Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, January 2, 2014
Deer Isle woman returns to Peru to reconnect, document change
Village men of Tinta help to harvest one another’s crops in 1979. Tinta is the Peruvian village Nancy Dewey spent 10 months living in and photographing. This year, Dewey returned to Peru for three months to document the changes within the country and to reconnect with a family she grew close to as a young woman.
by Jessica Brophy
Hanging in 44 North Coffee Roasters are photographs of Peru and its people taken more than three decades apart by photographer Nancy Dewey. The photographs are part of a new exhibit lasting through January, entitled “A Peruvian Quest: Rural to Urban.”
The show includes photographs taken by Dewey at the age of 26 in 1979 on her first trip to Peru. Then, she spent 10 months living in a small village called Tinta, which is also the title of the book of photographs Dewey published in Peru earlier this year.
Dewey said she went to Peru then because she wanted to find a village to photograph. She chose Tinta, in part, because she liked the name, which means “dye” or “color.”
“I felt like I had something to learn from them,” she said of the Peruvian villagers. Dewey has been a photographer since the age of 10, when her mother took her to a photography lesson on a cold winter day.
“There we were, using a large-format camera in the snow,” said Dewey. “I was hooked.”
In high school she became the president of the photography club, and went on to study at the Doscher School of Photography in Vermont. Dewey then saved money and set off for Peru, eager to see the Andes and visit Machu Picchu.
She lived in Tinta for three months before picking up her camera to take photographs. “I wanted to develop trust,” she said.
As luck would have it, her camera broke about that time. She ended up with a replacement—a five-pound, large, Russian camera called a Zenit-E. “There was no light meter, and so many of my photos were way over- or under-exposed,” said Dewey.
Dewey’s decision to return to Peru early in 2013 was prompted by a friend’s illness. “His issues brought to mind what’s important,” said Dewey. “Going back to Peru was on my bucket list.”
One of her goals was to cross paths with a family—one she had known well her first time in Peru. Dewey did reconnect with Baltazar and Eulalia and their nine children, though the couple was estranged. Dewey and her husband Mike Wood named their daughter Megan Eulalia in honor of Eulalia. Meanwhile, Eulalia gave birth to a daughter she named Nancy.
While in Peru, Dewey spent nine days with the family. The reunion with Eulalia was celebrated with the Peruvian equivalent of pizza—cuyes, or guinea pig.
The entire family has moved from rural Tinta to the urban tourist areas of the coast, said Dewey. “The show is about that transition,” she continued.
Things had changed greatly in her time away from Peru, especially in the small village in which she had lived. Instead of one school, there were five. Roads are now paved and there are more cars. There is spotty cellular phone service. This year, she often saw men—who in 1979 seemed disinterested in parenting—with children strapped to their backs.
After visiting with the family in her recent trip, Dewey went to Cuzco to have her book printed. The book includes photographs taken in 1979 with captions in three languages—English, Spanish and the traditional Incan language, Quechua. A woman, Tula, who was also staying in Cuzco, helped Dewey translate the captions.
“I wanted the book to be cross-generational,” said Dewey, who gave 1,000 copies to the village library.
Dewey hopes to complete a second book with the stories of her trips to Peru, and perhaps a third book of comparative photographs between 1979 and 2013.
In the meantime, photographs from both trips are on display in the exhibit at 44 North Coffee Roasters through January.