Things That Matter

New Book ‘Andinos’ is the ‘Humans of New York’ for an Indigenous Peruvian Society

In his new photo book “Andinos,” the first of his career, Peruvian photographer Gabriel Barreto Bentín spotlights the Andean society of Cusco, Peru with a series of gorgeous and intimate portraits. Collaborating with Peruvian anthropologist Francesco D’Angelo, “Andinos” aims to do away with stereotypical portrayals of indigenous communities. 

Courtesy of Gabriel Barreto Bentín

Throughout the book, Bentín has his subjects stand in front of a white background, bringing focus to the subject themselves, and not the picturesque backgrounds that have become commonplace in anthropological photography like the kind seen in “Andinos.” His interest in how the Andino locals dress, talk, interact, and live offers a counter-perspective to the potentially distancing ways that anthropological studies can dehumanize their subjects instead of personalizing them.

The photographer seems to have taken some inspiration from legendary photographer Richard Avedon, who Bentín quotes in the introduction of his book: “I’ve worked out a series of no’s. No to exquisite light, no to apparent compositions, no to the seduction of poses or narrative. And all these no’s force me to the ‘yes.’ I have a white background. I have the person I’m interested in and the thing that happens between us.” With “Andinos,” Bentín has stripped away all the artifice that could influence a viewer and instead allows us to spend time with the human being in front of us.

Courtesy of Gabriel Barreto Bentín

“Andinos” is not only a wonderfully resonant collection of photography, but a beautifully designed collection itself, limiting the distance between subject and viewer with not only Bentín’s photographs but a collection of quotes from locals that help to illuminate what we’re looking at and why we should remember it. 

A shot of two young boys dressed in stylish shades of blue, for instance, has a quote attributed to it that says, “I think they’re from the countryside because of their clothing, their little shoes. People from the countryside know how to buy clothes for the cold, with a fleece lining.” Through these descriptions, readers will undoubtedly have a better understanding of the Andean society, its uniquities, and the ways that life in the Andes can feel recognizably universal.

With “Andinos,” Gabriel Barreto Bentín has put a spin on the “Humans of New York” photo project, applying it to an indigenous society with whom many of us would never brush shoulders. It’s an invaluable collection of photographs that “Andinos” publisher Rizzoli has described as “a socio-anthropological, photographic study that offers a unique perspective on the Andino people, exploring narratives of spatial modernity and social hierarchies.”

Courtesy of Gabriel Barreto Bentín

“Andinos” is available for purchase now through the Rizzoli website.

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