About one month before I arrived to Lima, an El Comercio photographer, Luis Choy, was killed–a murder that still remains unsolved. Throughout my time here, I have been able to construct an idea of who he was through the stories I have heard and the pictures I have seen. And, what I imagine is that he was not only a unique journalist who had a very special approach to photography but also a loving father and a friend that could always make you smile.
Over the years, Choy traveled to Qoyllur Riti several times to photograph portraits of those who make the festival such a rich experience. Set against a black background with their faces forward and their stance strong, the portraits are powerful, demanding attention and respect. What is most spectacular and touching about Choy’s project is that he held his exhibit, “Portraits of Faith,” not in Lima, but in the village of Mahuayani where the pilgrimage begins. That is to say, he took the portraits back to the people.
Though my experience in Qoyllur Riti was extremely difficult because of the altitude and harsh climate, I feel really blessed to have witnessed a fellow photographer and friend, Richard Hirano, donate the portraits Choy had photographed to the church. Richard, who had traveled to Qoyllur Riti two times with Choy, returned a third time to pay homage to one of his greatest friends. I am grateful to have been a part of such a special moment and I greatly admire Richard’s strength and devotion. Choy’s portraits will remain in the church, in the valley, among the mountains. In the years that follow, I am certain that people will pay homage to the portraits and the photographer they represent. I myself plan to.