Visit to Argentina in August of '96

or: what I did on my "summer vacation" in Argentina!

During the weeks of August 2 - 17, 1996 I was in Argentina participating in the Encuentros Abiertos de Fotografia. I was invited to participate by the Escuela Argentina de Fotografia and Fotomundo magazine. Their sponsorship essentially consisted of providing me with a round-trip ticket from Kennedy to Buenos Aires. This was very nice of them but it caused me a bit of difficulty since on my way to Kennedy there was a storm. My plane was delayed fro 6 hours and by the time I got to NYC the Aerolineas Argentinas plane had already left. So I went to the city and stayed in a cheap (if you call $80 cheap!) hotel and then was put on a waiting list for the next day's plane. Luckily I got on it.

I arrived in Buenos Aires on Friday, August 2 at 7am. Later that morning, at my brother's apartment in the city, I met a friend from almost 35 years ago. Tony Estergaard. He and I worked at my father's shipyard in a small coastal town called Necochea. The difference was that he was doing it full time as a very good machinist and I was the "dilletante" son of the "boss". Nevertheless we were good friends and we caught up on life's affairs.

I have fond memories of my "growing up" years in this little coastal town of Necochea. It is here that I was intruduced to photography and where I first made photographs of tourists with a 828 Coronet Cub camera and charged them a small fee for it. Although I have no photos of the tourists here are two recent postcards of "Las Cascadas" (choose ONE and TWO) located a few kilometers from town and where I would ride out to on my bike on weekends.

Anyway, that evening there was a dinner for Conference speakers at the school (a private house converted to serve as school) and had a nice, relaxed evening. On Sunday, the editor of the magazine took my brother and I on a sailboat cruise on the River Plate and the delta. It was cold and windy but more than worth it. In the evening I met a childhood friend, Alberto Rizzi and his wife and daughter. We had a great time and reminisced a lot!

The main event of these "encounters" was held the first week of August and it started with the opening of a little exhibit of about 30 of my peripheral portraits at the United States Information Agency gallery at the Lincoln Center Library in downtown Buenos Aires. 'Cause I missed the plane I was not present at the opening. ;-(

On the evening of Monday, August 5 I followed Anne Tucker, from the Houston Museum of Art, with a presentation to about 150 people on my favorite subject: Strip/Streak and Scanning Photography. I also visited some of the other galleries where one-person shows were hanging. Judy Dater (strange nudes), Dominique Auerbacher (children portraits), Steve Wilkes (industrial/annual report) and Mario Rizzi (general advertising) and others. One gallery had a group show of local photographers. Good stuff IMHO. _LATE_ that evening i had dinner with Anne Tucker and a bunch of organizers of the conference at a pizza palace. Anne and I were both interviewed there for a local radio program.

On Tuesday I found out that my daughter Jennifer, whom I had expected to come to Argentina brought my son, Andy, along with her so all of a sudden we were three. As I mentioned above, we stayed at the apartment that my brother lives in with his family who just happened to be away for a few weeks. He works for one of the world's largest copper and gold mines in the world, the Alumbrera Mine. Since he left for Hungary on Thursday we actually had the apartment to ourselves for most of the time.

On the following day, Wednesday, we went for a city tour while my brother was at work and toured the Boca area (a real quaint harbor type neighborhood in Buenos Aires, full of multicolored facades and home of one of the country's great soccer teams) and visited an Argentine frigate (?) that was built in late 1800 and was used as a premier training ship for Argentinian sailors until the mid-1950's when the ship was retired. If you've seen "tall ships" this is what the ship looked like.

Anyway, then on Thursday we toured the city some more, visiting the larger urban cemetery where Evita is buried,and then, after sending my brother off to Hungary by enjoying a fantastic Argentine dinner, the following day we ourselves got on a plane headed north. I was invited to give a talk "sponsored" by the Center of Vision and Light (a division within the College of Exact Sciences) and the College of Art at the University of Tucuman, in the province of Tucuman located about 1,200 miles northwest of Buenos Aires at the foothills of the Andes. We were met by Marta Pesa and her family. She is a professor of physics at that university and I had met her the previous year when we both attended a conference on education in optics that was held by SPIE in San Diego. We were invited to stay at their home during our visit to Tucuman.

During the early morning of the following day I gave a brief radio interview about the talk at a local radio station. About 80 people attended the lecture that lasted from 10am till noon and the thing that apparently was interesting to everyone there was that the audience was composed of artists as well as engineers and scientists. Apparently these two groups never mingle in social or professional circles there! I think the content of my presentation appealed to both groups.

Anyway, later on in the afternoon several of us (students, Marta and visitors) headed out for a town called Raco. Actually we went to the Benedictine monastery there and attended their evening Mass celebrated in Gregorian chant. Done very simply. It was quite moving.

Saturday, Marta organized an excursion to the mountains. It was to a place called Tafi del Valle. This took all day. It was fantastic. We stopped for lunch at a local eatery where, of course, we had barbecued meat dishes. My son and daughter also made many friends (Marta had taken the initiative to invite her students to meet my "kids"). Jennifer's admirer was Marta's daughter Celeste. Andy stayed out until all hours (8 am!) one morning. The local students were just great and many could speak english quite well.

The next day (Sunday) there was an asado (barbecue) planned in honor of Marta's husband, Alberto, to which about 50 family members and friends attended. The meat was cooked on those vertical spits and also barbecues. This, again, was NOT a good place for vegetarians!!!! We returned to Buenos Aires that evening leaving Tucuman at about 8 pm. We made good friends and they treated as in a very special way.

On Monday of the following week I had an interview with a reporter for the newspaper La Nacion and later started to teach a three day workshop on the same material as the lecture I gave the previous week. Luckily none of the participants had attended the lecture 'cause they figured they would get it all in the workshop. This was fortuitous as most elements of "surprise" associated with the subject were available to me to take advantage of during the workshop.

Oh, yes ... Marta's niece, Mariana, had made good friends with my daughter and she decided to spend the week with us in Buenos Aires and she arrived on Monday. So now we were four!

Most days now we would do a bit of sightseeing in the early afternoon (' cause after my workshop I'd come home and then we'd go out for dinner often not getting back till 1am or so!) and then I'd take a taxi at 4pm or so to start the workshop at 5pm. There were 10 people in the workshop. The facilities were rather basic but everyone seemed to have a good sense of humor and this made these obstacles less of a problem.

On Thursday, the four of us took a train (tickets cost about 30 cents US!) and went about 30 miles north of the city to a neighborhood called Tigre. There are sightseeing opportunities by powerboat around the delta. I had been near this place in the sailboat the previous week. We took a boat ride, posed for some photographs and then went "shopping" in a arts/crafts fair. Returned back to city late. Went to dinner in a neighborhood called San Telmo. It is the neighborhood that gave birth to the tango. Unfortunately, being Thursday we could not find any traces of this fact and ate at a local italian restaurant. Then we wandered the streets and got back to apartment at 1am or so (as usual).

One thing I noticed is that there seems to be a fascination in Argentine culture with "being a model ... or at least looking like one". I found this quite interesting. Sometimes distracting. ;-)

So, on Friday afternoon Marta's niece left us after a blitz shopping spree and haircut extravaganza. Immediately afterwards we went to visit my teacher in the third grade of elementary school who had an apartment in the city. She is 71. Her name is Mary Cabral. We had a wonderful time and even though my "kids" did not speak spanish I think they appreciated the special person she is to me and to everyone that knows her. After retiring from teaching she went back to school and studied painting. Now she is about to learn how to drive (through the equivalent of the AAA) since she never had to earlier in her life. Actually she does not have to right now either (cause her husband or children are readily available) but she values her independence and is doing something about it.

After returning to apartment the three of us had an early dinner "in" and at 8:30 left to see a soccer game between the River Plate and the Argentina Jrs. teams at the River Plate soccer stadium. Andy wanted me to take a picture of him in this stadium. Since neither team had a chance to win the championship the attendance was kind of lame but we still managed to sense what the stadium of 90,000 fans must feel like when a championship game is being decided. Oh, the score that night was an uninteresting 0-0 ... there were a _few_ exciting times.

Saturday we went out shopping for "dulce de leche" and wine and some other souvenirs that my daughter had identified as indispensable. At 4pm we took a cab to the Ezeiza airport located about an hour away from the city. At 7pm my kids left bound for Santiago (Chile) and headed from there to Los Angeles and San Francisco. My plane left at 9:30 pm and arrived at Kennedy at 7:30 am on Sunday. My plane to Rochester left NY at noon. ... boooooring!

All in all had a GREEEEEEAAAAAAAT time. The best part generally were the people we met and the conversations we had. Buenos Aires, as cities go, is a very worthwhile destination. Tucuman ... well, Tucuman is in the boonies and if you allow for this and recognize the difficulties facing the people I think you'd find it and the general "country" environment also most fascinating.

so, this is roughly what I did on my summer vacation ... want to come with me next time???