When we browse photos from a faraway place to which we've never been, we find that the entire visual panorama — the faces, the clothing, the landscape — looks so similar that it blurs any lines of distinction.
When you get up close, though, all the subtle differences have a way of evincing themselves more clearly.
Maybe it's first-hand experience or familiarity. Regardless, what was once a generalization — a single culture — now becomes an array of competing similarities and differences. This phenomenon plays itself out continually during our travels, with Andean South America (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia) as no exception.
Frankly, this is where travel becomes really cool. Take the hats, the headwear. Ecuadoran hats are different from Peruvian hats and Bolivian hats. More granular than that, hats differ from one town to another, from one ethnic group to another, through lowland villages and back into iconic Andean mountains. The same goes for weavings, shawls, panchos, and sweaters.
But the clothing is the easy part. The faces — now that's where it gets a bit tricky, if not infinitely more interesting. All the faces suggest some relation, some inherent similarity, but they are different — like related families, but on a more epic level. Faces that once appeared “the same” now reveal distinct features and expressions.
So what of all this?
We were surprised — pleasantly so — by the diversity of the people, culture and colors we found throughout the Andes. And in celebration of this, we share a photo essay and slideshow entitled The Faces of the Andes. In many cases, these are the people we met, chatted with, interviewed and got a chance to know while we made our way through a region that was once simply “The Andes” to us.
Photo Slideshow: Faces of the Andes
If you don’t have a high speed connection or you would like to read the captions, view the Faces of the Andes photo essay.