Genius loci

[Genius Loci] November 2022

1 November 2022

When I went to Bolivia last August, one of my missions was to do research during the Festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña in a town called Quillacollo. The most popular events of the festival are its parades, which feature dancers and musicians wearing brightly colored “folkloric” and “indigenous” costumes.

I originally planned to take photographs of dancers and the musicians in what I imagined being an ethnographic study, but those plans fell through. Instead, I followed a lead a bit more haunting on a place called the Hill of the Skull (Cerro Calvario in Spanish) on the southern edge of Quillacollo.

On the Hill of the Skull, amautas (often referred to as sahumeras, yatiris, or shamans) officiate “pagan” ceremonies and offer pilgrims blessings during the Festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña. Though the festival is Catholic, these “pagan” rituals continue without any apparent contradiction.

The image above is a test print of some portraits I made on the Hill of the Skull. The man on the left is an amauta I met as we both wandered around the hill one evening — I to take photos and he to find a client. The man on the right is a charanguero who plays his charango for pilgrims (and for a fee) on the hill.

An Orlando-based art printer printed these 8 x 10 inch prints for me using pigment inks on archival cotton paper. When I crowdfund my book — hopefully on Kickstarter sometime next Spring — I will offer some of these limited edition prints, in addition to the book, to help generate revenue to publish the book.

Though it is too early to say for certain, I intend for the book to be a special, limited-edition object: a cloth-wrapped hardcover book with Smyth-sewn binding, a 15,000-word narrative, and scores of full-color images like the ones you see above. I already have a solid draft, but more work is needed.

If you want to get updated when the crowdfunding campaign begins, sign up here.

Now, onto what you came for:

Last month we published

※ A guest podcast interview by Bill Colegrave with Alexander Frater on Travel Writing World
※ A guest podcast interview by Bill Colegrave with Michelle Jana Chan on Travel Writing World
※ An author profile of Ryan Murdock on Travel Writing World

The roundup

Below is a collection of interesting links from around the web and published within the last month. While some of the links point to paywalled publications, most do not.

Audio & video

↪️ Rolf Potts speaks with Eddy Harris, Paul Theroux, and Lavinia Spalding on his podcast Deviate

🎧 JRNY Magazine podcast has published interviews with recent contributors Sue Watt, Jamie Lafferty, Ross Clarke, and Lee Cobaj

🪑 The Armchair Explorer podcast published two stories about the Magdalena River and about the BASE jumper Jeb Corliss

📚 Michelle Jana Chan speaks with Karen Joy Fowler and Ariana Neumann on her podcast The Wandering Book Collector.


📸 Have you seen McCurry: The Pursuit of Color?

🎺 New Orleans: the city as a subject

📷 The NYT published photo essays about Bosnia and Herzegovina and about an excavation in Greece on their World Through a Lens series (🔒)

🐑 A new generation of shepherds in the French Pyrenees

🦅 Jörg Colberg reviews the photobook Flipping the Bird

📕 Announcing the 2022 PhotoBook Awards Shortlist

Books & literature

🇱🇰 Shehan Karunatilka wins the Booker Prize!

👨‍🍳 A new, unauthorized biography of Anthony Bourdain

🍂 A discussion of autumn and Pico Iyer’s book Autumn Light

🥇 Here are the finalists for the 2022 National Book Awards

🍃 The top 10 nature memoirs, per Sarah Thomas for The Guardian

🚶‍♂️ GeoEx’s new anthology: The Best of Wanderlust by Don George

💣 Why book festivals matter, even in a time of war

🏆 Annie Ernaux wins Nobel Prize in literature for her “uncompromising” work on family, class and gender

🥈 The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2022 shortlist has been announced. Winner, on November 17

💂‍♀️ Read your way through London (🔒)

📚 The best travel books of 2022, per Wanderlust

🇲🇦 Are you going to the Marrakech English Book Festival?

👥 Jan Morris: Life from Both Sides biography review


🏖 On Deskbound Traveller, Michael Kerr notes the recent attention on biographies of Jan Morris

💰 How an upper‑class gaze in travel writing invisibilizes inequalities in cities

🦠 COVID changed travel writing. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, writes Ben Stubbs

🚶‍♂️ Beyond borders: a deep dive into the nomadic way of life, an interview with Anthony Sattin

🗺 I am a white middle class male, but that doesn’t make me an imperialist (🔒)

🏥 Lottie and Steph chat about mental health in the travel media industry in their newsletter Talking Travel Writing

🪦 Insight into the demise of the Best American Travel Writing series?


🧗‍♀️ Colin Thubron reviewed Levison Wood’s Endurance for the Times Literary Supplement

🏫 When is it smart to submit your work to a university press?

🫂 Why emotional excess is essential to writing and creativity

🗣 Travel Writer Bruce Kirby is profiled on Rolf Potts’ blog.

🇮🇩 15,000 kilometers by boat, train, car and on foot: Highlights of a caffeine-fueled journey through Indonesia

💶 Is a European digital nomad visa right for you?

🕉 How the great Zen master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh found himself and lost his self in a library epiphany

🏬 Our favorite bookstore Stanfords opens shop in Battersea Power Station and sets up crowdfunder

🐁 Has the internet reached peak clickability?

🥉 Travel Media Awards 2022 finalists

Back matter

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