Machu Picchu

by | Dec 29, 2019

Step 1: Machu Picchu

In the beginning…

I’ve had a long-term project in mind for quite some time now: I want to photograph ancient ruins in infrared.  I suppose the first time the idea came to me was way back in 2005 when I went on a Carribean cruise.  The ship docked in a few areas, but my favourite was Cozumel, Mexico.  I’ve always had a fascination with ancient civilizations and history, and Cozumel was a short distance from the Mayan ruins in Coba.  We took a day-long guided tour of the ruins, and I made sure to pack at least a few rolls of a black-and-white film that was infrared-sensitive (look it up on Google, kids). I shot with a red filter on the lens to make sure that the film captured more light around the red/infrared spectrum to get the effect I was looking for.

I thought that using a photographic technique that is known for giving a surreal, other-worldly look used in the setting of an ancient city once inhabited by a now-gone civilization would be a perfect fit.  I was right.

Finding the first location

A  year and a bit later, I watched a documentary on Machu Picchu during a quiet period at the electronics store I was working at.  I had never heard of this place before (Machu Picchu, not the electronics store).  I was fascinated by this ancient and abandoned city up in the clouds.  I hate traveling, but this was a place I really wanted to see.  It took 13 years, but we finally booked the trip earlier this year.

The whole idea

On that first trip to Mexico I found that the look of infrared film worked perfectly with the setting of an ancient, abandoned city.  There was something about seeing the ruins in this other-worldly way that appealed to me.  Later on, I was able to piece together exactly why. It was almost as if the original inhabitants of the city were looking at it today from the other side.

How does that work, exactly?

Here’s how it works, exactly.  Ghosts and ghost stories are about as old as civilization itself.  Even today, some people are fascinated by the idea of the souls of the dead roaming around among the living.  Some people claim to have even seen them.  There’s something these ghost sightings have in common: the ghosts always seem like they aren’t all there (some of those who claim to have seen them seem so too, but not in the same way). They’re always a bit translucent, possibly blurry, and usually fairly colourless.  It’s as if they’re only partially in our world, and part of them is still in the Great Beyond.

So I started to think about that: if this is how we see them, then how would ghosts see us?  Would they see us as being as solid and substantial as we see ourselves, or would their perception be distorted as well?  It started to make sense to me that they would see our world in a distorted, subdued way as well.  Colours wouldn’t be the same, if they saw them at all.  Perhaps when trying to bridge the gap between worlds, they might see our side similar to the way things look in, say, an infrared photograph?

Machu Picchu

Fast-forward to mid-October 2019, and the wife and I finally got on the plane to Peru.  A few days later, we hopped off the bus in Machu Picchu and the project began.  I shot over 900 photos while I was there, and from that I’ve managed to pick out the top 30 photos.  Take a look at some of them here, and I plan on putting together an as-yet-untitled exhibition to show them off sometime in 2020.

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