The Art of the Amazon Selfie

January 29, 2014

International Expeditions' own Emily Harley shares the story behind this photo - taken by another IE employee Charlie Weaver. Charlie and Emily traveled aboard La Estrella Amazonica, our new Amazon riverboat. 

Selfie – (n.) a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website. 

Oxford’s word of the year for 2013 means very little in the tiny Peruvian village of Nueva York. But as I would find on my recent Amazon cruise, children and tweens of all ages love taking snaps of themselves – regardless of their country of origin. 

Our small group of travelers had gathered in the three-room home of the village’s mayor, accompanied by a tangle of curious children, eager to hold hands with their visitors. As the mayor and his wife shared about their daily lives and generously answered our questions, the children would peek over the low walls of the home. Their sly giggles drew the cameras of many guests, and all of the kids happily posed and grinned with only one price – show them the picture in the viewfinder once it was done. 

On a whim I handed Sophia my own camera, clumsily miming and stringing together instructions in broken Spanish.  With little encouragement, she was off. Pictures of her parents, friends and sisters. Sophia momentarily relinquished control of the camera to her brother. He wanted to be a teacher or a doctor, but after a few moments, he thought a career in photography might be a good fit. Our guest lecturer for that journey was a professional photographer, and was an immediate hit with these children who had only just discovered this art. 

Her brother engrossed in conversation with other guests, Sophia once more began snapping photos with my camera. 

“Do you want to see yourself in the camera,” I asked. 

An enthusiastic nod was all of the encouragement I needed to bring the art of the selfie to Nueva York! 

As a side note, a friend at the Peruvian NGO and IE partner CONAPAC, passed along to me that it is rare for people in Amazonian villages to have photos. The weather conditions, combined with frequent relocation of villages along the flooding banks of the Upper Amazon Basin, degrade photo paper.