Cartagena @Guardian

I am immensely pleased to have my celebrated image from Cartagena, Colombia published in the Guardian newspaper again: Cartagena by Dr Stanislav Shmelev. There is a good chance that it will be seen by some of the 6.97 million Guardian followers on Twitter.

Carthagena, a coastal town on the Caribbean coast of Colombia is a hot tropical town full of charm and vibrant colours. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the celebrated author of ‘Love in the time of cholera’ lived and worked here in the 1940s and came again to live towards the end of his life.

Colour in Carthagena has been for me the one of the main photographic subjects. The brightly painted walls of traditional houses meticulously restored since 1960s and 1970s: blue, yellow, white, ochre, crimson, violet, verdigris. Tropical fruit, presented by colourfully dressed ladies in traditional costumes: pineapples, papaya, exotic guanabana, tamarillo, guava and naranjilla. Street vendors selling traditional hats and wowen bags. The taste of exotic fruits and the coffee aroma everywhere.

The published image was conceived in an instant from a distance not to disturb the person being photographed. The juxraposition of the cholocate skin of the lady created an interesting chord on the background of bright ochre wall, with bright yellows, deep blues and reds of her dress acting as the strongest point of attraction. The metal bowl with fruit with a knife sticking out of it reminds me of some old masters still life’s, where the texture of the wall, against which the still life is set, emphasises the textures and shapes of individual objects. The piece of very modern technology the lady is holding in her hand is a gentle reminder of the time we are living in, when the forces of globalisation for better of worse have connected us into a single global network, where the modern interacts with the traditional and will perhaps replace the traditional practices, dresses, architecture, modes of transportation (they still often use horses in rural Colombia today) and something will be lost. A poetic lament? Perhaps. But how vibrant and positive those colours are and how unbelievably charming this image with hints from Colombian past looks like!

I will take the liberty to quote the words by the photography competition judge, Paul Goldstein: ‘The blaze of colour from every angle, the boldness of the picture, taken from behind, which gives it so much more allure, and frankly a superb get-up. Did I mention the colours? Oh, and that looks suspiciously like a Nokia that she is holding.’ Terrific, what can I say! Happy New Year everyone!


Image (c) Dr Stanislav Shmelev




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