Feature: “Purim, NYC”
Camilo Fuentealba is a New York based street & portrait photographer. Often found to be wandering the streets of cities, Fuentealba carries his passionate eye to wherever his legs take him. Capturing playful, colourful moments — Fuentealba sees the world in high contrast. Fuentealba’s “Purim, NYC” gives us a glimpse of a private community hidden in the dense, concrete wilderness that is New York. You follow Fuentealba on Instagram, to see more of his daily adventures.
How did you get into photography?
Sounds cliche, but my first interaction with photography was through my mother who is not a photographer. She documented my brother and my childhood at all times. We have boxes of polaroids and photos and I always gravitated toward the camera, before finally stealing it from my mother’s hands.
As I got older, I did darkroom classes in highschool and then dropped photography for years until I moved to Melbourne, Australia, where I studied photography.
I had struggled with figuring out what kind of direction I wanted to take in my work. It wasn’t until a few years back that I decided to drop all my ideas of what kind of photographer I wanted to be and instead focused on taking my camera with me at all times and letting my natural instinct and passion take over.
How did you end up in New York?
I was visiting some friends for two weeks and have been here for seven years now. Don’t worry gringo, I’m legal.
Can you elaborate a little on the relationship between travel and photography in your work?
No matter how small or big the distances are, we are always traveling, always on the move, always interacting with one another. Photography is the perfect medium to document this “movement,” to open up communities to other communities and make the present into something tangible.
Tell us a little about this series. How did you decide to start photographing the Jewish community?
I believe the hassidic Jewish community draws a lot of New York’s curiosity. Seeing them gliding in the middle of the day or night, in their classic attire makes you wonder what they’re up to.
It wasn’t until a visit to Montreal a few years ago that I ran into a Jewish holiday called Purim or what I like to call Jewish Halloween. The holiday celebrates the story of a Persian King and a Jewish Queen who saved the Jewish people from slaughter by Haman, one of the King’s vizier or political advisers.
The tradition of dressing up in costume is believed to originate from the Italian Jews in the 15th century and was introduced to the middle eastern countries in the 19th century. It’s their most expressive holiday and the perfect opportunity for a small glimpse into their private lives.
How did you manage to gain the trust of this community that is usually pretty closed off to outsiders?
It can be very difficult to be a candid street photographer, especially if you’re a flash photographer like I am, but somehow most people gravitate toward me and they are just as curious about me as I am about them. The mutual curiosity got me through the door. These kinds of interactions is one of the things I love the most about photography, an endless possibilities of human exploration. This is how we learn and build as people and it’s why cosmopolitan cities like New York are so important.
Do you still keep in touch with the families that you’ve encountered?With the ones I happen to talk to I’ll have a one or two email exchanges. It usually doesn’t go much further than me sending them the photo I took of them.
What was the most challenging thing about creating this series?
Walking for 12 plus hours with a torn Achilles heel.
This Feature is part of COLLECTION #01: “IN THE CITY”