Patagonia is one of the most rugged places on earth. It is also one of the most beautiful. On my flight from Santiago, Chile to Puerto Natales, Argentina I counted nearly one hundred volcanoes and dozens of massive glaciers. Best known for the iconic Torres del Paine peaks, Patagonia is a volcanic wonderland. Everything seems super-sized.
This story needed to honor both the landscape and the traditions of the gaucho community that has survived there for centuries…a perfect challenge for my Lumix gear. Managing an estancia, or ranch, and herding livestock in this hostile environment requires a special kind of resourcefulness. The challenge was to show the grit and strength of the gauchos, but also the tenderness and loyalty they showed their families, their animals and the traditions they carried forward.
To achieve this, I focused primarily on a young gaucho named Sebastian. He was a man in his prime, one of the finest horsemen I have ever met, and clearly the next in line to run his family’s estancia. Sebastian was married and had a young daughter who began riding with him as soon as she was born. His sister is a renowned horsewoman in Argentina.
Watching Sebastian fly like the wind as he drove horses back to the ranch every morning was breathtaking. One morning, I was blessed with a beautiful sky, the perfect backdrop for a lone rider. Other mornings were overcast, which allowed me to photograph all day without harsh shadows. The sky can be a photographer’s best friend or worst enemy. An empty sky is rarely inspirational, but cloudy or stormy skies are a gift.
It was also important to capture the grace and skills of the gauchos in action. Seeing Sebastian calm a stallion as he and a partner strategically wrapped ropes to bring the horse to ground for branding was a testament to generations of knowledge. One brief struggle and the horse was down, and amazingly peaceful as the branding took place. The trust that exists between a gaucho and his horse is profound. It is what keeps both alive as they navigate the cruel terrain and extreme weather of Patagonia.
I live for the visual moments of power and of intimacy. My work as a photographer is to disappear as much as possible so that I don’t distract or intimidate the people I am photographing. This is one of the many reasons I chose the Lumix camera system. The gear is light and fast quiet and incredibly sharp…exactly what I need to capture grand scenes and precious moments.
Annie is a Global Ambassador for Lumix Cameras. One of the first women photographers to work for National Geographic, Annie has worked on dozens of magazine and book projects for National Geographic, including stories on Lawrence of Arabia, Galilee, Petra, Sydney, and Jerusalem.
In addition to her magazine work, Griffiths is deeply committed to photographing for aid organizations around the world. She is the Founder of Ripple Effect Images, a collective of photographers who document aid programs that are empowering women and girls in the developing world. In just six years, Ripple’s work has helped 26 non-profits raise over ten million dollars.
Griffiths has published 4 books, is an accomplished speaker and a regular television and radio guest. She has received awards from the National Press Photographers Association, the National Organization of Women, and the White House News Photographers Association.