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The Gauchos of Argentina

Mar del Plata, Argentina

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    Let's just say that my first traveling experience in South America was very challenging. I found it difficult to connect and reach out to the local communities through photography at the same level I was used to, perhaps the years I spent traveling almost exclusively in Asia had made me accustomed to certain ways of communication that were ill-suited to the local cultures I encountered. But my first visit south america showed me something important, it was an irrefutably unique mixture of old and new. Allowing those who will travel there to meet both the recently contacted tribes, which can be a fascinating anthropological experience, alongside vibrant Ayahuasca Shamans who would be quick to ask you to follow their Facebook and Instagram accounts since they want to get better exposure on social media for their ancestral traditions.

    With that mixture in mind, about a year later, I decided to travel back to South America in order to try to tell a different version of that story. While on my first trip I was focused mainly on cultures from the deep Amazonian rainforest, on this trip I was intrigued by a culture that emerged in the open grasslands of the south only a few hundreds years ago, shaped by the lifestyle and circumstances of a few brave individuals known as Gauchos. Mainly originating from Spanish and Italian settlers, the Gauchos were best described as men who were highly accustomed to living of the land the wild and regularly ventured deep into the untamed territories. Often hired by wealthy land owners, the Gauchos main occupation was to use their skill set to retrieve lost cattle
    that strayed too far into the wild, discover usable paths to new grazing grounds and expertly serve as the best horse tamers in the land.

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    My search for a Gaucho who would agree to spend time with me, and share a personal view into his world, led me to Jacinto. Son to a legendary horse tamer from Argentina. Jacinto makes his living as modern day Gaucho, spending his days working for a privately owned ranch, managing the owner's large herds of cattle and horses across the compound. In the rest of his time Jacinto drives back to his own family-owned land, where he trains his Criollos horses, a unique horse breed created by his ancestors.

    As I often do when I photograph unique individual such as Jacinto, I asked for his guidance in finding the images best suited to tell his story as a Gaucho. What surprised me the most was that what ended up being our first photoshoot wasn't of him riding his favourite horse across the grasslands, but an intimate moment between him and his youngest son Bartolome, a moment of family inside the old Monturero, where the Gaucho keep their gear.


    This caught me off guard, as it showed me that what Jacinto held most dear was very different from the popular image of the Gaucho. Often described as reclusive men, with no family or ties to society, wild as the land itself and who only love two things in life; horses and their freedom. During our many conversations and time together I've come to learn that times have changed and the culture with them. While Jacinto and his family hold the Gaucho's skill set and lifestyle dear to their hearts, it is now executed together as a strong family cell.

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    Jacinto takes great pride in his family's close relationship with the gaucho legacy as legendary horsemen, his father has become world famous for developing his own unique system of training horses without using force. A technique that Jacinto and his brothers have mastered and are now actively teaching their sons and daughters. Jacinto's oldest son is an aspiring polo player and spends a lot of his time working with his father, preparing horses for professional league polo players. His daughter and wife actively help around the ranch with the horses and the cattle whenever they are needed and his youngest son, Bartolome from our first photoshoot, would not even agree to leave his room without wearing a beret like his father’s. 

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    This was a story that I was happy to tell, while originally I expected to photograph and deal with different topics, I found the change I saw in the Gaucho culture to be reassuring. When we think of exotic cultures from around the world we often look for the things that separate us, a good example would be the desire for being isolated from the world, like the original Gauchos of the past. But after traveling to different parts of the world and meeting unique cultures that are completely different from what I know, I can't stop noticing the similarities we share as people, Jacinto's love for his family was one of them. 

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    I hope my journey as a photographer will lead me to find more stories such as this one. As I said during my recent talk on TEDxWhiteCity, I truly believe that photography and storytelling can be a tool for a change, improving the way we look at one another, building bridges of understanding and friendships between cultures, and most importantly allowing us to see how despite all of our cultural differences - we are truly all the same. And I mean that in a good way :) 




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    3 comments

    • David Robinson

      David Robinson

      Comment Link Monday, 08 October 2018 10:52

      Nice work again Asher, I really like the last shot with the five horses coming towards the camera, it has a beautiful cinematic feel to it. How much lighting equipment did you take with you for the indoor family portrait shots and how much is done in post production? Thanks again, David

    • JOHNSNELLVT

      JOHNSNELLVT

      Comment Link Thursday, 14 June 2018 17:22

      Wonderfully told, my friend! To change plans based on reality is, I believe, the secret of both great story-telling and photography. Thank you for sharing this all so clearly and with great purpose.

    • britta

      britta

      Comment Link Sunday, 22 April 2018 18:53

      Hello Asher!
      Your new project is so exciting! I can't wait to see more! You really choose amazing places, but I really love this one the best so far. It has a different tone and lighting and tells the story of a son and a father. One senses the change that has occurred between the last video and this one. That is why photography and videography are art forms, reflecting classical themes of love of family and place. Well done! You go Asher!

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