I spent a recent Saturday afternoon walking the streets of Buenos Aires with my friend Steve and our guide Amelia, a locally-based photographer whom we had hired for the day to show us around the city and help us find places worth photographing.
Buenos Aires is a European city stuck way down at the bottom of the South Atlantic Ocean. So many aspects of the city reminded me of old Europe. The architecture is French, the cafe society Italian. The people are stylish and well-dressed and spend their time seeing and being seen.
Just like the French.
And the Italians.
Life in the city is chaotic, helter-skelter and not always elegant. The sideways are covered in dog shit – just like Paris! – because the Argentinians are too haughty to stoop to pick up their own dogs’ mess.
Street markets are a common facet of city life. People selling clothes, kitchen utensils and roasted peanuts, the warm, reddish smell of which seemed to envelope my head and induce olfactory orgasms on every street corner.
While I excluded people from the photos I took, as is my preference, there are lots of traces of human activity in all these photos.
Like seemingly all South Americans, the Argentinians love their cars and they are everywhere. While most are sleek and stylish, I found a few quirkier ones that said a lot about their owners: an old black Peugeot, parked on its own under an awning on a vacant lot, and a bright green Citroen 2CV, which looked incongruous parked beneath the imposing columns of the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Buenos Aires.
I even found a pickup truck, parked in front of what looked like a disused cinema.
Buenos Aires is a very walkable city. We were out and about from 8:00 in the morning until gone 3:00 in the afternoon and, other than talking a taxi from the port area to downtown, walked everywhere.
Most of the time, I felt perfectly safe. There was only only one unpleasant incident when a group of guys sprayed some foul-smelling liquid on us, after we had walked past them on the street. At first, I thought we had been hit by pigeons overhead but it seems that was not the case. As we stopped to clean off our clothes and backpacks, the guys hovered around us, apparently hoping that we would put a bag down for a moment, at which point they planned to grab it and run off. Happily, we didn’t fall for their scheme but the incident did leave an unpleasant aftertaste, not to mention that we stank for the remainder of the day from whatever they sprayed on us.
As you may have read on the “About” page of this website, I like to try to show the familiar in an unfamiliar way in my photos and that was certainly what I was doing while walking the streets of Buenos Aires. I’d like to think I achieved it with the lead image of a dog sitting in front of a metal statue, with the shadow of bare, winter tree falling over both figures. This is just the kind of quirky vignette of daily life that I love to find. But, while I don’t usually do touristy photos, I broke my own rule just to be able to show you what a pretty city Buenos Aires really is.