Nick Ballon’s (b.1976) journalistic sensibility is at the heart of his photographic practice. He has a way of discovering those little ticks or details about a place, person or situation that others miss. Everything centres around his limitless curiosity. With each project he invests hours into research and development. Studying and hunting for nuances and irreverent details that allow him to forge a new route into a particular subject. He is interested in the moments that sit halfway between real and constructed.
For the last decade Nick’s personal work has focused exclusively on his Anglo-Bolivian heritage, exploring socio-historical ideas of identity and place, with a particular focus on the concept of ‘foreignness’ and belonging. This work began at an auspicious time for both parties. Having grown up in the U.K, Nick began to unravel his heritage through annual trips to the country, discovering and observing through the people and communities he encountered. The work has started to build a collective narrative of a country often forgotten. ‘Armada’ is part of his most recent ongoing project ‘The Bitter Sea’, which looks at land-locked Bolivia, and its painful longing to reclaim back its sea lost in a war to Chile over 129 years ago.
by Gem Fletcher
The routine of the sailors at San Pedro de Tiquina is much like that of any navy around the world. They rise early for the morning’s drill – marching in parade formation or doing physical exercises, depending on the day – before a few hours of classroom instruction. Then they go out on to the water. “Sometimes we do an operation,” says Maria Isabel Mansilla, a 25-year-old instructor with the base’s scuba-diving team, “an amphibious assault or a reconnaissance mission.”
On other days, Mansilla’s unit might be set a more mundane, or sombre, task-hoisting a tree trunk out of the water or searching the shallows for the body of a missing person. But the naval recruits here are unusual: their country is landlocked. Bolivia lost its only coastal territory – the arid Atacama region abutting the Pacific Ocean – in a war with Chile more than 130 years ago. As a result, Bolivia’s navy, whose modern incarnation dates back to 1966, is conned to searching the country’s jungle waterways for drug trackers and smugglers; or, in the case of San Pedro de Tiquina, keeping watch over Lake Titicaca, 3,800 meters above sea level. The Centre for High-Altitude Scuba-Diving (CIBA) at the base is the highest in the world.’
by Laurence Blair on Daily Life in Bolivia’s Landlocked Navy
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