Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

One by one, Associated Press photographer Rodrigo Abd positioned the traditional dancers, musicians and vendors in front of an old-fashioned box camera in Peru’s Sinakara Valley as a colorful Andean festival exploded all around them.

The men, women and children were among the tens of thousands of pilgrims representing some eight nations who came to this sacred place in Quispicanchis province in Peru’s Cuzco region for the annual Snow Star Festival, shortly before this year’s Christian feast of Corpus Christi.

After their portraits were made, the subjects spoke of the beliefs and rituals they keep alive in the 21st century.

“I’m proud to be another soldier for the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i,” said 33-year-old Aldo Machaca Quispe, referring to the image of Jesus Christ venerated in the region. He sat for a portrait with his son Brandon, 6, and said he hoped to pass down the traditions to the boy.

Last year, Abd used digital equipment to photograph the three-day festival that also coincides with the reappearance of the star cluster Pleiades in the Southern Hemisphere, signaling the abundance of the harvest season.

But this year, he chose to bring his old-fashioned box camera, a primitive device built of wood and modeled on ones he saw portrait photographers using in Afghanistan while he was on assignment there in 2006.

With a lens and space for a developing lab inside, the box camera uses 19th century technology to produce luminous black-and-white images.

“The idea of making portraits with my wooden camera of the pilgrims … was beguiling,” Abd said of the project. “But once on the ground, the project also represented an enormous logistical complexity.”

Abd and two assistants, Victor Zea and Ignacio Gonzalez Vigil, used three packhorses to transport the heavy camera, its tripod, a black cloth to block light during developing, processing chemicals and a tent through near-freezing temperatures to a plain about 14,700 feet (4,500 meters) high, set amid a snowcapped mountain range beloved by the Quechua people.

Inscribed on UNESCO’S Intangible Cultural Heritage List, the Peruvian festival features a pilgrimage by local people to the sanctuary where there is a boulder with an image of Jesus Christ, known as the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i (pronounced KOL-yer REE-chee), or Snow Star in the Quechua language.

People in colorful indigenous costumes, some wearing masks, others holding harps or other musical instruments, sat still for up to two minutes as Abd made exposures, light shining through the lens onto photographic paper inside the box.

Abd produced negative prints of each picture by passing the photo paper through the developer and fixer sloshing inside the box. The negative prints were then hung with plastic clothespins to dry in the Andean air.

With each one, the process was repeated to make a positive print.

The result was a series of stunning images of people in traditional garb little known outside the Peruvian Andes.

For dancer Guido Yupaniki Cereceda, worship of the Lord through the festival “is very meaningful for the Andean world. He’s God and love for all of us.”

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Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Aldair Monchea, 15, poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Aldair, who represents the Tahuantinsuyo nation, performs in a colonial war dance known as Sarge Pusay, which plays out an acrimonious battle over land boundaries. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Bernardino Quispe, 58, poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Quispe is a musician who plays the quena, a traditional Andean flute that dates back to pre-Hispanic times. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Guido Yupanki, 19, poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Guido is a dancer representing the Tahuantinsuyo nation. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Edison Olgado, 23, poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Olgado is a dancer representing the Quispicanchis nation. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Rudy Espiriya and his 3-year-old son, Dayiro Tahuara, pose for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Espiriya and his son perform a dance called Paapuri Guayri as part of the Paucartambo nation. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Ivan Flores, 30, poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Flores represents “La Emilia,” a man dressed as a woman in order to carry kindling hidden under his skirt while dancing as part of the Tahuantinsuyo nation. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Alexio Marveli, 20, poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Marveli is dressed as the mystical character “El Auqui,” a wise old man and protector. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Roger Barrios poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Barrios is a dancer representing the Acomayo nation. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Filament Wilca, 54, and his daughter Laura Wilca, 23, pose for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. The father and daughter are violinists representing the Quispicanchis nation. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Contract musician Eulogio Quispe, 54, poses for a portrait with his Peruvian harp, in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. The Peruvian variation of the harp has no pedals. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Sebastiana Jara poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Sebastiana sells handicrafts and typical fabrics from the Cuzco region at the Snow Star festival. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Justino Quispe, 78, poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Quispe dances with the Comparsa Runa Canchi troupe. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Aldo Machaca, 33, and his son Brandon, 6, pose for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Aldo and Brandon dance as part of the Quispicanchis nation. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Nelida Soto, 21, poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Soto, who represents the Tahuantinsuyo nation, performs in a dance called “Chunchaca,” which venerates Our Lady of Mount Carmel, known locally as Mamacha Carmen. “Mamacha” is Quechua for the word “virgin.” (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Jose Carlos Cahuana, 9, dressed as a character known as Majeno, poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Majenos are based on aguardientevendors from the Majes-Arequipa region, depicted as plump, good-natured, big spenders. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Fabio Luis Calancha, 19, dressed as a half-bear, half-man creature known as an ukuku, poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Fabio represents the Tahuantinsuyo nation. Although ukukus are tricksters who play pranks on pilgrims, they also maintain order and are the only ones allowed up to the sacred Qullqip’unqu mountain’s glacier. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Jean Marco Valverde, 12, poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Jean Marco, who represents the Paruro nation, takes on the role of a soldier in his dance performances. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

Jefferson Valdivia, 22, poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Valdivia of the Quispicanchis nation is dressed as the protagonist of a dance called “Mal Genio,” or “Bad Tempered.” The dance lampoons women who do not care for housework. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Frozen in time: Photographer Rodrigo Abd captures Andean festival with old-school camera

In this June 12, 2017, photo, Porfirio Quispe, 32, poses for a portrait in the Sinakara Valley, in Peru’s Cuzco region, during the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, translated from the Quechua language as Snow Star. Porfirio dances as part of the Paruro nation. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

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