A Photo Journal

Photographing local people when I travel has always made me feel like I’m intruding in their personal space. So, I don’t do it much, but I think you can learn so much about a culture by looking at people, their faces, manner of dress, their demeanor and actions.

I usually use my telephoto zoom lens because I’d rather capture people being their normal selves, something which changes the instant they see your camera. If I’m going to take a close-up shot, I ask for permission. All I do is hold up my camera and smile. They get it. They usually smile back in assent – and people really get a kick out of seeing themselves, so I like showing them the photos I’ve taken.

Occasionally, I’ve had people shake their heads no or wave me away. I just move on. An Indian woman in the Andes explained the belief that when you take a photograph of a person, you also capture their soul.

Below are the people of Peru. More often than not, I had some sort of interaction with the person – either before or after I took the photograph. Taking photos of someone with whom you’ve talked to or from whom you’ve learned something makes it a more fulfilling experience – in my opinion.

These people are strong and resilient; they have learned to live in a harsh environment. Below are the Central Andes – this particular spot: 15,980 ft (4,871 m) above sea level. The Andean people can be shy, but they are friendly and curious.


This woman was thrilled because I was her first sale of the day. I bought that wrap under her arm. In her broken Spanish, she told me she’d walked 3 days to attend the Sunday market in Pisac, Sacred Valley of the Incas. It took her 36 days to make the wrap. It’s lamb’s wool, hand-sown and hand-dyed using natural methods. I will cherish it forever. 

This little girl is from the town of Chinchero, about an 40 minutes away from Cusco. Chinchero is at 12,343′ (3,762 m) above sea level. I was catching my breath, but she was easily running after a puppy while eating white bread. 

The little girl’s mother invited us to see how she and the women in the community dye alpaca and lamb wool to make their textiles. She spoke Spanish, but the  other women only Quechua. This was one of the highlights while traveling through the Urubamba Valley.


Married women have their hair in trenzas (braids). Single girls wear their hair loose.

The Indian woman insisted we dress up as Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo… the founders of the Inca Empire. Ha! We played along. I was holding a little puppy in my hands, which I almost (not) took home with me!

Urubamba Valley, with the Andes Mountains as a backdrop. It’s common for the children not to attend school in order to work the land and take care of the animals.

The girl told me she was 13 years old.

Harvesting crops as a family. Sacred Valley of the Incas.

A local woman in the town of Urubamba drinking chicha, a potent home-made alcoholic corn brew, which the Andean people drink with fervor during important parties – which happen almost every weekend.

At Pisac, Sacred Valley of the Incas.

While I was in the town of Urubamba, people were getting ready for a major regional election. The long stick with the red bag on top is a sign that there’s chicha for sale at that house.

The women of the imperial town of Cusco:

These women below, mother and daughter, were selling their hand-made goods at the historical market in the highland town of Huancayo. (I’d arrived there from Lima, crossing the Central Andes, on the 2nd highest train in the world). They had traveled from the neighboring town of Huancavelica to take part in the largest and oldest (1572) market in Peru. I bought lambswool leg warmers and gloves from them, for the Rocky Mountain winters.

I’ve been to Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon, but that was when I was a teenager and I don’t have photos anymore. Recently, I went to the ceja de selva (edge of the jungle) towns of La Merced and San Ramon in the province of Chanchamayo. 

Below are the Ashaninka indians, whose settlement I visited. They were known by the Incas as Anti or Campa. The Antis, who founded the Inca province of Antisuyu, were notorious for their fierce independence and their warlike skills in successfully protecting their land and culture against intrusion from outsiders.

And of course, before I was taught how to dance, I had to dress up… once again 🙂

Peruvians, especially those who live next to the Pacific Ocean, are seafood lovers. Ceviche is probably the most famous dish in Peru. I have written about the tradition of eating ceviche, the King dish of Peru, and I have also shared the recipe, which I learned while attending Le Cordon Bleu in Lima.


*You can get your fish to order at the beach…

*And you can also get chirimoya, a tropical fruit considered a delicacy in Peru

Pimentel, 10 hours north of Peru: I asked the man if he could take me along the next day,
when he went fishing. He said, “Sure. Be here at 3 a.m.”

This lady and her daughter were visiting from the mountains. They’d never seen the ocean before.

People from the capital city of Lima are known as Limeños. But these days, most of the population comes from other provinces, whether from the Andes, the highlands, the northern coastal towns of Peru, or the southern areas, close to Chile, and even from the jungle. Life is very different in the city – it’s expensive and many people are forced to live in worse conditions than the ones they left behind. But those who moved to Lima came looking for a better life – and there was no going back. They add to the rich culture of the city.

Afilador – He’s been walking around my grandma’s neighborhood sharpening knives for 40 years. He uses a whistle to announce his presence. $1 per knife.

I met these future fútbol (soccer) players during the World Cup. 


Dressed in riot gear, these guys said they were waiting for a protest that would begin any moment. I started to have second thoughts about my excursion to downtown Lima… Until they told me they were expecting a group of government nurses who’d be demanding better pay in front of the President’s palace. Really? You need riot gear to deal with some nurses? They didn’t seem very worried…

I love this picture because I saw the guy below walking with all kinds of flair, while eating a bocadito. It didn’t matter there were police around, in riot gear, waiting for a protest. He was just happy-go-lucky.

The meseros at La Taberna Queirolo, a legendary restaurant with a history dating back to the 1880s. These guys have worked here for 30 years or so. The food here is awesome – the locale is full of history, with black and white photography of Lima. The place retains all the charm and authenticity of a traditional  bar/restaurant of eras past. The bartender (the guy on the left) will make you a mean chilcano – a typical Peruvian drink with Pisco.

La tamalera… The lady that sells home-made Peruvian tamales. You can try them before you buy. I got chicken and pork. Both amazing. This lady sits outside the very famous Mercado Surquillo #1, where foodies, home cooks, and professional chefs alike shop for fresh produce, meats, fish, spices, etc. A market not to be missed.

This girl selling honey and polen comes from the highland province of Huancavelica, one of the thousands of people who left their homeland to find a better life in the city.

Peruvian dancers performing the Marinera Norteña, a beautiful romantic dance that touches the heart of every Peruvian. (These dancers are from the city of Trujillo, but you can easily organize a trip just 20 minutes south of the city to see Peruvian Paso Fino horses and traditional dances like this). 

La bodega – Every Peruvian has a favorite bodega, a typical small convenient store where you’ll find basic staples like spices, rice, coffee, some specialties, but also other things like beer, toilet paper, and dish soap.

El verdulero – The guy selling fruit and/or vegetables from his tricycle cart. You can find them all over the city. How I miss this. 

The amas de casa (house wives) selling their home-made dishes. I had the traditional seco de res, a beef dish, which is cooked in a stew with Peruvian spices, then topped with a cilantro-based sauce with white rice, white beans, and steamed yucca. It was out of this world – and the plate big enough to share. It seemed a bargain for 12 soles ($4). These ladies are at the Mercado Surquillo #1 every weekend.

El heladero – probably the most iconic of street vendors in Lima. Always dressed in yellow, they ride their tricycles all around the city, while using their very distinctive horn, one which hasn’t changed in over 50 years. Whenever I’m in Peru and I hear the heladero sounding his horn, I have the urge to run outside and get some ice cream. 

That’s all, folks! If you enjoyed this photo essay, check out these other posts about Peru:

Off-the-Beaten-Path: Eating at Huariques & Picanterias in Peru

Connecting with My Grandfather on Ancient Inca Ground

Ceviche: King of Peru

My Solo Train Ride Across the Central Andes