Luis and Celestina
Gregorio’s parents stand erect and proud in front of the house the family built. Luis is 81 years old and Celestina is 64. In the valley behind them, far below, runs the Tambopata River.
We arrived here unannounced and found Luis and Celestina at work, washing coffee beans. They were wearing their working clothes.
Darran Rees had not planned to take a picture, but on seeing this scene he asked if he could do so. They agreed. Gregorio and I sat watching. We munched delicious pink bananas from the palm tree behind the house and played with the monkey. Unknown to Darran it crept into the frame at the feet of Luis just as the shot was taken.
When Darran showed a print of the photograph to Gregorio in London he was upset. He felt it was disrespectful of his parents. They had not had time to change out of their working clothes. And he feared his colleagues in the co-operative might think ill of him if his family were given too much prominence in the magazine.
I said to him that if he did not wish us to use it we would not. But he could see we were disappointed.
‘Is it necessary, David?’ he asked.
Until this moment I had seen the image as striking and beautiful. I had not even considered whether it was ‘necessary’.
‘When you look at this picture, Gregorio,’ I said eventually, ‘is it your parents as you know them that you see?’
‘Yes, it is.’
‘Then I think we should use it. It is truthful.’
‘Very well. But those who see it must understand.’
So I promised to explain what had happened. Had he not been with me in London I would not have thought of this at all.
Darran gave him the magnificent print as a gift and I imagine it now hangs on the wall of his house.
©Copyright: New Internationalist 1995
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