A few years ago someone told me that there was a fish market nearby that also hosted a cohort of sea lions that stuck around because of the proximity of said fish market. I wanted to go. I meant to go. For various reasons, I never did. Years passed, and I still kept coming to Chile and never went.
A few weeks ago, I took my first venture alone to the nearby city, San Antonio, out of necessity. I got on the microbus, paid the upmost attention to where I was headed, made my way to my destination as quickly as possible, and got out. But, after having successfully made my way to the port city by myself, I felt the courage to finally head out on my own and visit that fish market I had heard so much about.
I have recently become infatuated with photographs that are incredibly intimate. This may seem a bit bizarre in the context of the fish market, but allow me to elaborate. I wanted to capture the rawness of it. I wanted it to be fully exposed, I wanted to show the intricacy of this way of life that is so important to so many people. I wanted to show daily life in a way that made it beautiful.
Armed with my film and digital camera, I got myself up early on a Sunday, trekked to the bus stop, and watched the coastal towns unfold around me as the micro carried me to my destination. I was a bit nervous as fisherman’s Spanish is notorious for being difficult, and I wanted to make sure that I understood them when I politely asked if I could photograph their seafood spread. But, I was deeply determined to get these shots and to see everything (especially the sea lions), so I put on my most confident persona and made my way to the fish market.
It was more than worth it. The sea lions were there, in all their magnificence, huge and breathing and alive in front of me. I had never been so close to one, or really even seen one outside of an aquarium. The fish market was fascinating, and I understood and was able to communicate with the fisherman, all of whom were very kind. This was one of my favorite photograph series in Chile to date (all photographs below are digital, the analog ones are coming soon!).
I developed a lot of confidence that day. As wonderful as it was, though, it took me a long time to get to that point. It took me a long time to just hop on the micro and go for a day by myself. It took a long time for me to feel confident enough to speak with fishermen. I feel far more confident with my Spanish now than I did a long time ago, but I know I have a long way to go. I resent that people still make snarky comments about my Spanish, or that people act like I still don’t understand what is being spoken. I understand most of what is said to me, I understand most of what I read, and I can even watch movies and television in Spanish and I understand it. It took a long time to get there. It took a lot of work. It took a lot of listening, a lot of mistakes, a lot of people making fun of me and a lot of pulling myself back up to get where I am now. But, I did it. It took a lot of overcoming my anxiety to get on that micro and go to a city alone. But, I did it, and for that, I am so proud of myself.
To many, traveling to San Antonio alone was nothing special. “Ni un brillo” as they say. “You’re an adult, that’s just a regular thing adults have to do. Not really a thing to be excited about.” And in truth, for people who live here or who have been here for a long time, it is nothing. It is a breeze. It is easy and an adult thing to do. But for someone who isn’t from here, who is terrified of change and has difficulty in new or unfamiliar things, this was a mountain. Their anthill was my Andes, and it took a long time to for me to get there. Sometimes you have to shrug off what other people tell you, view yourself and your situation from your own point of view based on your previous circumstances and realize that you did something good. Sometimes you have to give yourself some credit and realize how far you’ve come. Walking five meters ahead may look like nothing, but it is five meters further than you were. Growth is still growth.
Celebrate the little victories, even if no one else sees them for what they are.
And as for me, I would say that this is more than just a little victory. It was a big win in my book.