Soon, a band of four photographers and filmmakers will embark on a van life expedition through Mexico, Central and South America to capture images of the kinds of people and places that are usually passed up by travelers, with the goal of giving something back to the communities they document. Naturally, the whole trip is social, Internet social, so they’re growing their network now in order to share the good work they do on the road. They’re fixing up their van to be a mobile print studio as well as a home and this all sounded like too good a journey to ignore, so we got in touch for details.
How did this voyage to Latin America come about?
Growing up, I [Aidan Lynn-Klimenko] spent some time living in Ecuador, and have gone back to travel and photograph a handful of times, but never felt like I was able to reconnect culturally in the same was as when I lived down there. I bought the van because I think it will help unbind us from ‘hostel-life’ and bus schedules. It will put us on a different path and allow us to find ourselves in places and with people most travelers pass by when going from one big city to the next.
Tell me a little about each Vanajero and his/her work up to this point.
We are four photographers and filmmakers who met while studying in Bozeman, Montana. We are all from different places — Minnesota, Montana, Alaska, and New Jersey. We all admired each other’s work and fed off each other creatively, but more importantly — we’re are all close friends.
I’m Aidan Lynn-Klimenko, and I am a 24-year-old photographer stuck in the old days, shooting on film. I graduated with a degree in filmmaking, and a minor in photography. I’m in that phase where I photograph everything and everyone around me but am trying to focus my style and subject matter to find more consistency.
Joel Martin is a filmmaker from Fairbanks, Alaska. During his time in the School of Film and Photography at Montana State University, Joel directed and edited many films and won numerous awards from the department for his storytelling skills. Joel now works for CHISEL Industries a production agency in Bozeman, and has edited videos for Virgin Atlantic Airlines, Mystery Ranch Backpacks, and other exciting brands. Having spent most of his life in frigid places, Joel could not be happier to be shaking that up a bit and exploring tropical paradises.
Madison Perrins is a photographer from Bozeman. Madison’s photographic work has garnered various grants, scholarships, and awards. Her most recent accomplishment was winning an extremely competitive scholarship from the AIGA Worldstudio/Alliance for Young Photographers. As a result, Madison was flown to Manhattan to be there for the opening reception of a show featuring her photographs in spring 2013. Her images have been published in two textbooks, and have won a handful of prizes in local exhibitions.
Lastly, Parker Hilton is a photographer from Sea Bright, New Jersey. After Graduating from Montana State University he went on to assist and freelance in multiple studios in New York City working on sets for Macys.com, Victoria Secret, and the NFL. His work has been featured in multiple exhibitions and shows including Photographer’s Forum Magazine’s Best of Photography 2012.
Have you worked together on projects before?
We have, in different combinations throughout school, but never all four of together. We all have such different styles and strengths, which I think is something that will make this trip a huge learning experience. We are going to be living and working so closely together, we’ll be able to learn from each other and find inspiration in one another’s work.
How long will you be traveling together?
We have no set plan for anything, that’s the beauty of traveling in the van. We’ll be all together for at least six months, but beyond that, we don’t know. I am not planning to come back anytime soon; I’ll go for as long as I can, or as long as the van will let me.
So you’re actually driving to Latin America. What kind of rig is it?
It’s a 1985 VW Vanagon Westfalia camper. They made them with full kitchens inside but we opted for the extra space instead of the kitchen. It sleeps four adults, but it’ll be tight, so we thought that any extra space would be welcomed. She’s old, but in great shape and has plenty of life in her.
What did you do to prepare the van for the journey? And to prepare yourselves for the journey?
That’s where we are right now: Prep Mode. We will be replacing the engine with either a Subaru or beefed up VW, replacing the exhaust, suspension, coolant lines, pumps… pretty much everything. The van is 29 years old, and we’re going to find ourselves on some rough roads. Also, parts are harder to find down there for mid 80’s German VWs, so we want to address all that we can while we have access here in the States. GoWesty has been kind enough to sponsor us, and is helping to get us ready. We couldn’t be doing it without them, or if we did we would be breaking down a lot more!
What’s one thing you’re most nervous about? Most looking forward to?
Probably theft. I’ve had equipment stolen every single time traveling in South America, and I’m sure we’ll have stuff stolen on this trip. We just have to prepare for it and make sure that when it happens, the damage is minimal. At the same time though, it’s the adventure that we’re excited about, and risk is just a part of it. We will be at the mercy of the road, for better or worse. We’re looking forward to that, and being on the beach. We’re over this winter thing.
The crew has been accepted into this month’s Kind Snack giveaway and needs as many votes as they can get in order to win. There is $10,000 on the line, which would get a lot of photos into a lot of hands. Everyone gets three additional votes by sharing on Facebook, Twitter and email. Vote here:
Follow the Vanajeros’ journey online in any of these places: