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PORTFOLIO

06.10.2020

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When Misha Vallejo heard of the existence of a village with an exceptionally large number of traditional healers, he did not hesitate for long: he grabbed his camera and set off in search of this magical place, somewhere in the north of Ecuador. Over a span of six months he managed to produce an impressive photo series about the lives and work of those known as Yachacs. To do so, however, there were a few obstacles to overcome…

LFI: Was it hard to build trust with your subjects?
Misha Vallejo: Yes, at the beginning it was quite complicated to gain access to their rituals and spiritual practices; but it all changed when I met Yachac Luz María Otavalo who was eager to share her knowledge. She opened up to talk to me and let me photograph her and her practice. Apart from that, I had to talk with each client and explain the project. Most of them agreed to take part and gave me their consent. In addition, I also photographed myself while getting a cleansing, which was quite a challenge.

Could you describe your photographic approach?
I always try to build trust with the subject and gain as much access as possible in order to subjectively document the theme from a more personal and intimate point of view. Each project dictates the way and the manner in which the story should be told. For this project, it was clear I had to visualize that which cannot be seen but is known to exist: the spirits and invisible forces. In order to do this, I decided to work with expired colour film in order to enhance the mystery.

From a photographic point of view, what were the biggest difficulties?
The biggest challenge was the uncertainty of how well (or badly) the expired film would work. Another difficulty was to work in low light conditions without flash; but the sensitive lenses worked wonderfully. (Interview: Danilo Rößger)

All images on this page: © Misha Vallejo
Equipment: Leica M6 with Summicron-M 35/2 Asph. and Elmarit-M 90/2.8
© Jenia Chaadaeva

Misha Vallejo

Misha Vallejo Prutt (born 1985) is an audio-visual storyteller whose work lies on the border between documentary and art. In 2014 he completed his MA in Documentary Photography at the University of the Arts in London. So far he has published three photo books: Al Otro Lado (Editora Madalena, Sao Paulo 2016), Siete Punto Ocho (RM, Barcelona 2018) and Secret Sarayaku (RM, Barcelona 2020), which received several important international recognitions. In addition, his editorial and personal work has been published in media such as The New York Times Lens, VICE, Marie Claire, Esquire, and many others. He is currently based in Ecuador and works throughout Latin America and Europe.

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