Over the course of 11 years, photographer Matt O’Brien explored the side of Colombia that usually gets ignored.
“As a photographer and a human being, I am not drawn to violence and misery, I am drawn to beauty, and I found a lot of beauty in Colombia,” O’Brien told Business Insider.
His book, “No Dar Papaya”, portrays a positive look on the country that is often portrayed in a negative light. The book will be released for the first time in the US on July 20.
Below, see refreshing pictures from Colombia that shows a side of the country we don’t normally see.
Much of what people see in the news about Colombia is negative -- drug trafficking, violence, war -- but that is not all that occurs in the country. O'Brien captured the daily life of the country that gets hidden behind the breaking news.
'I brought my Polaroid and shot (photographed) quite a bit, and the idea of a project started forming because I felt the images really did capture something about Colombia that I hadn't seen in any other photography from Colombia,' he said.
O'Brien made a total of eight trips to Colombia -- some lasting from three to six months. As a California native, O'Brien first travelled to Colombia in 2003 to photograph a series about beauty contests. The next year, he was invited back to exhibit the beauty series and teach in several different cities.
The photograph below was taken in San Andrés -- and island where people from the Colombian mainland move to avoid the war and violence. 'I love this image, which I created in 2005, because it speaks to a universal relationship of love and guidance between the older generation and the younger generation, as well as to the warmth in that family and the character and beauty of the little girl,' O'Brien said. 'Her name is Joangel, and her auntie is tying the back of her Sunday-best dress.'
In 2010, O'Brien was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to continue the project. This allowed him to go more in depth with the project and learn more about the people and culture of Colombia.
'Lots of the photography done by foreigners in Colombia is about war, violence, and the drug trade,' O'Brien said. 'I guess publications tend to be more interested in those kinds of images, and in some respects it's easy to make those kinds of sensational images. The kind of images I make, I think you have to have more of an understanding of the culture and an appreciation of the people.'
Pictured below is a family that O'Brien was photographing when the father came up to him and asked him for some family photos. He gave the family some prints and one of the daughters took them. 'I tore a page from a notebook I was carrying and fashioned an envelope to protect the prints and to convey the idea that they are precious. I don't know if they had any photos of themselves,' O'Brien said.
His favourite part of photographing the series was discovering new cultures and meeting all of the new people. This series also helped O'Brien expand his understanding of life. 'It's a real privilege to be able to travel to foreign lands and to experience hospitality and share with people,' he said.
Rather than using a digital camera, O'Brien chose to photograph with a Polaroid camera, giving the photos a different look.
'I love the softness and the distinctive colour pallet (of Polaroid photos),' O'Brien said. 'Polaroid has an abstract and impressionistic quality to it that puts less emphasis on the descriptive and more on the emotional content, which is what interests me.'
'Rather than presenting a sort of objective view of Colombia, which is impossible anyway, I am presenting an alternative vision of Colombia, one that focuses on the beauty and the distinctive character of the country, and Polaroid was crucial to me having that vision for the work,' O'Brien said.
The man pictured below is dressed up as a Roman soldier for a parade during 'semana santa', the week leading up to Easter. The holiday is very important to Colombians -- children get school days off, families enjoy a vacation, and there are many different ways of celebrating.
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