La Chureca, NicaraguaIn April 2012, 33-year-old, Hampton, New Hampshire-based photographer Brian Nevins won the Telus Pro Photographer Showdown in Whistler, British Columbia. It’s one of the world’s biggest adventure photography awards. Any action sports lensman could point to it as a pivotal moment in their career. For Nevins, winning the award was a shock. It was also an affirmation that he was shooting the right way. It was not the pivotal moment in his career. He says that moment came six years ago, when he first visited a Nicaraguan dump called La Chureca. These are images from that place, which he has visited twice a year for the last six years. To learn more about how La Chureca has shaped his vision as a photographer, read Galleries We Like: La Chureca.
La Chureca, Nicaragua"[A normal day] is really hard to say, but what you want the normal to be is that they wake up at seven o’clock in the morning and everyone goes out into the dump to collect recyclables. They earn, on average, $8 to $10 a week. They collect copper and plastic. There are the people that collect it, the people that organize it, and the people that take it somewhere. They will also go through the trash to look for food."
La Chureca, Nicaragua"Most of the places we travel to, this exists. This is a common thread. La Chureca exists globally, and it gets much worse. Go to Haiti. Go to Indonesia."
La Chureca, Nicaragua"That may have been the hardest photo I’ve taken. There was a family, we didn’t know them, and I actually haven’t seen them since. Those were piles upon piles of 400 rotting cow carcasses that we’re like four weeks old. They were disgusting. This isn’t fresh meat, and they were scraping the tiny shards of meat off the skulls to try to make a bowl of soup for the night."
La Chureca, Nicaragua"You always handle a non-profit, like, OK, sad situation. The reality of the world outside of our existence is just so different. The more you travel, the more you know how fortunate we are on a daily basis. So you go in there with this wall up, especially if you’re taking photos. Yeah, that sucks. I wish I could do more. Blah, blah, blah. But after a couple of days of being in there, all of those families, they just kind of broke my wall down, especially the kids."
La Chureca, Nicaragua"And in particular, this girl Wendy. I’ve been working with her since the very beginning. She’s just incredible, and it was as simple as her just grabbing my hand."
La Chureca, Nicaragua"There’s definitely one of Wendy that has knocked a lot of people over. I wanted to take a portrait of her with the dump burning in the background, and I got so nervous over it, like it was my daughter. And so I gave her my sneakers to wear because I didn’t want her to step on the burning trash. And she was like: Whatever, that’s stupid. I know how to do this. She did it to humor me. So she’s wearing my sneakers with the trash burning in the background and she’s just smiling. She’s this drop dead beautiful girl and there’s just terror behind her."
La Chureca, Nicaragua"The last time I was down there, back in April, I actually brought a My First Camera for Wendy. Every time I’ve been down there she’s loved playing with the camera. Any kid in a third world country is going to grab the camera. For the most part you’re hovering around them thinking, Don’t break it. Wendy kind of really grasped photography. I feel really weird saying somebody is good at photography, because I think you could teach a monkey to do it, but she really got it."
La Chureca, Nicaragua"My life is my life before going to the dump and my life after going to the dump."
La Chureca, Nicaragua"It’s still a driving project for me. I haven’t lost any speed or desire. I’m still in as love with it as the first day I saw it."
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