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Martin Chambi: Pictures speak more than a 1000 words…

… and in a land where analphabetism is rife, this is probably even more important. Yet another reason why Peruvians revere the photographer Martín Chambi, who with his camera captured manifold moments of Peruvian life for over 30 years.

(by Elise van der Heijden)

Those living in or visiting Cuzco can’t afford to miss out on a visit to the permanent Martín Chambi photography exhibition on the second floor of Scotiabank, on Maruri 315, 2 squares from the Plaza de Armas.

This remarkable artist, a direct Indian descendant born in the city of Puno in 1891, moved to Cuzco as a young man, and started his work there, leaving a legacy of photographs that paint the life of Peruvians of all standings between the 1920s and 1950s. Apart from taking more official and well-paid photos of important weddings and public and private events, he was very good at portraying how life was for the majority of Peruvians; peasants, street vendors, students, and middle class families.

This exhibition includes Cuzco street scenes, beautiful landscapes, including Machu Picchu shortly after it had been discovered, wedding and family portraits of important Cuzco families, and a collection of photos taken in his private studio, including the famous photo of the “giant of Paruro”, a gigantic peasant Chambi met during his travels in rural Peru.

Spending some time exploring this exhibition will take you on a journey through Peru´s past, where you will experience the many aspects of Peruvian life of Chambi’s era, condensed into his vivid black and white photographs.

The photographs show how much, and in many cases how little has changed since Chambi’s era: the peasants of today mostly dress in the same way as back then, but today they enjoy the comfort of shoes whereas back then most went barefoot; the rich with their domestic servants, the only difference with today being that they now communicate with their servants by mobile phone; Cuzco’s colonial and pre-Colombian architecture mostly preserved in its original state until today, but today’s image offers an additional merging of different cultures: the locals offering their wares and services to those visiting from abroad. After you have decided to visit the exhibition, you will undoubtedly agree that the above 1000 words do not come close to expressing what his photographs can.


Scotiabank 2nd floor, former Palacio Inka Tupac Yupanqui, Maruri 315, Cusco

Entrance: 10 soles.

Opening times:
Monday to Friday: 9.30 am – 1.30 pm & 4 pm – 6.30 pm
Saturday: 9.15 am to 12.30 am