Capturing Valparaíso : A Photographer’s Paradise

The hills of Valparaíso are home to what looks like a colourful patchwork shanty town; houses painted all the colours of the rainbow cling to the hillsides, jostling for position while some look so precarious they might plummet at any minute.

Photo by Mauro Tapia
Photo by Mauro Tapia

The port town is a photographer’s paradise not because of any one great sight or attraction. It has no Eiffel Tower or particularly amazing museum. It is the town itself that draws you in, and there are endless subjects to aim your lens at.

Ascensor in Valparaiso. Photo by Galen Brown
Ascensor in Valparaiso. Photo by Galen Brown

After taking advantage of one of the cities oldest lifts, Ascensor Concepción, a creaky, wooden contraption that jolts up much quicker than you would expect, wander up Templeman street. There, you will come across a vast collection of graffiti such as a giant Salvador Allende figure painted onto a street corner and further on, an ancient VW Camper Van that has been customised with a giant, beady-eyed face. I don’t know how any museum could beat the graffiti-ridden walls of Valparaíso; some are scrawled whilst some are painstakingly, lovingly, rendered.

Once you reach the top of Templeman, cross over the road onto Avenida Alemania, a windy road that gently climbs upwards, eventually reaching La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s seaside hideaway.

On the way up you can marvel at the view across the bay, which takes in the hillsides, the bustling city, the busy port and glistening waters.

Photo by Mauro Tapia
Photo by Mauro Tapia

Take advantage of the miradores or viewpoints; Mirador Ciudad de Camogli has emerald green benches and a silver anchor and a view over the town all the way to mist-covered Viña del Mar.

You will not be able to miss the lovely imposing mural on the right hand side of the street.

Painted onto a wall in front of a house is a complete mirror image of Valparaíso; turn around and you are face to face with the real thing. The houses look like they have come straight from an Isabel Allende novel; Daughter of Fortune is set in Valparaíso in the 1840s and some of her descriptions of the town are as fitting today as they ever were.

Photo by Mauro Tapia
Photo by Mauro Tapia

Valparaíso has attracted many professional photographers who have made their home among the artists and bohemians. According to Michael Jones, a Chilean photographer based here,

“The organic growth of the town that creeps up the hillsides has always captured my imagination. The people I photograph are those from here, in their neighborhoods, going about their everyday life in that strange closeness that the hillsides forge and that the inhabitants have chosen”.

The spirit of Valparaíso will infuse your photographs with a special quality, that of the historic, messy yet ultimately beautifully unique town that is a photographer’s dream.

Valparaíso, Chile
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