2009

Karla Gachet (b. 1977, Ecuador) studied photojournalism at San Jose State University. In 2007 she returned to Latin America and began working on more long-term projects.These were published in December of 2009 in a book called “Historias Minimas, De Ecuador a la Tierra del Fuego” (Short stories: From Ecuador to the Land of Fire) which was recently made into an iPad App. Last year she was recognized with the third place in POYi Latin America, in the category photographer of the year. Her clients include National Geographic, Time, Smithsonian Magazine, The New York Times among others and she’s had exhibits in London, Quito, and Cuenca.  Karla is currently represented by Panos Pictures and works freelance for South America out of Quito, Ecuador.

About the Photograph:

“This picture is from the Mennonite Community of Santa Rita in the jungle of Bolivia. The story was part of a long journey I took with Ivan Kashinsky from Ecuador to The Land of Fire (tip of South America). When we got to this community, we asked people to let us photograph their lives and they all said no. Then someone suggested we go visit Cornelius Rempel, the owner of a cheese factory, they said he might be more open to outsiders. To our surprise, Cornelius agreed to let us stay with his family for a week. The Mennonite women are not allowed to speak Spanish or to have contact with anyone outside the community. For the whole family it was very strange to have us there, and because I was not white they looked at me as if I came for outer space”

“At one point they even asked Ivan to stay in the community, but not me. It was tough to be the odd one out, but little by little I stopped feeling uncomfortable and they did too and the sign language started. I learned that Mennonite women never cut their hair in their lifetime. This is part of their culture. The washing and braiding of the hair happens once a week and is a ritual in itself. Afterwards, they wear a white or black handkerchief to cover their braids, depending on their marital status. We came back to visit the Rempels three years later to show them the book we completed from on our journey. They treated us like old friends and enjoyed looking at their photos. We had all gone past being afraid of one another.”

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