The parade of the mental patients through the Larco Herrera Insane Asylum was truly a joyous experience. The love and care the patients receive from the nurses and volunteers is very remarkable. The patients I photographed were so excited to be all dressed up in outfits for the parade.
The buildings are separated according to the disability of the patient: I was in Block 8, the acute schizophrenic wing. There were several people I recognized from the past year and they seemed to remember me as well.
As I had permission to shoot, I took as many rolls as I could in four hours, both inside and outside the ward. I shot 12 rolls with my Rolleiflex and turned in the film right afterwards to Profesa, my photo store.
I shot a bit with the digital camera but I hate it so much, it really is unpleasant to use.
What impressed me the most was that, despite the difficulties that are endemic to any institution for the mentally ill, the warmth and love mutually expressed by the staff and the patients toward each other was beautiful indeed. So many photos exist of patients in similar institutions where neglect and abuse exist, that it was pure joy to witness something very different today.
Here are a few of the digital shots: just so you can feel a bit of what I felt.
Tomorrow I am off at 8am to the Insane Asylum in Lima. It is a very old complex of buildings from the republican era in Lima, named Larco Herrera.
I am very excited as I sent a ‘solicitud’ or petition to photograph last year and it was granted just after I left Peru. They saved me the signed form and tomorrow I can shoot the Patriot Days of Peru. This is on the 28th of July, Peru’s independence day, like our 4th of July. Peruvians are very proud of their country, as they should be, and being half Peruvian myself, I feel the pride as well.
Tomorrow all the asylum inmates will dress up and form a parade which will run throughout the asylum buildings. I am delighted to be able to show the lighter and happier side of life which is very hard, often very painful as well. To be insane is a terrible thing but I hope to see some moments of joy and shared pride.
I will post a digital image tomorrow but I will be shooting mainly B&W on film so no way to post those.
Very productive and totally exhausting day. We drove to La Molina to connect with a clown in a wheel chair whom I had met last week. I was very happy to find him and he was as generous and kind as could be.
Then we headed to the market in Callao, perhaps one of the riskiest places, security-wise, that I have photographed on this trip. There are lots of known pickpockets and gangs there, so my two bodyguards were stressed by the end of the afternoon. They had my back the whole time I photographed a crowd with three performers, itinerant comics. The humor was vulgar and funny.
After 8 hours, 9 rolls. Thirsty and full of dust, I got back home and fell into two-hour nap. Great.
Today was a day to shoot the “malabaristas,” or street gymnasts, I would call them, who perform gymnastic feats at the intersections.
Found a great group of young men, ages 12-35. The oldest was the leader and told the others what to do, how to do it, and ran the show. Two Emergency Police sat in their car watching. When I laid down on the ground to photograph their jumps, there was a mini crowd around me. I think I could have charged a fee. Anyway, the oldest guy was like a father figure to the younger ones; they followed his orders precisely and with total respect. The youngest of all, a boy of about 12 kept putting his arms affectionately around the oldest guy, in a gesture of love and submission. It would be interesting to know more about that relationship.
When I got up from the ground there were three transvestites behind me and we chatted briefly about what good athletes the boys were.
Then the oldest guy let me shoot him somersaulting over the police car with them in it. How fun was that!
Good day except I lost my cell phone. The gods can be cruel and make you pay for any joy.
Off we went to find street acrobats. Near the center of the city, we found four young acrobats who performed during the red light at the intersection. They did individual jumps and group acrobatics. The irony was that the traffic police stood right behind them and let them work, as if they were invisible.