In October, I had the incredible privilege to travel to Ecuador as a humanitarian photographer documenting the work of an international non-profit and the life of the people. The bulk of our time was spent in the capital city. Quito is high up in the Andes mountains, over nine-thousand feet above sea level. This was my first time in Ecuador and it definitely exceeded my expectations. What a beautiful country! Ecuador is incredibly diverse with mountains, beaches, expansive deserts and lush jungles. With Quito being a large city of over 2.6 million people, we had a wide range of cultural expressions to capture.
For this photography journey, I joined up with a group of donors and artists from across the United States on a six-day tour of Ecuador. The other photographer is a good friend of mine Jeff Purganan and journalist friend Alicia McClintic. We gathered in order to both document and become educated about a church planting NGO affiliated with the Nazarene Church. This NGO builds long-term, sustainable communities of faith throughout South America including: Ecuador, Peru and Argentina, to name a few (You can read more about their work, here.)
It was a unique experience exploring the diverse population and climate. We drove past volcanoes and rushing rivers, impoverished villages and booming cities, people with hope and those in despair. One of the main cities we visited is called Manta. It’s one of the most popular beach towns in Ecuador and the gateway for people visiting the Galapagos Islands. In April 2016, Manta was hit with 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed hundreds, destroyed buildings and bridges, and displaced thousands of people.
In October, the Tarqui neighborhood was still in shambles and being rebuilt from the ground up. Dirt lots were full of tents that housed displaced families – communities were slowly rebuilding with the words “Tarqui Se Levanta” painted over the walls which means, “Tarqui Will Rise.”
Seeing the new church plant in Manta full of so much excitement and joy was incredibly refreshing. The light that these missionaries bring to their community is contagious and people have been responding each day. There is something new springing up in Manta and I’m grateful I had the chance to document just a small piece of the story of this city’s transformation.
The contrast between natural disaster and natural beauty, sorrow and breakthrough, vibrant colors and dark places… these opposites continued to ring true for me on this trip. You might notice throughout my images below that some resemble vibrant joy and others are dark and dismal. It was both challenging and beautiful to see how these conflicting elements can exist in tandem with each other. The Ecuadorian people know this feeling very well. For them, it is in the falling and then the rising, that stronger hope and brighter days spring forth.