Smithsonian Journeys Inca Road Issue

Photographer Yolanda Escobar Jiménez Captures Ecuador’s Street Scenes

Take a peek inside Jiménez’s visual journals

Smithsonian Journeys Quarterly

Originally from Mexico, and trained as a photographer in Buenos Aires, Yolanda Escobar Jiménez (@yolafotografa) worked as a sports reporter in Mexico, documenting that essential Latin passion: soccer. When she moved to Ecuador, she started to photograph everyday people and places and to post her pictures on Instagram. From her studio in Quito she talks about the freedom of working with an iPhone, what she loves about Ecuador, and how sometimes being a woman is an advantage.

Students from Teniente Rodríguez Loaiza school play in the break between classes. (Huiririma, Ecuador)

You are originally from Mexico but currently live in Ecuador. What made you move to the Andes?

I had a boyfriend in Quito. I was also invited to join a magazine as a photographer. I still work for that magazine, and I am still with my boyfriend, who is today my husband. [Laughs]

What do you love about Ecuador?

I love the multicultural life here. Everywhere, in the city or in small towns and communities, there is an amazing diversity in the way people dress, in their food, and their way of life. I love that.

How did you learn photography?

I always loved photography, but I didn’t think I was going to be a photographer. I started working in marketing, but I didn’t like it, so I decided to quit my job and go to Buenos Aires to study photography. Then I realized I wanted to do photography as a job.

Male penitents wearing medieval vestments prepare for a procession on Good Friday. (Quito, Ecuador)

Cartier-Bresson referred to “the decisive moment,” when, after waiting for something to happen, a photo “appears.” Is that how you work?

My images are like my journal. But I use Instagram instead of writing. I show the things I experience every day and the happy side of the people. Sometimes I have the time to wait and be patient and stay in the same place. But sometimes I have to rush, because of the magazine. I’ll go to a place, knowing I probably won’t come back, so I have to do everything in one day. I am also looking for the light and for the right moment, but above all, the people.

You use a cell phone and post your photographs to Instagram. Why do you like that way of working?

I love the practicality. It’s fun and it’s easy. Today almost everybody has a cell phone with a camera, so I don’t stand out, as I would with my real camera. With my cell phone in my hand, I am just one more person taking pictures. But there is a difference between a professional photographer and people who take pictures just for fun. I don’t want to sound arrogant or elitist, but it’s more than just being able to manage a camera. It’s about framing and composition, and when to take a picture or not.
 

Are there limits to the kind of images you could take with a cell phone?

You cannot do some things that you can do with a real camera, because it’s automatic. There is no zoom lens. But I prefer to be close, so that’s not a problem. The problem is managing the focus.

Do you edit the pictures in any way?

I use Snapseed. It’s like Photoshop. You can do everything you want. I try not to use filters, because I want to show the image the way it is, with the light and the production values. But I do sometimes convert images to black and white.

What photographers do you admire?

I like Cartier-Bresson. I love the work of Graciela Iturbide, a Mexican photographer. I love Walter Astrada. I love Robert Frank.

A woman reads the newspaper outside her store in the town's central park. (Puéllaro, Ecuador)

Does it help to be a woman?

[Laughs] Sometimes. In Mexico I worked for a sports newspaper. Ninety percent of my photos were of soccer, and it was very useful to be a woman there. The subjects were all guys, and they always tried to help me, because I am a woman. Here, in Ecuador, I can get closer to people as a woman and a foreigner. People are always curious to know about you and your country. But sometimes, for example when I go to a rodeo, and guys get drunk and try and come on to me, it’s not so good. [Laughs]

What inspires you in your work?

I love photographing people: what they do, what they think, what they feel, why they do what they are doing, how they live. That’s inspiring for me.

Men gather to talk politics and gossip in downtown "Plaza de la Independencia." (Quito, Ecuador)

Alexis and Nixon are part of a group of teenagers in Atucucho. They meet every day in a warehouse that has been turned into a space to promote culture among young people.

Victor Emilio, a professional diver, demonstrates a good dive at "The Tingo," one of the most popular resorts in Quito.
 

Young people practice BMX in Parque La Carolina in Quito.

Two children dressed as "geezers" participate in Corpus Cristi, a celebration to thank God and the land for the crops of the year. (Alangasí, Ecuador)
 

A man carrying bananas through the streets in Quito.

Two girls prepare to dance in the parade of the Festival of Flowers and Fruits in Ambato.
 

A man walks in front of a photograph in Quito's Park La Carolina, part of the Inner Landscapes exhibition.
 

See more of photos by Yolanda Escobar Jiménez (@yolafotografa).

About Simon Worrall

Simon Worrall is a contributing writer for the Smithsonian Journeys Travel Quarterly.

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