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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Foto Ruta: BA from a different perspective

"Coming or going." (Photo courtesy of Foto Ruta)
"Coming or going." (Photo courtesy of Foto Ruta)

By Adrian Royo Caldiz

Buenos Aires Herald.com Staff 

Get ready to roam the barrios of Buenos Aires in a scavenger hunt for tourists like no other, in which no one is in it for the win, but for capturing the essence a multifaceted city through the lens of a camera.

For more than a year now, Foto Ruta has been an interesting alternative to the much reviled “city tour” that so many visitors have vowed to stay away from. 

Created by expats Becky Hayes (UK) and Jocelyn Mandryk (Canada) in October 2010, Foto Ruta opened with a strong focus on the city’s minimal stories that can be found throughout several barrios porteños, including San Telmo, Villa Crespo, Recoleta, Montserrat and other lesser-known areas.

The concept is simple: visitors sign up for the city tour and meet at a designated location (usually a bar), where they are given clues as to what they are expected to identify and photograph. After a brief introduction to photography for those doubting their own skills, participants are encouraged to gather in small groups and work together. Soon they are set loose to roam the streets of the neighbourhood armed with nothing but a map of the area, a set of clues and their digital cameras.

And this is where it gets interesting. 

The clues provided are not simple clues pointing to a monument, a street or a building. They are conceptual clues, meaning that their significance changes from person to person, depending on where their imagination takes them.

So finding “a bedtime story” or a trace of “cultural clashes,” as the list of clues demands, might require participants to heighten their senses and look deep within the back alleys of each neighbourhood while sharing their opinions with the other group members. 

After wandering the streets of Buenos Aires for two hours, participants return to the meeting point, where they are greeted with a glass of wine and encouraged to turn in their memory cards so their best efforts to capture the spirit of every clue can be projected on a big screen while they share a laugh with their new found friends.

The results can be truly astonishing, as even the most inexperienced photographer might accidentally end up snapping a photo that is nothing short of a work of art. Forget about point-and-shoot tourism. This urban adventure is purely about using your imagination and investigative techniques. 

And no matter whether you’re a professional National Geographic photographer or someone who has never used a digital camera in their life, the end result will not vary. Because this is not about taking the perfect picture. This is about channeling your creativity through a lens and having each other compared how they interpreted every clue.

What’s also attractive about the experimental Foto Ruta is that this is not just a tourists-only activity. Argentines who have taken the tour out of curiosity have marvelled at a rundown Victorian house in San Telmo or at the always present melancholy pervading the turn-of-the-century bars surrounding Parque Lezama. Places that they had probably walked by hundreds of times before, but had never paid attention to. 

Because looking at the big picture once you’ve appreciated an environment on a smaller scale is a much more enriching experience. And this one is certainly not to miss.

Foto Ruta tours. Tuesdays and Saturdays at 2 pm. Cost: $100 pesos per person. 

Don’t forget your camera!

To register visit www.foto-ruta.com or contact them at hola@foto-ruta.com

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