In a remote corner of Peru, photographer team Gentl and Hyers lead a group to live with and document the country’s last-remaining Incas.
When Deborah Williamson, owner of the Brooklyn restaurant James and a novice photographer, found herself in a Peruvian outdoor market teeming with apple-green cherimoya, roasted and ready-to-eat guinea pigs, cinnamon sticks the size of her arm, and vendors with sun-etched faces, she didn’t do what most of us would—that is, raise her camera to her eye to look for the best shot. Instead, she lowered her Fujifilm XT1 to her hip, prayed for the best, and started snapping.
Shooting from the hip (literally) is one of the many lessons Williamson learned in Andrea Gentl and Martin Hyers’s intensive photography workshop in the Peruvian Andes last spring. The New York City–based husband-and-wife team have spent more than two decades as commercial and editorial photographers, and their singular ability to light and compose shots, creating almost painterly vignettes, has helped shape the look of many lifestyle, food, and travel magazines. Their photos play particularly well on Instagram (Gentl has upwards of 60,000 followers), perhaps because of their zeitgeist-y subject matter—far-flung destinations, food and flowers, foraged and collected objets—but more likely on account of their craft. The team have become digital den leaders of sorts, giving feedback and professional advice to a growing band of aspiring photographers, stylists, and content creators who use social media as a professional calling card. Looking to up their mentoring in the analogue world, Gentl and Hyers started This Is the Wanderlust, a travel photography program that, not surprisingly, most participants find through Instagram.
They are part of a wave of creative entrepreneurs—in the design, food, and maker worlds—who are leveraging the social media platform to tap into communities of like-minded people and launch real-life skill immersions in distant places. But Gentl and Hyers’s foray into photography tourism is not for the fainthearted. The more foreign the place, the better—they count India, Burma, and Bhutan as a few of their favorites. With this workshop they hoped to show participants, in a hands-on way, that if you’re willing to, say, get on the ground to capture the image of sandaled feet scurrying by, or climb on top of a car to snap a pigeon’s-eye view of a cobblestoned streetscape, you’ll be rewarded with not only better pictures but also new life perspectives.
Photo by Gentl and Hyers
A Peruvian woman with traditional braids outside Chichero.
How the couple landed on the remote Andes as the location for their inaugural workshop can also be traced to, yes, Instagram, where Gentl first encountered Hannah Rae Porst and her arresting images of the Q’eros Nation, the roughly 2,000 Incas living in the isolated, high-altitude Andes. Porst is the founder of Willka Yachay, an NGO focused on improving education, living conditions, and economic opportunity for the Q’eros; a lunch IRL sealed their partnership. And so in April of last year, ten participants in their photography boot camp flew to Lima and then boarded another plane to the historic Peruvian city of Cusco, which sits at about 11,000 feet. Over nine days, the students, representing a range of photography levels, ascended thousands of feet higher—by foot, horse, and Sprinter van—all while acclimating to the thin mountain air and mastering camera and editing skills. “It’s important to learn that true travel photography is really hard,” Gentl says.
The participants started their days around 5 a.m. (to catch first light). After shooting for an hour, they’d gather for breakfast, shoot for several more hours before lunch, and then again until sundown. “Every day we tackled different subjects,” recalls Aran Goyoaga, cookbook author and founder of the food blog Cannelle et Vanille. “One day it was photographing a whole alpaca-shearing story—from the ceremonial shearing to the yarn spinning and plant dyeing.” Evenings ended with communal dinners, after which some wandered off to bed, exhausted, others gathered in the schoolhouse to edit photos and swap stories of the day, and the most adventurous made their way to the local healer’s hut.
Photo by Gentl and Hyers
Saddled and ready to make the trek into the mountainous Q’eros land.
If Wanderlust’s mission is to teach visual storytelling, you couldn’t ask for a better subject. “The Q’eros people are known as the wisdom-keepers of the Andes,” Porst says; they follow the Q’eros traditions of farming, herding, music, and spirituality. Homestays with indigenous families brought more intimate storytelling. “We slept in these little huts, on blankets and llama pelts on the dirt floor,” says Williamson. “It was a profound moment when we had to say good-bye.” (Gentl and Hyers haven’t left altogether; they are sponsoring two Q’eros girls, starting an alpaca herd for one, and buying a computer for another for college.)
With the sometimes treacherous travel conditions and the isolation of life in the clouds, it was inevitable that group members would bond. Which, in fact, is the lasting draw of these and similar workshops: a tight-knit network of friends with a shared interest. “During a campout, we hiked to a river valley where the Q’eros men fished with nets for the most luscious pink-speckled river trout,” recalls Gentl, adding how the group gathered wild mint and sorrel and used lemons and garlic and Peruvian pink salt to make a salsa verde for the fish. “The ease with which we all worked together is the very essence of what we hope to create with these workshops,” she adds. “We are forging a community through photography and experience.”
Photo by Gentl and Hyers
From left: Maria; Irica, the Wanderlust group’s constant companion.
The New “Solo” Travel
Travel workshops are sort of like study abroad for grown-ups. Learn a skill and find your creative soul mates on one of these trips led by lifestyle influencers.
Be a Maker
The School (@theschoolinstagram), in Sydney, was founded by stylist Megan Morton for those of us who, simply put, want to create beauty. In addition to classes like ceramics and candle making, it offers multi-day creativity-sparking trips. Try the School Excursion to India, a five-day R and R retreat in Jaipur that focuses on jewelry designing, bookbinding, and, during an optional Pushkar add-on, perfume making (October 2017).
Become a Food Creative
Imen McDonnell and Cliodhna Prendergast, both cooks and writers, founded Lens & Larder(@lensandlarder) to teach visual storytelling through the lens of Ireland’s artisanal food scene. They secure memorable locations (a boutique hotel, a bucolic farmstead) and partner with top-notch photographers, stylists, and writers. If you don’t mind the short lead time, the four-day Capturing a Connemara Travel & Food Story workshop in Ireland, with photographer Ditte Isager and travel and food writer David Prior, happens this month. Check the website for future workshops.
Be a Bon Vivant
The three-day workshops led by cookbook author Mimi Thorisson (@mimithor) in her home in France’s Médoc are big on food, wine, and joie de vivre. In the Early Summer Workshop, you’ll “meet in the mornings, cook lunch, have it together, drink a little too much, then start again for dinner,” says Thorisson (May 2017).
Photo by Gentl and Hyers
Gloria, the first Q’eros woman to graduate from high school and go to college.
Learn Floral Design
You’ll create flower arrangements from seasonal heirloom blooms at three-day workshops by Floret(@floretflower) in Mount Vernon, Washington, as well as get tips on how to operate a flower farm. Workshops, like this spring’s Flower Farming Intensive, sell out quickly. Check the website for summer and fall options.
Attempt to Slow Down
Brainchild of Beth Kirby (of life-style blog Local Milk) and her husband, Matt Ludwikowski (a coffee entrepreneur and writer), L|M Retreats (@local_milk) gives travelers a chance to shift to a slower pace, sample authentic regional dishes, connect with local creatives—and learn photography and styling skills. The nine-day Onsens & Post Towns: A Wabi Sabi Escape to rural Japan this November is wait list only, but additional retreats to the Faroe Islands and Spain’s Formentera are in the works.
Hone Your Knife Skills
If your call to create is a bit more primal, go to Meat Camp, hosted by sustainable-meat company Belcampo(@belcampomeatco). During a three-day Pro workshop at its farm in the foothills of Northern California’s Mount Shasta, you’ll sleep in luxury tents and learn open-fire cooking, sausage making, and butchery (August 2017).
WE HAVE JUST RETURNED FROM FOTO ETNOBOTÁNICO OAXACA, WHERE WE PARTNERED WITH JESSICA CHRASTIL OF POCOAPOCO. WE SPENT NINE DAYS IMMERSED AND DIGGING DEEPLY INTO THE FOOD, ART, MARKET AND CRAFT CULTURE OF OAXACA. WE WILL BE SHARING IMAGES HERE SOON.
WE WILL BE RETURING TO OAXACA IN MID APRIL TO PARTNER WITH POCOAPOCO FOR LAS MUJERES FUERTES. A RESIDENCY AND CONVERSATION WITH NOTABLE WOMEN ENTREPENEURS, COMMUNITY LEADERS, ARTISTS AND MAKERS OF OAXACA. PROCEEDS BENEFIT LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS AND SUPPORTING WOMEN'S RIGHTS, HEALTH CARE AND EDUCATION.LOOK BACK HERE IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS FOR DETAILS.
WHILE IN OAXACA WE SHOT JESS FOR APIECE APART WOMAN. READ HER INTERVIEW HERE.
IN PERU WE PARTNERED WITH HANNAH RAE PORST OF WILKA YACHAY. SHE WAS RECENTLY FEATURED ON APIECE APART AS WELL. READ HANNAH'S INTERVIEW HERE.
IF YOU HAVENT HAD A CHANCE TO SEE ANY OF THE PERU IMAGES FROM THE TRIP WE MADE TO THE HIGH ANDES MOUNTAINS LAST APRIL CHECK OUT THE MARCH ISSUE OF CONDE NAST TRAVELER!
THANK YOU CNT FOR THE COVER, FOR THE GREAT WRITE UP AND FOR FEATURING SOME OF OUR FAVORITE PHOTOS. THANK YOU TO ALL THE PAST PARTICIPANTS WHO LENT A VOICE TO THE STORY AND ALL THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE OF THE Q'EROS NATION FOR SHARING THEIR LIVES SO OPENLY WITH US. YOU WILL BE ABLE TO READ THE STORY ON LINE HERE SOON!
ANDREA WAS INTERVIEWED FOR APIECE APART STORIES. READ THE POST ON INSPIRATION IN THE ANDES HERE.
WE ARE IN THE MIDST OF PLANNING MORE TRIPS FOR 2017 AND 2018. PLEASE SIGN UP HERE TO GET ON THE MAILING LIST TO BE NOTIFIED OF ANY UPCOMING TRIPS OR PARTNERSHIPS.
FOLLOW US OVER @THHISITHEWANDERLUST @GENTLANDHYERS AND @ANDREAGENTL