photography by alessandro ciapanna

Archive for ‘September, 2012’

UYUNI – Bolivia’s train cemetery

Follow me, o reader, as we wander into one of the most bizarre landscapes this planet has to offer. This is a train cemetery located a few kilometers outside of Uyuni, a smallish city in the south of Bolivia.


The setting is wide open spaces, deep blue skies and clouds rolling in and out faster than wild horses, ever changing the colors and the contrasts. Young couples come here to find a little privacy away from peering eyes. Small groups of people play the most classic of games: hide and seek. Children of all ages clamber up, down, into and out of these hundreds of rusting locomotives and cars, many of which are well over 100 years old.






























A young Bolivian couple stands on top of an ancient locomotive’s tender.






Some of the scrap metal has been cut away for reuse, but most still remains.































Some bits of the railroad leading to the cemetery still employ wooden ties between the rails.











Man playing hide-and-seek. The hiding is easier than the seeking, here.






“No” painted in yellow letters means the particular car or locomotive did not clear it’s last inspection.
















The wider picture. This sad, litter-strewn landscape is what the train cemetery looks like from just a few steps away.






The outskirts of Uyuni. Although still technically active, this railway sees such little traffic that people ordinarily walk along the rails.






Alessandro Ciapanna

GARIFUNA – African Guatemalans

The Garifuna are direct descendants of African slaves which have settled on Central America’s Caribbean coast. This photo essay was shot in Livingston, a smallish town in Guatemala.




A very young Garifuna child sits on the concrete floor of his mother’s restaurant.






A wall painting in a night club illustrates the complex history of the Garifuna people. From somewhere in Africa they were carried by the British to the Island of San Vicente. After a violent uprising there, the Africans were moved to the island of Roatan, from where they gradually made their way to the mainland.






The Garifuna are direct descendants from African slaves brought by British traders in centuries past. Here, a group of Garifuna kids hang out in a vacant lot by a crumbling wooden structure near Livingston’s northern end.






The little boys swagger and play with sticks and stones, while the little girls strike a pose for the camera.






People of different ethnic groups live together in Livingston as nowhere else in Guatemala. Natives of Maya descent and language mostly share the same urban spaces as the many Garifuna, Caribbean blacks directly descendant from African slaves brought to the New World in centuries past. Here, a barefoot Maya lady crosses paths with two hatted Garifuna men.






A young Garifuna woman leafs through the local daily paper while waiting for tourists to stop by her roadside souvenir shop.






The public basketball court on the main street near Livingston’s passenger dock also has football goals and always attracts some young players, even on rainy days. In the evenings the same court is generally taken over by older boys and young men playing basketball.






A young girl wields a bunch of recently-purchased celery from a roadside vegetable and fruit shop as one of the town’s many street dogs looks on.






Giant bamboo stems are first cut into shorter segments and then split lengthwise with a machete and a hammer to make construction materials.






Some Livingstonians enjoy spending much of their free time drinking cheap aguardiente in basic, charmless bars. On the walls, posters portraying handsome young people advertise the various beers; Brahva, Gallo, Dorada Ice.






Two young Garifuna boys sitting on a palm tree wait and watch as an entire family clan fishes in the shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea under a gloomy sky.






A young boy washes his dog in the Caribbean sea. The water owes its murky color to the proximity of the Rio Dulce river.






A young Garifuna boy plays with a toy airplane as the whole of his family is busy fishing in the background under a gloomy sky. Everywhere, pelicans float around hoping for an easy meal.






Fishermen still regularly employ canoes dug out of single tree trunks. A man pushes his to the beach on two rollers made from coconut tree trunks.






Most of the catch is sold directly on the beach, as fishermen come ashore on their boats. Smaller fishes are often slung together for carrying with a single strand of a coconut palm leaf.






A fisherman processing a recently-caught 30 Kg (65 Lb) stingray on the Caribbean coast of Livington. The huge animal is first cleaned and then cut into manageable-sized pieces with a machete. Each piece is then washed off directly in the sea. Later it will be sun-dried.






Fishing boats of all sizes keep the narrow beach busy throughout the day. A young Garifuna man holds a recently caught squid for the camera.



Alessandro Ciapanna

FACE FIRST – shooting strangers

People are a very big part of street photography. But since pictures of people’s backsides tend to turn boring very soon, you have to shoot people in the face. And doing so with a perfect stranger requires a bit of nerve and some practice. Especially if you like to shoot strangers at point-blank range and with a wideangle lens. Nerve i don’t lack. Practice, well… i can definitely use some of that.


So i headed out to Rome’s Trinita’ dei Monti, and snuck around, trying to capture the essence of life, a little before sunset on a hot sunny day. The light was bright and harsh – ideal for punchy colors and contrasty images. These are some of the perfect strangers i pointed my lens at.





































































Alessandro Ciapanna