TIAA #13: “Buenos Dias, Buenos Aires”

Tosin’s Images & Anecdotes (TIAA) is my self-assigned photography challenge of 2022. The immediate objective is to select one image from my inventory (a cityscape, landscape, portrait, oddity, etc.) each week and write something about it. This “something” could be the story behind the photo, a triggered memory in relation to the photo, or simply a reaction or reflection based on the subject matter featured. The long-term objective is to encourage myself to add more content to “La Vue Atypique”, which celebrates its first decade in publication this year.

El Obelisco, Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires, Argentina / February 8, 2010
El Obelisco (The Obelisk), Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires, Argentina / February 8, 2010

What can I say about the photograph above?

When this week’s feature photo was captured, TIA International Photography had officially been in business for exactly two months and one week. Even though I was accustomed to traveling to different cities in America and Canada (alongside a brief stint in Mexico), I think Argentina was my first opportunity to photograph abroad as a professional photographer.

For some reason, I’ve been feeling nostalgic about a lot of aspects of my life this week, filled with a phantasmagoria of memories. One such memory was my trip to Buenos Aires in early 2010. Back then, I was still learning several aspects of digital photography and was still very much a novice when it came to post-processing images. In retrospect, because everything about digital photography was so new to me, and so enjoyable, I was less concerned about the end result of the images than I was about developing my technique in the trial and error of executing images — particularly long exposures at night. Becoming sensitive and detailed-oriented about post-processing was still roughly four and a half years away.

This week’s photo was in my backlog of Buenos Aires images that I never featured on my official website. If I am to be critical of my own work, the end result had too many errors in it as a result of the long exposure and average composition. Also, one of the disadvantages with long exposures in an early morning atmosphere for urban landscapes is the little to nonexistent traffic on the main roads. Conclusively, this wasn’t a marketable image so it has been buried for 12 years until the time of this writing.

What I remember was waking up very early on the morning of February 8th because I wanted to capture some night images while Buenos Aires was still asleep. I left the hotel in the Retiro district with my camera gear and tripod while it was still dark. From there, I embarked on a long stroll through one of South America’s largest cities — in which I didn’t speak the native language. I only had my eyes to guide me as I was, and still am, a geography enthusiast, so I had committed many of the Argentine capital’s neighborhoods to memory. I don’t think I had a fancy cellphone that had Google Maps or GPS on it. I did have maps in my backpack so whenever I was unsure, I used those for reference. It’s part of the reason I can never get completely lost in any major city except Los Angeles and Houston. (We’ll reserve those embarrassing stories for a later date).

People and friends often wonder if I am ever intimidated or scared to venture out into a city by myself, especially one in which I’m visiting and have never been to before. The answer is “No.” Cities excite me too much to be scared. There’s too much I want to know and learn and understand as I capture cityscapes, street scenes, intersections, landmarks, oddities, etc. Realistically, though, I’m gifted with a very large frame which, apparently, gives me the semblance of an individual who is both imposing and intimidating. Therefore, most people don’t approach me simply because I’m a big guy — and a big black guy, for that matter. I’m fortunate, in that case, and grateful that I can use this trait to my advantage in terms of safety.

(Ironically, that didn’t stop me from getting pick-pocketed a few days earlier. You can read about that experience in “Bamboozled in Buenos Aires.“)

I just remember exploring Buenos Aires that morning, while listening to music on my iPod, and wondering about every intersection and alley that I had passed. I eventually made my way to El Obelisco, one of the city’s renowned landmarks (which looks very similar to the Washington Monument in D.C., which is, by both observation and definition, an obelisk as well). The air was cool and the breeze was light considering it was summer in Argentina in February, a welcome change from the winter of Seattle in the northern hemisphere. I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Gradually, the shadows cast by the buildings withdrew as night shifted to day, and more people populated the streets and alleys around me.

I think I might have walked around the city for four or five hours that morning. I cherish this particular memory because I loved those hours of exploration. The experience was quiet, inquisitive, and personal — the way I like to travel, all while photographing subject matters of interest.

14 articles down for the TIAA challenge. 38 remain!

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