Latin American Fotografia: Roberto Falck

By David Schonauer   Wednesday February 10, 2016

Wedding photography is only part of what Roberto Falck  does.

Falck, who is based in New York City, is a passionate travel photographer — he has worked in Jordan, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and extensively in Ecuador, where he was born and raised. An ongoing personal project has also taken Falck around the globe to photograph indigenous peoples.

It was in Papua New Guinea that a guide told him about the Simbu tribe and their tradition of painting their bodies with a skeleton design using ash and clay, a custom that originated as a way to scare enemies without fighting. When Falck met the Simbu in person, his imagination was ignited.

“It was a fascinating experience because it was a time for me to connect with this group and also to explore a new vision as a photographer,” Falck said in an interview. He began by shooting portraits of Simbu people from overhead. “I wanted to explore a different point of view,” he says.

He then took the project a step further. At a local museum, he met a man named John who offered to help Falck stage different kinds of portraits of the Simbu and their clay-and-ash designs.

“My idea was to keep it a little simpler in the way of the design,” Falck said. Through John, Falck asked Simbu men to paint themselves completely in either the black ash or white clay. The Simbu proved to be willing models. Falck created a makeshift portrait studio in John’s backyard, using bed sheets to diffuse sunlight. The art project, notes Falck, became a kind of community project as local people pitched in to set up the studio.

Falck’s “Clay and Ash” series has brought the photographer considerable attention and was named a winner of the Latin American Fotografia 4  competition. “It was definitely a collaboration; I couldn’t have this all on my own,” he says.

Falck was also a named a winner  of the first Latin American Fotografia contest for a photograph he made in the central Bolivian village of Candelaria. There, he witnessed an Easter ritual in which locals pay homage to a statue of the Virgin Mary. “It is a good example of the syncretism that exists in the area, where there are Catholic elements mixed with indigenous beliefs and language,” said Falck of his LAF-winning photo.


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