When Coffee Speaks it says, “whiskey!”

photo credit: Sebastian, age 5

What’s one of the most common comments I get about my blog, to which I devote substantial energy and dedication of insightful writerly craft? “I LOVE your pictures!”

Sometimes images can tell us things words can’t. The premise of this project is to provide a platform to let those involved in the coffee chain tell their own stories to an audience predominately consisting of the consumers of the coffee they produce. The premise of this project is to be more of a listener and less of a gringa reporter. I thought I’d been doing pretty well- I have close to 24 hours of stories recorded- and I ask less and less questions every time.

But somehow I forgot to apply the same concept to my pictures. Here I am, a gringa, taking pictures of the people I’m meeting rather than letting them take pictures of themselves. Whether or not we know it, how we physically compose ourselves for a pictures depends on who’s taking them. Think of the pressure of posing for that Christmas card picture versus giving a genuine smile while your friend snaps away leisurely at a summer bbq.

I let Ariel, Sebastian, Jurgen, Jesus and Josué take my picture and run around the yard snapping whatever they wanted. The pictures that came back were incredible. They captured exactly the energy and vivacity of the boys, ages 5-12, just horsing around the yard on a Sunday afternoon. In comparison, in the pictures I had taken of them, they looks stilted and uncomfortable. What does one say when posing for a photo in Costa Rica? “Whiskeyyy!” Which yields the same genuine quality as gritting “cheese” through your teeth.

“Whiskeyyyy,” Sebastian.

On the contrary, the photos taken by the boys were literally taken at their level, at their angle, and the shots reflect all the rolling, running, falling, jumping, wrestling, chasing that is property only of young kids. I could never capture their spirit the way they captured each other’s, even if I spent the next 6 months trying.

My medium is words, but I have to credit the Aguilar boys for reminding me that sometimes words just aren’t enough.

Luckily, we have this new fangled thing called the moving image, which lets us work in multiple dimensions and capture words and images a la vez. But this is not my territory.

There are incredibly talented people, like my friend Victor, who are taking on projects in film with the same goal as my project on paper: to share the stories people have to tell about themselves.

Support Victor’s Kickstarter campaign!

I only ask that you read my blog and take the coffee survey, but Victor needs your milk money! (Who knows, maybe when I’m broke in the mountains of Colombia I’ll come crying for alms…) For his project to come to life he needs the fiscal support of a community of thinkers, watchers, listeners, and fellow storytellers/culturemakers. Help him.

The world is connected and people are talking. Whether it’s on the screen or on paper, are you part of the conversation?


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