Tránsito en Paraguay

A quantych presenting four photographs taken in and from a public bus in Paraguay on 13/04/2011. All photographs taken on a Canon 5D Mark II camera and Sigma 50mm f1.4 EX DG HSM lens. Exposure Details: Top Left – 1/320 second @ f7.1 ISO 400. Top Right: 1/500 second @ f2.8 ISO 800. Bottom Left: 1/640 second @ f7.1 ISO 400. Bottom Right: 1/800 second @ f3.5 ISO 400.

On the 13/04/2011 I was travelling back to Asunción on a public bus after camping out at a waterfall called Salto Cristal in the Paraguayan countryside. It was a slow paced journey back to the capital as our driver drifted in and out of dusty farm towns along the highway. The forecast tropical thunderstorm somehow held off meaning we travelled for 4-5 sweaty hours in the muggy pre-deluge humidity.

Despite having already spent some 9 months of my life in South America at this point -in four different countries- I somehow got the impression that Paraguay was the quintessential Latin American country. The pace of life was so slow, the people so unassuming. Apart from our bus, traffic rarely stirred too much dust on the roadways and human body language was everywhere so languid. Even as a fluent Spanish speaker I strained to decipher my co-passengers’ conversations, they seemed to slip between Spanish into Guaraní and often made a curious mix of the two. Encouraged by an old lady I bought snacks of chipas and dipped them into cocido, a sweetened style mate made with burnt sugar and milk. All of these are of course Paraguayan oddities, though seemed so much more authentic than (empanadas aside) the packaged sugary snacks sold on buses in other South American countries.

Later in downtown Asunción I couldn’t help but feel I was still in a rural zone, everything was so humble I felt like I had drifted from the main current and settled in a kind of economic eddy at the middle of the continent. Most people I told I was visiting Paraguay always seemed to appear confused. ‘Why?’ They’d all asked me. ‘What is there to see there?’ I’d just shrug.

Interestingly, I learned that in fact Paraguay once used to be the mightiest of all South American nations. Paraguay was the first to claim independence from Spain, boasted considerable wealth, industry and weapons manufacture facilities. What happened though was the 19th century Guerra de la Triple Alianza (War of the Triple Alliance). For reasons disputed it seemed the whole world was at war with Paraguay and whilst performing mightily on the battlefield, they could not claim victory over the combined efforts of Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and allegedly the backing of all three by Great Britain. Paraguay lost a third of it’s territory and up to 90% of it’s entire pre-war population of 500,000. In short they were utterly smashed and driven into the obscurity in which they still reside.

Looking back at my photos from Paraguay I feel I actually captured very little. Today’s post is a bit of an experiment utilising four photographs I took that afternoon on the bus in a doco-style-distant-observer mood and using my fixed length 50mm lens. When reviewing the images I liked each but on their own they were a bit without context and placing them together made their common thread obvious. At first I was going to do a diptych with the above two images but decided to try something new when I realised I had four nicely themed images that worked in a roughly square-ish aspect ratio (all these images are cropped from original 2:3 RAW format files). I suppose this presentation of the four photographs would be called a ‘quantych’, though correct me if I’m wrong as I can’t seem to find any photographic naming conventions that go beyond triptych (three images presented together).

Wow, you’ve managed to read this to the end! I’d be quite stoked if you now let me know what you think of this post in the comments section below! Believe me, it puts sunshine into my cloudy days. As does people clicking that little ‘like’ button on my Cam Cope Photography Facebook page.

Thanks for reading,

Cam.

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5 thoughts on “Tránsito en Paraguay

  1. Hi cam,

    Enthralling reading! This is one oft he best pieces of writing I have read from you, I was hooked all the way through. You a=manage to paint a picture of the place in a very punchy and coherent style. Makes me want to know more about paraguay, and for that matter the history of south america.

    best,

    Tim,

  2. Yep, I second Tim.

    Cam, your description of the languid Paraguayans really does come out (for me, at least) from the four images. Arh, and it invokes the sense of travels… Damn you. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Sam

  3. Hey mate,

    I’d like to claim responsibility for making you go to Paraguay, but I never put it so eloquently. I really enjoyed reading and the photos are choice. Paraguay has always been quite an insular country, one of the reasons it used to be a power was because they produced what they needed and occasionally brought in human capital from Europe (first railroad in the Americas). Having been in disastrous wars with all of its neighbours (Chaco War with Bolivia in the 1930s) it has had strained relations with them all. It’s only recently that Paraguayans have started emigrating to Argentina and beyond looking for work and vice versa. There are a lot of Brazilian companies in Paraguay exploiting lax agricultural laws and planting cash crops of soya.

    Anyway, I’ve proved that I know more about Paraguay than the other commenters.

    Joe

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