Peru was one of the most memorable and unique experiences I’ve ever been fortunate enough to have. From Lima, to Arequipa, to Puno and Cusco - the country was full of vibrant color, kind people, delicious food, and rich history.
With all that is going on in today’s world, I hoped to spread a little kindness and good throughout my travels. I wanted to connect with people and simply make them smile.
I’ve always been someone drawn to portraiture, but I often don’t challenge myself to photograph others besides who I am traveling with. I used the very little Spanish that I know, stepped out of my comfort zone, and just chatted with locals. I pointed my camera on them, made them feel special, and in turn I’ve never left a two week trip feeling so rewarded.
Here are just a small handful of the remarkable humans who truly left an impression on me during my time in their beautiful country…
Caesar & Augustin
Lima was a lively town, full of creativity, arts, and delicious ceviche. I mostly wandered
around the districts of Barranco and Miraflores. I was new to the country, but so quickly felt comfortable and welcomed. I walked by Caesar and Augustin playing music together along the coastline. I stopped to listen for a while before asking them if I could take their picture.
The simple gesture of wanting to photograph them pleased them so much already, but when I told them how talented they were their smiles turned bashful but appreciative.
Augustin said they’ve never had good photos taken of them, but always wanted some – so I exchanged contact information and told them I’d be sure to share the pictures with them later.
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The lady with the red roses
This woman caught my eye, surrounded by the reddest roses. I had to tell her how beautiful she looked.
Later that day, still along the coast, I ran into Diana playing her guitar in the park. She was not just lovely, but her music was hypnotizing as well.
I photographed her, told her how much I loved her music, and then said good afternoon and found myself sitting down for ceviche at a well recommended place called Canta Rana.
My server at lunch was full of energy and smiles. It wasn’t until half way through my meal that I asked his name – it was Manuel. In each of our native languages I shared where I was from, that I was happy to be in Peru, and he exchanged some great local tips in the neighborhood to see. I asked to take his portrait, and then told him we needed more people like him in the world.
Joycie & Maria
Once I left the big city, the language barrier grew between the locals and I. I knew it would be challenging, but I still wanted to connect with people. I learned that Peruvians were quite shy people, but smiles were contagious.
In Arequipa I sat down for a happy hour, 2- for-1 Pisco Sours, complete with a smiley face of bitters sprinkled on top. The girls behind the bar were having a great afternoon. I was barely able to catch their names between all the giggles, but I told them my day was made better because of them. Salud to you both, Joycie and Maria!
A mother and her daughter
I tried speaking directly to this little girl, her mother insisted she give me her name herself. She was very shy, but as soon as I pointed the camera at her she was cheesing it up and posing for me.
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During one of the rest stops at a scenic lookout in the Colca Canyon, I saw this woman dressed in traditional clothing for the Arequipa region. I asked for her photo, and she told me her name was Maria.
I said “Usted es muy hermosa” (you are very beautiful), then she was all smiles.
Jose is the president of the Suchi Marka island, located amongst the Uros Islands. He taught us about the history of these islands, and the culture and traditions that go way back in his ancestry. He and his family taught us how these islands are formed, and invited us into their homes. It was one of the most memorable stops on the trip, and I thanked him for opening up to us.
Catarina was showing me some of her hand-stitched work when I told her how beautiful she was. I ended up buying one of the colorful pieces she made. Tourism is how women like her support their family.
The next stop on Lake Titicaca was Taquile Island. The entire day was one of the most beautiful, and each of the locals truly showed us Peruvian hospitality.
We were taught about their way of life, and how they’ve lived on these islands for centuries. Everything the locals make, eat, and use to live is grown and raised on the island.
On Taquile Island, it’s the men who are known for their world-class knitting. They do not export any of their goods, they simply make money from people visiting and spending time on their island.
Sebastian has lived on Taquile Island his entire life, and is now one of the master knitters. I told him how talented he was as he showed me the scarves, headbands, and incredible textiles he has made. His eyes were so kind, and if only I could speak his local language, I’m sure he would have had the most incredible stories to share.
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A stop between Puno and Cusco lead us to this alpaca farm, where we were able to feed and mingle with the llamas and alpacas. We were also taught about the practice of farming and making the wool. Everything they use is naturally dyed, and hand made.
Drosa was so knowledgeable about the trade of alpaca wool, and so gorgeous in front of the camera.
I watched this woman simultaneously try to do her hand knitting, and care for her rambunctious child. He was having a great time playing with his toys and hamming it up for the tourists watching. He was full of laughs, and nobody minded his playfulness.
I told Alice her child was adorable, and she was a very good mother. Before I left I asked to take her portrait, and told her she was “muy linda.”
She blushed, and I got one of my favorite portraits of the trip.
This trip has taught me so much about the value of opening up and interacting with strangers, and I plan to introduce myself more to locals when I travel. I want to know their names, what they do, and not just snap their portrait, but leave with a little bit more of a connection; an intrinsic sense of friendship.
The people of Peru treated me so well, and I in turn hope these photographs give you a glimpse into what makes this country so beautiful – its locals.
Lauren Randolph travelled on Contiki’s Inca Panorama in partnership with The Travel Project and Prom Peru. If you would like to partner with The Travel Project, or if you have an incredible story to share about the ways in which travel has shaped or changed your life, visit our community contributor program.