hiram bingham

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My lists of Peru and Cusco resources later in the post, click here: Peru – Cusco Resources

There are a couple Peruvian / Andean related books that have recently been published and which I both just finished reading:  the wonderfully woven travel stories, characters, and histories of Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams, and a new print and process photography e-book from Craft and Vision called Andes by Andrew S. Gibson.

In the introduction to Andes, author Andrew Gibson shares that “Travel for many people is an unrealised dream. Things like the business of making a living, relationships and other constraints on finances and time can prevent people from turning dreams into reality. This eBook is for the dreamers, and I hope it inspires you to pick up your camera and go live out a dream or two.”  If after viewing his photographs of the people and places of Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia you aren’t yet fully motivated to undertake a similar journey, then reading Mark Adams’ Turn Right at Machu Picchu might just make up your mind.

A couple years ago I myself “picked up my camera to live out a dream” of exploring and photographing Peru, and to be honest, my life hasn’t been the same since.  The combination of volunteering, traveling, and photographing in Peru was a turning point that led me to seriously pursue photography as a profession, leave the 9 to 5 office life behind, discover the existence of an area of the craft called humanitarian photography, and to recognize and pursue many important but dormant goals in life.  If you read through the history of this blog, you should see that journey unfold.  Both Gibson and Adams pursued their dreams and goals, one through photography and the other through exploring the Inca ruins and history of Peru, and each came out of it with a book full of experiences worth sharing.

In Andes, Andrew Gibson presents the images he created, with both film and digital, on several trips to the Andes regions of Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia over a span of 6 years.  If you are familiar with his previous e-books such as The Magic of Black and White parts 1 to 3, you know he is a master of black and white, and all of the photos in this new book are black and white or toned monochome images.  The images capture the people, places, events, and sweeping landscapes of these regions, and the monochrome helps to express both the timeless nature or appearance of some of these places and their inhabitants, as well as the unique high altitude light of the mountains and altiplano.  At the end of the text, he includes the lens and camera settings details and short descriptions of the circumstances of each (see image below), as well as more detailed stories of his travels.  And for those interested in following in his footsteps, he includes practical advice for traveling and photographing in these countries.

For the first five days only, if you use the promotional code ANDES4 when you checkout, you can get the PDF version of ANDES, The Print & The Process Series for only $4 (or use the code ANDES20 to get 20% off when you buy 5 or more PDF ebooks from the Craft & Vision collection).  These codes are good until 11:59pm PST August 6th, 2011.  Learn more about Andes, Gibson’s other books, and all the Craft and Vision e-books on their website.

Back in 2008 when I was in Cusco, I met a real life explorer named Paolo Greer hanging out in the South American Explorers clubhouse.  He was preparing to publish an important article showing that Hiram Bingham was not the first outsider to “discover” Machu Picchu, and Greer was eager to tell any listener about the maps he uncovered in dusty archives that proved this.  I wrote a blog post about it at the time called The Real Story.  I didn’t think too much of it at the time, and people in Cusco aren’t too interested in Hiram Bingham so it wasn’t a big deal there – as they all know that Machu Picchu was never actually lost (Bingham himself met the farmers who lived ON the site).  But at the same time as I was running into Greer everywhere I went in Cusco, Mark Adams sat in his New York office and read about his findings, and it helped to stir his long-held desire to explore the Inca sites of Peru and re-trace Bingham’s footsteps, which eventually led to his marvelous book Turn Right at Machu Picchu.

Adams proceeded to travel to Cusco, find a dedicated and fascinating but somewhat extreme Aussie guide, and hike to the lesser known but important Inca sites that Bingham sought out as he searched for the last Inca stronghold Vilcabamba – sites like Espiritu Pampa, Choquequirao, and Llactapata.  Even though at first glance this book appears to be of the “desk-jockey heads into the wild, completely unprepared, with a crazy guide…mishaps ensue” genre, I quickly and pleasantly discovered it wasn’t. Adams expertly weaves several related stories together including a history of Hiram Bingham and his expeditions in Peru, the author’s own treks following Bingham’s footsteps, tales of his fascinating and capable Aussie guide, information about his Quechua guides and porters, a bit of Inca history, theories related to Machu Picchu and related sites and those who pursue the theories, and of course some self-depreciating travelogue humor.

After having spent time in and around Cusco and having read countless books on Incas and Machu Picchu, I still came away from this book learning much and having lots to ponder. It is a must-read for anyone who has visited or plans to visit Machu Picchu or hike the Inca Trail (or alternative trails). You will have a much greater appreciation of the Incas’ accomplishments, the hike, and the sites and people you encounter after digesting the information, experiences, and theories in the book.

Since either of these books by themselves should inspire you to want to immediately start packing and head to South America, and since they’ve cause me some intense nostalgia for my trips there, I’d like to also share some photographs from other talented photographers who have visited Peru either recently or decades ago, some of my Peru photos, and a couple of my resources for visiting Peru such as my recommended sites, stores, and restaurants in Cusco and my exhaustive list of Peru related books, movies, and resources.

When I was in Cusco in 2008 I met a young student and photographer named Peter Martin.  When I returned home and viewed his photos, I was fascinated at how we viewed and photographed the same country in such different ways.  I always zoomed in on the people, dances, and details while he captured more of the experience of “being there” in the moment or in a specific place.  Here are a couple examples, plus a link to more of them:


Peter Martin


Peter Martin

More Peru photos by Peter Martin: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peterfmartin/sets/72157606934173170/detail/

A couple years ago I also came across an amazing collection of photos taken by John Tucker when he was a Peace Corp volunteer in Peru in the late 1960’s.  His photos capture the out of the way places and people that most tourists to Peru still never get a chance to see, and some of these places and outfits would appear unchanged in those remote places today.  Tucker has a photographic sensibility that reminds me of Robert Frank and his powerful and somewhat similar images of Peru from the late 1940’s, as seen in his book Peru:  Photographs.

Like the Robert Frank photos, Tucker’s photos capture the indigenous people plus a strong sense of the communities, land, and environment where they lived and worked. Both photographers create a true connection to the place for the viewer.


John Tucker


John Tucker

More Peru photos by John Tucker:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/30427909@N04/sets/72157608888125285/detail/

Peru – Cusco Resources

Here are my Cusco / Peru resources I referred to:  my list of Cusco Places to Visit and the Fruits of My Labor of all the research and reading I have done on Peru including books, movies, and more.  Both are Word documents that will open up when clicked.  And then some of my Peru images from 2008.

http://www.dojoklo.com/FruitsofMyLabor.doc

http://www.dojoklo.com/CuscoPlacesToVisit.doc

paolo greer map machu picchu hiram bingham discover
A map uncovered by Paolo Greer demonstrating that Hiram Bingham wasn’t the first outsider to “discover” Machu Picchu (and the farmers living there, who presumably knew it was there as well)

A few months ago I met a real life explorer in the South American Explorer’s Club in Cusco named Paolo Greer.  He told me of his lifetime of searching for lost cities in the mountains of Peru, his studious research in dusty archives in Washington and Peru (I don’t think you’re allowed to say “archive” without first writing “dusty”), his innovative use of satellite maps to locate lost sites, and his technique of countering poisonous snakebites with a modified stun gun.  He even mentioned an NPR show where he was referred to as the real Indiana Jones.  AND, he was on the verge of breaking an amazing story of the true modern discovery of Machu Picchu.

At first I was fascinated and captivated, eager to hear of his adventures and his theories.  But after a few afternoons in the clubhouse, I repeatedly overheard him tell the same stories to any eager audience.  I began to suspect I had already learned all the juicy information.

Then last week, returning on a path back to Ollantaytambo after hiking to the Pumamarca ruins, we were joined by a British paleoecologist who was studying the ancient remains of mites buried in the mud of a lake.  The rise and fall of the mites, it turns out, from Inca times to present, corresponds to the rise and fall of the local populations, due to the fact that the mites lived in the llama poop.  Anyway, at his first mention of modern explorers, we exclaimed, “we know one of them!”  Turns out he has been working with Greer, helping him get his newly gathered information into the news.  And 5 days later…here it is: (sorry, some of these links don’t work anymore).  And here is the tale of our first unsuccessful but unforgettable expedition to the Pumamarca ruins.

Link to Article (no longer available)

Link to 2nd Article (no longer available)

Link to 3rd Article (no longer available…the Internet isn’t as permanent as we think!)

Link to Article with Pictures of the Maps and Documents

edit 2011-07-26:  Paolo Greer is now mentioned in a wonderful book by Mark Adams called Turn Right at Machu Picchu, a story partially inspired by the article that Greer was releasing in South American Explorer magazine at the time of this blog post.  Greer certainly is an “obsessed amateur historian,” as Adams calls him in the book, and their meeting commencing at the Lima SAE clubhouse in Miraflores reminded me so much of my first discussion with Greer at the Cusco SAE clubhouse.  Greer was enthusiastically, single-mindedly determined to share his story.  My companion and I had to begin to avoid him out and about in Cusco so as not to hear his theories again and again!  The paleoecologist mentioned above is also a footnote in the book, footnote 9 page 186.  I put together a blog post called Exploring the Andes to discuss the new book Turn Right at Machu Picchu, to discuss a photography e-book called Andes, and to showcase some of my favorite Peru photographs from other travelers.