It was back in 1975 I received a letter from a textile company in Lima, Peru with a bid to make a calendar including pictures of Peruvian natives. The company gave me only a few days to complete the task. My only equipment was the Pentax Spotmatic SP with a 50mm f/1.4 and a Vivitar 200mm f/4 lens. I choose the town of San Mateo east of Lima up in the highlands as I knew some people in town. San Mateo is located at about 100 Km east of Lima at an elevation of 3,100 meters, around 10,300 feet. It is quite an impressive orography; driving from sea level all the way to 3,100 meters in such a relatively short distance. My good friend Henry Prutschy provided his vehicle and his always welcoming company.

My Pentax Spotmatic SP

Once in town, I loaded the Spotmatic with a roll of Kodak Plus-X film and shared my photo needs with some people including the native children; told them about the project and some of them were very keen to cooperate; many others were partial to the idea. I had a couple of 36 exposure rolls and half a day to complete the task. Back at home I developed the films and made the prints overnight.

A couple of days later I took the work to the textile company with high hopes but they refused all but a couple of images, they needed twelve. Sadly, that was the end of the project. A bit upset at the beginning, but later I understood their reasons.

In 1977 I moved to the US in order to continue and finish my flying trade; moved to Denver in 1978 and worked part time for the late and great photographer Hal Gould, curator of the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, what later became The Camera Obscura Gallery. Showed him the San Mateo portfolio and kindly gave me some space in his gallery. The collection of 25 prints were shown for first time at his gallery from April 6th to April 20th in 1979 under the name of “Faces from Perú”, a name Mr. Hal Gould proposed.

The film was developed in a Kodak D-76 formula and the scans you see here are prints which were toned in a polysulfide toner formula (close to Kodak T-8 sepia toner). I printed the negatives on ORWO single weight paper and recently I tried the new ILFORD Classic paper with really wonderful results. I enjoyed a lot printing this portfolio with today’s equipment and different materials. I sadly lost the Vivitar lens in Colorado sometime in 1979!

~ Nissim

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About the author

Avatar - Nissim Levy

Nissim Levy

I am a flight instructor by trade and a film photography advocate


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  1. Hi Nissim, thanks for sharing the story and images….I remember working with you back in the early ’80’s at Waxman Camera in Denver…your work with Hal Gould was very inspiring to me…but I was always more of a color shooter

    1. My dear Shawn!! Great to hear from you after so many years. Just visited your site and it is very impressive. Thank you for your comment !!!!

  2. Great story and photos – thanks for sharing. I spent 6 weeks in Peru in 2002, and found that most indigenous people were very wary of having their photograph taken. I guess they had seen too many tourists since 1975!