Leave me alone.
How such a small town leave such a strong impression on one's self-awareness as a photographer — a guest in another world.
Outsiders are not unwelcome, but the indigenous community of Iruya does not strive to be a tourist destination either. It is a place that can make a photographer suddenly feel like an intruder. Leaning into this sensation that my camera was intrusive through body language and interactions, I turned my lens to the mountains and their unwavering, overwhelming presence. But the camera’s inability to truly capture the magnitude of what’s in front of it became the next challenge. It was almost as though neither the people nor the landscape were ready to be photographed, begging to be left in peace. While this made me reluctant to post photos of Iruya, capturing the town from above attempts to maintain the respectful distance and tell its story through its mountains.
From above, Iruya seems like a tiny speck on the map, yet it is this delicacy which to me, gives it its autonomous and relentless power. Entirely swallowed by cliffs that feel like endless walls touching the sky from every angle with stoic colors and rock formations, it was only found and built in the 15th century and continues to survive as an ecosystem being so geographically and culturally secluded.
With just over 1,000 inhabitants, the nearest town is about 3-4 hours away by bus on a bumpy road that closes during heavy rainfall. At over 9,000 feet (almost 3,000 meters) altitude, Iruya is an indigenous Kolla community with Incan origins mixed with Hispanic culture — the first aboriginal settlers arrived in the mid-1600’s and its main church was built in 1690. Technically in the northern province of Salta, it can only be reached by a road from the Jujuy province.