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It’s not easy to go back a few years and remember everything that happened, much less if its
fifty years. But photography does help to remember, to keep people, things and events fresh. It
helps memory, which is one reason why I take photographs; both to remember and to not
forget. But there are moments in time that I did not photograph, and I still remember them.
There are also moments I did photograph and yet their memory escapes me.
The one shining moment of 1967, without a doubt, was my trip to New York, invited by the
Spanish edition of LIFE at the behest of Roy Rowan, at the time Editor in Chief of the domestic
edition of the magazine. I had met him in Santiago, Chile. He liked my work and thought I
could be a good fit in the future plans of LIFE in español, something that did not come to
happen as later in 1968 and beyond the many international editions of LIFE were closed. After
about five moths in New York I went back to Chile, which felt like going into exile, such was
the impact of the city. I knew that somehow I would have to come back.
Before coming to New York I had been in other countries; in 1956 I went to Buenos Aires in
the traditional graduating trip from High School. Then, in January of 1962 I went to Montevideo
and Punta del Este, Uruguay, for the Eighth Foreign Ministers Conference of the Organization
of American States for a meeting pushed by the US government to expel Cuba from the
organization. Then in September of that same year I went, again, to Buenos Aires and stayed
there to cover a military uprising that put General Onganía in power.
As important and powerful as those experiences were, nothing prepared me for the impact
of New York. It was hard to focus on the myriad things that were continually developing around
me and I needed to photograph them. I had not brought with me the Contar IIa (with three
lenses: 50mm, 35mm, 135mm) I had been using in Santiago since it was a loaner. So one of
the first things I did was to buy my first SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera, a Nikon F with a
50mm lens, at Olden Camera & Lens, one of the many photo stores that existed at the time
and specializing in second hand equipment. Since then I’ve bought only Nikon, at one point
owning three of them with a collection of lenses. I still have my last film camera, a Nikon F3
HP with a few lenses.
With my Nikon along I walked the streets of Manhattan like I’ve never walked before or
since, repeating an experience that many people have expressed to me; New York is a most
walkable city (Chilean writer Poli Délano is one,) ever changing and inhabited by a most
friendly populace (the grouches people talk about are outsiders, people who come to work in
New York and resent not living here :-) .)
Incredibly enough, I did miss some things. I took too few pictures while at TIME-LIFE, didn't
go to Brooklyn or Queens, much less to the Bronx and never crossed the Hudson. But the
most glaring omission, one I cannot understand nor explain, was not taking any pictures of the
Film Club (though I more than compensated the next year, when I moved to New York for
good.) I did volunteer work there and it was one of my favorite activities and I was always
carrying a camera. So what happened? It's a mystery.