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  • Ashli Akins

Reflections on 2020 (or "Conversations on Rust")

New.

New year. New decade. New you.

“Starting over” seems to be everyone’s dangerously quick fix nowadays.

And yet, the beauty that I find in this world - and through my lens - is not in the new.



Beauty, to me, is not in the so-called “modern” apartment building with fresh paint. Or the seemingly untouched landscape with no evidence of human “interference.” No.

Beauty, to me, is the rust. It’s the chipped paint. The weathered graffiti and the unfinished gaps.

It’s the in-between, when human and nature collide, and one outgrows the other.

It’s the once loved, now abandoned. The built for something else, now repurposed.

It’s the scars. The eyes whose creases give away a past of kindness.

These are the maps of us. And their chaotically disjointed juxtaposition is beauty.

It is in these buildings, landscapes, people - and in their hidden stories of grit and wisdom - that my inevitably vulnerable soul falls just a little bit in love every day.



I was photographing this building on Christmas with my little hermanito, Ruben. He kept observing what I was choosing to photograph, curious about “the why.” Why that shot, that building. I always chose “weird things.” When I shot the close-up of the rust, he said, “you always like to shoot things like this, don’t you?” My initial reaction was to defend myself for shooting the mundane, boring, and ugly. (I do.) But I’ve learned from experience that most reactions are not my truth, nor my response. He was simply curious. “Yes, I love it,” I said, after a pause to respond instead of react. “I find it beautiful, interesting.” “Its story, its age, its attitude tells such an interesting story to me. One that is much more complex than a new door with fresh paint.” “And this too,” I said. I pointed to the vivid line between this house and the newer, more renovated one beside it. “I love photographing the lines, the divide, the contrast between two opposing styles living side-by-side in the same era, on the same street, as neighbours. That also, to me, tells a story.” Perhaps it’s because I too am always living in the in-between. As an in-between. From that moment on, Ruben shifted from observer to assistant. He began looking for things he found interesting. Things he thought were “cool” or indicative of this era in his home. He became the model for a few photos, the producer for others. He helped me find things out of the ordinary (his favourites) and the ordinary (my favourites). The mundane. The boring and the ugly.

He began searching for the rust in the beauty. And I, the beauty in the rust.



Photographs by Ashli Akins. First photo on 29 December 2019, at Laguna Qoricocha, Peru. Second photo on 25 December 2019, in Yucay, Peru. Third photo in January 2020, in San Blas, Cusco, Peru.

#newyear #2020 #newyou #beauty #poetry #newyearsresolutions #history #rust #natgeoexplorers #travelphotography #wanderlust #documentaryphotography #scars #insidenatgeo #cuscoperu #peru