Spotlight: A Moment from Colombian Photographer David Betancur's Travel Journal

By David Schonauer   Wednesday February 12, 2020

David Betancur travels in order to find “character and scenarios.”

The Colombian photographer’s portfolio is filled with people he finds on assignment and on his excursions throughout his country, which he records in what he calls “a sort of travel journal.”

“It’s all about the things I discover,” he says.

The moments he captures can be straightforwardly beautiful, or elusively intriguing. Among the latter is an image he made of a girl playing alongside an abandoned swimming pool — a place that once might have been filled with the sounds of children frolicking. By the time Betancur found it, the pool was half filled with dirty water reflecting the dark green vegetation that hung over and around it.

The condition of the pool didn’t seem to matter to the girl, though.

“When I saw this girl playing around this abandoned swimming pool, I asked her, ‘What are you doing?’” recalls Betancur. “She replied that she was enjoying the pool. A little bit worried, I asked her if she used to get wet in the pool, and she answered, ‘For enjoying the pool, there is no need to get wet in the water.’ I thought it was incredible, this way of enjoying a place. In the moment I took the shot, I told her: ‘Look to the pool as if you were swimming.’ She then fixed her view to the water.”

The photograph was later named a winner of the Latin American Fotografia 8 competition.

Betancur shot the image with a Nikon D80 and a flash with a snoot. “The exposure was one EV under the measure given by the light meter, to desaturate the colors and to highlight the girl with the flash. The post-production job was only to reinforce the suggested scene in the frame,” he says.

Below are other photographs in Betancur’s portfolio.

The image on the girl at the swimming pool reflects the reality Betancur felt as he watched the girl play at the abandoned pool. When a photographer takes a picture, he notes, he also more or less consciously captures emotions, desires, and relationships in the way he sets up the image. At his website, Betancur quotes Ansel Adams: “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.”

Dispatches from Latin America