Argentina

This past November, I traveled to a polo farm in a rural town approximately three hours from Buenos Aires. I don't play polo, but I thought it would be interesting to see what goes on. Well... my dad likes to play polo and I asked to tag along.

We stayed at La Mariposa Polo Farm in the town 25 de Mayo. The accommodations were lovely. As we arrived early in the season, we were the only people staying there. Had we arrived later, we would be sharing the place with a bunch of other polo players from around the world. That would also include partaking in communal meals prepared by the small staff. Instead, we dined with the farm's owner, Mariano, and his family. He was an exceptionally kind host who was never short for humor. With a story on hand at all times, one couldn't miss the extraordinary aspects of his life in spite of his honest self-awareness. He explained that he was working on learning his sixth language as he traveled the world to play polo when he wasn't running either of the two polo farms he owned: one in Argentina and one in England. He laughed about the youthful imprudence he and other polo players had when they drank beer in between chukkas just as he did when he spoke of moving around South Asia with a diplomatic entourage. He laughed about traveling across Argentina on horseback with a group of friends and returning home weeks later to a magnificent party and smelling absolutely abhorrent. He laughed about how he never went to a doctor in his life and was therefore quite burdened by untreated injuries just as he laughed about trying to set up polo matches for clients in unlikely parts of the world. But he was serious when he explained that he was training his son to play with far more caution and care than he had ever taken.

Mariano extended the same patience and good humor he applied to training when we barraged him with questions about all sorts of nonsense. With his children running around playing with one another, and his wife darting about, managing both work and hospitality, I felt enveloped by the affection they showed for one another. On one evening, Mariano brought back an enormous quantity of red meat and spent hours tending to a large grill beneath the looming trees, preparing asado for us. After our bellies were properly full, Mariano cradled his sleepy six-year-old son in his arms, hugging him and teasing him in English. It would be disingenuous to say that we, as strangers, became part of that family, but their joy and love were not hidden from us. 

I know that I am still ignorant of how important polo is for Argentina. What I became somewhat aware of, however, is what it takes to be in the polo business. Naturally, I was not privy to anything but a tourist experience, and a quite cushy one at that. But I did get to see the training of the horses, breaking in the ponies, the practice matches, and even some hairy accidents.

On the second or third day of our trip, I felt courageous enough to start taking photographs with my DSLR. Despite having taken photos for seven years now, I am still quite self-conscious about photographing other people. The farm lies along a dirt road that suffers greatly from natural pot holes and humps. Cars drive up to the farm on a grass alley that is sandwiched between two practice fields. A group of one-story, stone buildings with flat, clay roofs rest directly across from the main practice fields. The buildings devoted to Mariano's family overlooked one goal of the main practice field. Across from the house for Mariano's parents rested a long picnic table beneath the drooping foliage of large trees, and beyond that, the building devoted to the dining room, a TV room, a kitchen, and a room filled with plates, chairs, and trophies. I am being quite serious when I say that this room only contained plates, chairs, and a large quantity of trophies. Near the dining building were the guest buildings. With three to four spacious rooms each, we occupied the one closest to the kitchen while the second building that rounded out the compound back towards the practice fields remained empty. 

I walked along the grass avenues that surrounded the practice field, the only barrier protecting me from a runaway ball or a horse galloping with too much momentum was a rust-colored, plastic fence no more than four inches high.  After snapping a good few hundred photos, I felt it best to try and back away from the action. As I was heading back to my room to put down my camera and pick up my book, I turned around to take a few more photographs. Through the viewfinder, I saw a rider fall from his horse before another horse, causing another rider to fall and his horse, which ran to the stables. I froze with uncertainty, awash with an awkward feeling, before cowardice mingled with reason and I turned away from the scene, realizing there was nothing I could do and that it was better to disappear. But I turned back again to see Mariano descend his horse to attend to the injured while the others looked on from atop their horses. A small, green ambulance rushed down the grassy driveway and straight onto the polo field to take one man away, who shattered one half of his lower half in the fall. The other sustained severe bruising that splashed a disturbing pattern of deep purple across the canvas of his pale skin. Practice was halted for a few days as the injured recovered and I turned my lens towards the ample scenery.

 The quantity of land devoted to horses is enormous. On the last two days of our trip, I joined my group on an hour long ride throughout the area surrounding Mariano's property, which I learned was either Mariano's property or belonged to a family member of his. I was struck by the unbelievable beauty of it all. While I was bobbing along on the little horse designated for Mariano's youngest child, and thus one patient enough to deal with my lack of skill, I just kept turning my head left and right, scanning the vast expanses of green grass that stretched towards the horizon without interruption save for the occasional fence, farm, or horse. The air was sweet, the sun was warm, the sky was clear, and the day was perfect. I was only upset that my companions wanted to canter and that I could no longer calmly take in the scenery around me.

Our trip also coincided with the date that the town was founded: November 8th. Mariano drove us to the heart of the town in the midst of celebration. Understanding no Spanish and having a regrettable lack of knowledge regarding Argentina's general history, I could only superficially look on at the festivities. I was grateful that Mariano had specially reserved seats so close to the action because I was able to stick my big, fat, tourist lens into the parade unimpeded. 

After an incident in which a massive spider descended from the crevice in our ceiling, I don't think I will ever be able to return to the region. While my phobia precludes me from going on many adventures, I will have my photographs and my memories of my first and final stay in Argentina. I did however learn that the creature is a harbinger of rain and that in the midst of a drought, they are a welcome sight. I was not quite so joyous when, on the last evening of our trip, I noted the drop in temperature that holds within it the promise of rain as well as the return of that awful arachnid.


A Year In Review

A lot happens in a year. I always try to remind myself of this platitude often as I'm predisposed to getting down on myself, to thinking I'm not doing enough to advance my career and my life, to forgetting how far I've come. This time last year, my future was pretty nebulous. I had only been established in Indianapolis a few months. My diploma was still pretty fresh. I didn't have very many friends here. I was just beginning to perform with An Evening with the Authors* at the White Rabbit Cabaret.

In that year, so much has happened. I not only started belly dancing, but I advanced more quickly than I anticipated and was welcomed into the Indy Tribal student troupe, Mandali Tribal Sisters, much sooner than I expected. Ever since I saw a video of a Rachel Brice performance when I was 15, I had always wanted to belly dance. My parents were pretty adamant that the time I spent on acting in school was already too much frivolity, so that dream deteriorated into an admiration for dancers and artists and performers. I literally could not imagine that ten years later, I'd be making my belly wave and bumping my hips to a Balkan beat. Here's a video of one of my first public performances as a belly dancer. 

I tried stand up comedy for the first time this year and, to my surprise, got a few laughs. I continued to create characters for An Evening with the Authors* and became a regular on the White Rabbit Stage. I thought my days on the stage were very much over in high school. 

Rocketship Comedy has also grown immensely this past year and I am proud to have contributed to that project. In addition to the website you're currently reading this post on, I worked on Rocketship's website to make it functional yet aesthetically pleasing. I purchased a new lens for photographing shows and have been improving my skills all the while. I had never thought that I would work in the realm of social media and am both excited and daunted at the challenge of learning social media marketing through this experience.

In that last twelve months, I was booked for more photo gigs than in all my years practicing photography combined. I was privileged to photograph Beats Antique, one of my favorite bands. I have taken the head shots of a number of comedians, photographed numerous stand up comedy shows, taken family portraits and hopefully, some artistic photos thrown in there, too. I've essentially filled a 5TB hard drive with just photographs this year.

I'm a pessimistic person, a depressed person more often than not, and a very anxious person. My words when spoken often resemble verbal vomit rather than eloquent and verbose expressions of wit. My impulse is to run away from people and positive vibes. This year had more than its fair share of emotional challenges and I did my fair share of hiding under the covers. And crying. And self-loathing. And so, it takes a great deal of effort to sit down and reflect on my progress without telling myself, "You probably could have done more," or "You should be doing better." So, with that being said, I would like to post my favorite photos from each month of this year with no further reflection.

January

Jake Head - Rocketship Comedy at Flat 12 Bierwerks

February

Sam Griswold

Phillip Yung

March

Sean Patton - Rocketship Comedy at Sabbatical

David Britton - Bearded Ladies

Keith Ray - Bearded Ladies

Foggy night on my street

April

Antonio Edmonds

Indianapolis Zoo

Geoff Tate - Rocketship Comedy at
Flat 12 Bierwerks

Wille Bostic - Rocketship Comedy at
Flat 12 Bierwerks

May

Stephen Vincent Giles

The Wowie Zowie Show at the
White Rabbit Cabaret

Mitch Burrow

June

Jeff Vibbert

Elise Whitaker

July

Bermuda

Los Angeles

Kamari Stevens - Rocketship Comedy at Flat 12 Bierwerks

August

Indiana State Fair

Tyson Cox

September 

Wedding practice - Roberts Imaging Seminar

Poland

October

Indy Tribal and Mandali Tribal Sisters

Moon Hooch - Beats Antique at the Vogue Theatre

Beats Antique at the Vogue Theatre

November

Argentina

The Sedgwicks

December

IMA Gardens

Vail, CO