The Vanajeros are a group of four professional photographers and filmmakers based in Bozeman, Montana who have decided to take a bit of a wild ride. They have come together to use their talents literally across the country, as they take free portraits for people from Montana all the way to Ecuador. Three months in a VW van-turned-mobile-photography-studio will be an adventure to say the least, and most of all will make a difference in the lives of everyone they encounter.
We asked the Vanajeros about their trip and how we can support them. Here’s what they said:
What inspired this trip?
Aidan brought us all together with a idea he had for this VW Vanagon: turn it into a mobile studio, and drive it from here (the Northern U.S.) all the way through Central America, eventually landing in Ecuador. Initially, we were in because it sounded like a great adventure. It was clear the trip was going to be very meaningful for each of us. But as it stood, the trip was just for personal gain. That wasn’t quite enough for us; we wanted to somehow find a way to give back to these cultures and people that would be sharing so much with us. Then we remembered working with Help-Portrait at MSU, and we got into the idea of putting photographs into people’s hands.
Why do you think portraits are so impactful?
The portrait is something that everyone appreciates. Whether it’s of your grandmother, best friend, or your family, portraits are tokens of recollection. Memories blur and fade away as time passes, and photographs are tools we use to keep those moments or people close to us. However, most of our lives have become over saturated with portraits of our friends, our families and ourselves. The digital era has made it all to easy for many of us to forget how valuable these photographs can be. By providing tangible photographs to people who don’t have the privilege of having a portrait made of themselves or their family, we are both sharing these precious mementos and exploring the value of these images beyond a Facebook post.
What do you hope the people you photograph get out of this experience?
Really I think all of us just want to give something back to the people that allow us to photograph them. The portraits to us are a gesture to show our appreciation. We want to really embrace the idea of a cultural exchange and want the portraits to mean as much to the people being photographed, as they will for us.
Why Ecuador? Where will you stop along the way?
Aidan has a bit of history in Ecuador and the list of places were planning to stop is constantly growing. If the stretch to Ecuador is successful we could very well keep driving south. It just seemed like a perfect checkpoint.
How can people support your trip?
Starting this March were taking part in Kind Snacks “Do Something Kind” campaign which is an online vote-based grant for projects, which will help us get the van to where we would like it to be for the trip. The following month we’re launching the Vanajeros official Kickstarter to raise money for equipment and supplies. People can help by spreading the word about the trip, voting, and donating. Any bit would be greatly appreciated.
Anything else we should know?
We want to thank Help-Portrait for supporting us, Pixuru online printing as well as everyone supporting us on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We really wouldn’t be able to do this project without all of you. Join us by following @Vanajeros on Instagram or Facebook.com/vanajeros on Facebook as we prepare and embark on this journey!