Photographers exchange creates Gilbert exhibit - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Photographers exchange creates Gilbert exhibit

February 11th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Photographers exchange creates Gilbert exhibit

By srianthi perera

Arizona photographers Geoff Reed of Phoenix and Rebecca Wilks of Yarnell spent two weeks last November exploring colorful and raucous markets, dense neighborhoods and lively festivals of tropical Guatemala.

Guatemala photographers Rony Mejia and Javier Alvarez-Vassaux spent two weeks in Arizona last March, taking road trips and observing the vast and tranquil beauty of its scenery.

The two pairs acted as tour guides for the visitors to their respective countries.

The photographic exchange was arranged by the nonprofit Through Each Other’s Eyes International Center for Cultural Education, which helps foster a better understanding and appreciation of humankind.

A selection of the two pairs’ photography, 80 prints, has been culled into a show entitled “Through Each Other’s Eyes—Guatemala Exchange,” and is on display through Feb. 20 at HD SOUTH’s Gallery 4 in partnership with Art Intersection.

Reed’s most vivid impressions are intense color, friendliness and warmth of the people of Guatemala.

“I greatly enjoyed our time there, and would love to return,” said Reed, who has also published a book, “20 Days in Guatemala and Arizona,” based on his experience.

“I believe the exhibition does a great job of drawing parallels between ways of seeing between people from two very different cultures,” Reed said. “The Guatemalan photographers were attracted to the wide-open spaces of Arizona, whereas the Arizona photographers were captivated by the vibrant colors and activities of the people.

“But along with the differences, there are quite a few similarities between what the photographers saw and chose to photograph in both countries,” he added.

Meija, whose interests include travel, street and landscape photography, said that in Arizona, their counterparts kept trying to show them flowers, which were nice but somewhat scarce in the Southwest.

“We Guatemalans were amazed at the open space of the Arizona landscape and thought that we could photograph flowers any day we wanted in Guatemala,” he said.

When it was their turn to host their American counterparts, they were embarrassed when they hit heavy traffic one day.

“The trip took hours of travel through towns that we thought weren’t pretty. However, Geoff and Rebecca loved everything that they saw in those little towns and taught us to see our country with very different eyes,” Meija said.

In Phoenix, the Guatemalans visited many points, including Piestewa Peak, spring training baseball in Peoria and Lake Pleasant. They went north to Page, Lake Powell, Monument Valley in Utah and visited the Grand Canyon on the return. They also traveled south to Tucson.

The Arizonans visited festivities of All Saints Day and the Festival of Kites.

“I’ve done a lot of travel in my life, and for a photographer that is always a stimulating experience: color and people always make great photographic material,” said Reed, who clicked the shutter more than 7,300 times during the trip. “I’d never been to Central America, however, and it opened up a whole new area of interest for me — I’d love to go back and explore further.”

The mission of Through Each Other’s Eyes is to encourage people around the world to understand and appreciate diverse cultures through photography.

While the actual photographs help with this, organizing and executing the trip is also invaluable.

The exchange requires a great deal of teamwork, both in planning the trip away and in planning the details of the visit to the host’s own country.

“Through a shared passion for photography, we created very nice friendships both with the Arizona photographers and between the Guatemala photographers,” Meija said.

The exchange lets you look at your own country with new eyes.

“On a primary level, the photographs the Arizona photographers made in Guatemala may initially be of greater interest to an Arizona viewer, because of the novelty (to the Arizona viewer) of what is depicted,” Reed said.

“But on a deeper level, what the Guatemalan photographers chose to photograph may, at the end of the day, be more compelling, because they encourage us to take a closer look at what we in Arizona may take for granted.”

Meija said the exchange accomplishes what the organization seeks to do: have people share with other people to realize how different and how similar we are at the same time.

“The experience is so beautiful and intense that there was a sense of loss after it was over,” he said. “I missed the Saturday afternoon coffee meetings with Javier, the fellow Guatemalan photographer, to plan the trips to Arizona and Guatemala, I missed sharing with Geoff and Rebecca more often.”

Meija believes that the nonprofit demonstrates what photography and travel are about: “Getting to know other places and other people to try to get insights into their essence and become amazed at how we are all so closely related, despite the initial obvious differences. Travel and photography remind us that we are humans, help us stay connected and make us set new goals.”

Information on Through Each Other’s Eyes: