Villa El Salvador, Peru from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.
Villa El Salvador is a twenty minute drive outside of Lima. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and yet most of the homes have no access to running water and thus, there is no sewage system. This area began as an “invasion”…during the night, hundreds of people move into an area and set up homes made of straw in order to claim the land. Once the settlement becomes more stable, wood is then used for the housing later followed by tin, bricks and concrete for more permanence. I was fortunate enough to photograph the grass root efforts and leadership of those trying to establish a medical center and provide nutritional/educational programs for the people. Community and stability are surely being birthed into existence through the commitment of very dedicated people.
The following is an interview with Father Simon, a priest with the Missionary Society of St. James, headquartered in Boston. Simon’s sincerity, kindness and attention to welcoming another was so evident from our first meeting. Before I can show the creative work of the people, it is important to gain an awareness and a sense of place.
Faces tell a story. Each unique. Each so expressive with the etchings of life’s journey. I am so drawn to engage with the people and then be able to photograph with little distance between us. I was in the back seat of our “classic” red volkswagen when I saw this wonderful woman walking down the street with her colorful bag slung over her humped shoulders. My friends are absolutely wonderful and used to my asking to stop the car in an instant so all 6ft. of me jumped out of the back of the car (not an easy task) and went up to this woman. What was translated to her was that I thought she was beautiful and would like to photograph her. She was so kind and we shared smiles in that moment of time.
The following Sunday, I was driving to photograph a town Mass. I saw this woman out of the corner of my eye walking with her cane all by herself but this time we were late and could not stop. Any one who loves to photograph knows exactly that feeling of missing THE moment and missing THE picture. It hurts! As luck would have it, I was in the church setting up and saw this woman coming up to the front row in the church. She had walked almost a mile to get there! I saw determination, dignity and a quiet but powerful presence in this woman. This time I didn’t miss the opportunity to photograph her and bring a bit of her back home with me.