“It’s like a treasure hunt but with pictures,” my friend explained. And whilst I’d absolutely no idea what to expect, I found myself standing in San Telmo on Saturday afternoon, a piece of paper in my hands, a number and a street name, searching for the meeting place.
If you’re looking for something different to do with your weekend, Foto Ruta is a prime option. From the postcard-style flyer promoting the event, there was one sentence that called my attention: “Foto Ruta BA offers an urban city tour with a twist. Bring Buenos Aires to life through a series of clues that lead you on a journey of discovery in a different part of the city each week.”
Perhaps this was the Indiana Jones adventure I’d always dreamed of, but more of a hipster version, and with a camera?
To begin, organisers Becky and Joss welcomed all of the participants around a table in one of San Telmo’s cosy cafés, and everyone was issued a ‘press pass’. Inside was a small map of San Telmo’s landmarks, quirky facts, interesting places to visit and several restaurant and café recommendations, as well as a list of creative tips on how to photograph.
After explaining the concept of the event – to explore the surrounding neighbourhood whilst interpreting a series of clues through photography – they ran through some creative techniques. Offering advice on how to use shade, lines, reflection, and movement, Becky and Joss described how to lend interesting effects to your photos, all the while projecting examples on to a white screen as visual aids.
At this point I looked around to see that everyone in the group shared my excitement to get outside and start taking pictures. Even with a digital compact like mine, you can make your shots appear professional with all the techniques made to seem fun and simple by the organisers. Or at least I’d like to think so!
Then we started to receive our instructions. We were going to work in groups to photograph an object or a scene that best portrayed each clue and return in two hours, which seemed like long enough. The clues, written inside the small poster with the map, came in the form of 10 sentences. “Mirror, mirror on the wall”, “the gift of time”, “door to another world” and “lawless fashion” were just some of the phrases open to artistic interpretation that day.
I stepped out in a multinational group, made up of Irish, Brazilian, Dutch and British participants, and started photographing.
Foto Ruta invites you to think outside the box. It’s a great way of meeting new people from all over the world, as well as an opportunity to talk to locals as you try to persuade them to help you set a scene for your pictures!
We discovered several spots I’d never seen or heard of before; an open art and bookshop gallery, a prison museum, a store with furniture stuck to its walls and even gate-crashed a film shoot in a groovy record store.
When we’d finished, I felt like two hours wasn’t long enough, but we had to get back to the café where Becky and Joss welcomed us with wine. Reviewing our photos with glasses in hand, we picked the pictures we wanted to represent each clue, and each group’s photos were shared on the big screen for everyone to see.
Whilst the results were similar at times and strikingly different at others, they were overall, incredibly creative. It was amazing to see how each person interpreted the sentences so uniquely.
Between taking photographs, meeting people from all over the world, drinking wine and shared laughter, you can have a wonderful time doing something completely different on a Saturday afternoon.
One of the participants, Katie Jones said: “It was a really good alternative way to explore the city. Living and working in Buenos Aires makes it difficult to find time to explore neighbourhoods that maybe you thought were not as interesting. Foto Ruta encourages you to explore the city safely, without the hassle of searching for maps and doing research before hand.
I wasn’t expecting to learn so much about photography before I went”, she adds.
Another photographer, Andrew O’Driscoll admits he wasn’t expecting too much in the beginning, but after going out to the streets and photographing he said: “I enjoyed a fun day out and I think it’s the kind of activity everybody would have fun doing. It is a great way to discover Buenos Aires.”
Our tip? Go with comfortable shoes- you’ll do a lot of walking!