Portraits from a month in Bolivia

Little girl by the roadside Potosi Bolivia
Bolivian school girls at lunch smiling

Cheeky sisters across the table having lunch at the Mercado Central in Sucre


Faces of Bolivia

Named after Latin American independence hero Simon Bolivar, who had a hand in the liberation of Panama, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia from their Spanish overlords, Bolivia is a landlocked country in South America. Having lost its sole access to the ocean and its mineral rich Atacama and Antofagasta region to Chile during the War of the Pacific, Bolivia nonetheless remains abundantly rich in natural resources but ironically, is also one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

We had heard little about the country prior to our visit but a month in the country had given us an insight into the lives of Bolivian people and its extremely varied landscape, from the arid altiplano of Uyuni and the Chilean border, to the colonial riches of Sucre, from the highest capital city in the world La Paz to the tranquil town of Copacabana by the shores of Lake Titicaca. Like its landscape, Bolivians are a huge mish mash of varied cultures and languages, chief amongst them, Spanish, Quechua, Aymara and Guarani.

My experience of interaction with Bolivians gave me the impression that they are a hardworking, hardy and extremely proud people, more reserved than their neighbours up north in Peru and down south in Chile but with a warmth that lies just below the surface, if you would but take the time to know them.

I captured these portraits of people at work, at play and most of all, at ease during my month in Bolivia. They offer me a peek into a culture so unique and different from my own.

man playing accordion on the street la paz bolivia

A street busker playing an accordion next to the exit of a local cinema in La Paz

man standing in a field of quinoa

Tending to a field full of quinoa

middle aged lady selling buñuelos in la paz bolivia

Proprietress of a little side street cafe in La Paz selling buñuelos (a fried dough snack scented with anise and topped with syrup) and api (a thick purple corn based drink flavoured with cinnamon)

couple waiting for bus la paz bolivia

A couple waiting on the streets of La Paz

soldiers guarding the national palace la paz bolivia

Soldiers in ceremonial dress standing guard outside the national palace La Paz.

bolivian soldier

Soldier outside a government building at Plaza Murillo

old men talking on a bridge in la paz bolivia

Old friends share a moment

young boy in cape isla del sol bolivia

A boy and his friends play along the shores of Lake Titicaca

I left my job as an advertising Creative Director in August 2012 to travel Africa and South America for a year with my wife, documenting these beautiful places with my Fuji X-Pro1. View the rest of my RTW adventures on Handcarry Only and follow me on my journey by subscribing/following/bookmarking.

  • I love these shots. I’m often afraid of taking pictures of people, thinking I might freak them out or something. Cool to see someone just doing it 🙂

    • Thanks Angela, believe me, when I started taking pictures of people, I was apprehensive as well, but after a while, I started either asking people directly, or just making some eye contact and not appearing to be sneaky about it. People are less averse to having their pictures taken as one might think! Give it a go and let me know how you get on!

  • Love the last shot, especially, of that smiling little boy. I’m always hesitant taking photos of people, especially in South America. I’ve gotten mixed reactions overall – some were bothered by it while others broke out in a wide grin within seconds. I’ve had kids ask me for money as well. Guatemala surprised me the most as everyone was more than willing to have their photos taken. Great shots, as always!

    • Hi Antoinette, yeah, some people naturally don’t mind having their picture taken, and some do, there’s not much we can do about that. I guess the trick is to have really thick skin and not be too bothered by rejection. Just ask politely and if they’re not cool with it, just say thank you and back off. For me, maybe out of every 15 people I ask, only 1 will refuse, and that’s ok. I would love to go to Guatemala, didn’t make it there this time round. Its an enormous continent and has too much to see!

  • Katie Featherstone

    These are some really great portraits. There is nothing wrong with your composition… I think some of these photos are really interestingly composed actually! Thanks for sharing. I’m hoping to visit Bolivia in a couple of months too- very excited!

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence Katie! Of all the countries in South America that we visited, in a way, Bolivia was the most authentic. It isn’t all that hard to experience how people have been living for a long, long time. I know you’ll enjoy your time there, post some photos to share too!