Looking back: Old & New

Looking back at the past week with a photo or a selection of my favourites shots along with my thoughts and impressions.

Buenos Aires is a funny city to walk around sometimes. While it's modern in many ways, there are so many examples of a traditional way of life that pervades its streets —its cafés, some of its buses and the overall vibe of certain neighbourhoods, where you half expect men in bowler hats to stroll under a massive billboard advertising an iPhone. This photo was a moment that really crystallised that duality for me.


A veces, Buenos Aires es una ciudad un tanto graciosa. Aunque sea moderna de muchas maneras, hay tantos ejemplos de un estilo de vida tradicional que pervade sus calles — ss cafés, algunos bondis y la vibra general de ciertos barrios, donde casi podés imaginarte hombres en bombínes caminando debajo de carteles publicitando un iPhones. Esta foto fue un momento que cristalizó esa dualidad para mí.


I was walking down the street actively not looking at my phone, no headphones, thinking how aggressive our fast-paced pedestrians can be when amidst the eddies of people snaking around each other while fixed on their screens I heard a cheery, elderly voice and saw this shoeshiner. The scene was perched on a classic street of old Palermo and they were just outside one of those traditional Buenos Aires cafés with interiors that haven't really changed since the 1940s (give or take a few TV screens). Sandwiched between the café and the corner scene, the stream of plugged-in pedestrians, some of whom did the same double take I did.


It might be my age but it's always surreal to me to see shoe-shiners: something that hails from another era and that just doesn't have a real replacement. Of course you can do it yourself or send shoes to the cobbler: but unless you want them fixed, are you really going to pay for them to polish all your pairs?


Estaba caminando, activamente no mirando mi celular (sin auriculares, sin mirar la pantalla) y pensando lo agresivos que podemos ser como peatones yendo a mil por hora cuando, entre los torbellinos de gente que serpenteaban mirando sus pantallas escuché una voz bonachón de hombre mayor y de repente vi este limpiabotas. La escena se podía ver an la esquina clásica de Coronel Díaz y Santa Fe, donde reside el viejo Café Tolón. Entre los dos emblemas tradicionales, la corriente de personas enchufadas, algunas de las cuales frenaron para mirar, como yo.


Quizás sea mi edad pero limpiabotas siempre me resultaron como de otra época pero se me ocurre que no hay un reemplazo real. Obvio que podés hacerlo vos o mandar a hacer al zapatero pero al menos que quieras arreglar esos zapatos, vas a pagar para que te lustren todos tus pares?


Then there's the human side: these two were chatting amicably. That's another traditional way: have an established rapport with vendours. I always get a fist-pump from the cashier at the greengrocers. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stay longer than what it took for me to take a couple of shots and I didn't see the shoeshiner again during the week.


To add to the serendipity, that same evening I heard the story of a millionaire-turned-shoeshiner in New Zealand on the BBC's Outlook programme (I'll link a video below, his story is quite thought-provoking).


All in all, I wished that I had opted for my leather loafers that day and not my sandals. Maybe next time.


Y después está el lado humano: estos dos estaban charlando como amigos. Ese es otro aspecto tradicional, tener una afinidad establecida, una confianza particular con vendedores. Cuando voy al almacén, siempre me saludan con nombre y un choque de manos. Lamentablemente no pude quedarme más tiempo de lo que tardé en sacarle una foto y no lo volví a ver en la semana.


Para agregar a las coincidencias, esa misma noche escuché la historia de un millonario que se volvió limpiabotas en Nueva Zelanda en la BBC (abajo dejo un video, me hizo pensar bastante).


En general, pensaba que ojalá me hubiera puesto unos zapatos de cuero ese día y no sandalias. La próxima será.












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Valentina Iricibar
Writer