It's been a whirlwind over here. I got home from China and hopped on a plane a just couple days later for the GuatePhoto International Photography Festival in Guatemala. We presented our Critical Mass Top 50 exhibition at a stunning venue in Antigua. Casa Santo Domingo was built on top of the stone ruin of an ancient monastery. It's breathtaking. The whole town is gorgeous, historic, and brilliantly picturesque. GuatePhoto planned a number of tours and events for our little group of curators, so we got to see a nice variety of galleries and museums while we were there.
It was a little intense to be in Guatemala. I've traveled all over the world, and have almost always felt safe. In Guatemala it was a little different. I'd heard it was dangerous before I went, but I assumed it was mostly hype and we'd feel safe when we got there. I assumed the locals would feel safe and comfortable in their own city - but it turns out they don't.
We arrived at the Guatemala City airport late at night and all the shops inside were closed. A driver for the photo festival was waiting for us at the curb and we asked him if we could stop for water on the way to Antigua, where we were staying (it's about an hour away). He said it was too dangerous to stop - we had to drive straight through. We saw a burning car by the side of the road as we drove through the dark, deserted streets leading out of the city. I later read about a van that was stopped and attacked on that very road recently - everyone on board was killed.
A couple days later, we were taken back to Guatemala City for a gallery tour. Each gallery has a guard standing out front with a big machine gun across his chest. We were shepherded around by nervous guides who were very careful to keep our group close together. It was nerve wracking, but we did have a chance to see some truly top-notch photography by vibrant young Guatemalan artists. The art scene is thriving. We also had a hopeful chat with one of the event staff members who told us artists were freer to express themselves than they had been in the past.
Despite the challenges, the folks at GuatePhoto put on a wonderful event. I ate well, met lovely curators and photographers from around the world, gave a little lecture one day, gave portfolio reviews another day, and had fun poking around Antigua with my camera. It's such a culturally rich, vibrant place. Hopefully the political situation will continue to improve and it will become a safer spot to travel.