Luis Fabini

“Fabini could be defined as a humanist as well as a visual anthropologist who recognizes the dimensions of the human image within past and present societies. Or maybe radicalist. One who had to purge art and politics, find them a new or right principles, starts with a manifesto and a blank slate. Talking to him definitely felt like sloughing off my acquired knowledge and going to drink at pure springs, clinging to first roots, in order to send history off again in a new direction. Cultural heritage and historical memory are two elusive concepts that do not escape his own photography- the uses and customs of the land The Man who Treads Upon especially. If there are any boundaries between art and in life, this New York-based artist, wants to blur them, but he is not out to break them per se. He’s actually the opposite; conversations flow with Luis. It’s relaxed, like a siesta in the “campo”.

Marta Marszalek, Can Prey Magazine.

I was born into an Uruguayan-Peruvian diplomatic family. We often moved between the US and Europe and rarely traveled back to Latin America, so I learned from a young age to assimilate into the customs and language of our new homes. This cultural immersion would later become a determining factor in my creative journey as a photographer.

I took my first picture – of an old Indian canoe lying on a riverbank in the Peruvian jungle – when I was seven years old. I was on a road trip with my father across the Andes. A few days before the trip, he gave me my first camera-it left an indelible mark on me-.

As a young boy, I devoured the magical realism of Garcia Marquez and was captivated by Latin America’s ancient civilizations, like the Incas, Aztecs, and Yanomamis. Chronicling our travels with my camera gave me a sense of transcending the confines of time and space and bearing witness to the landscape and its history. 

In my early twenties, I hitchhiked to Cusco, following an existential desire to dive deeper into my Peruvian roots. For the next few years, I worked as a trekking guide in Southern Peru, The Atacama Desert, and along Patagonia; photographed for adventure travel companies and fashion editorials; tested the waters of film production, where I worked in every department and consequently directed documentary films and commercials.

In 2000, my reality crumbled. My father died, and my marriage ended. I was 34 years old and felt adrift. A few weeks later, I met Zen Master Moriyama Roshi and immediately became his student, personal assistant, and translator. We traveled to Zen Communities worldwide and spent time in retreats and monasteries. We observed daily practices of long-seated meditations, service in silence, and long walks in contemplative collaboration with the natural world. 

Daily life with my beloved Roshi inspired “The Life of a Zen Master” –a 3-year photographic and spiritual journey that changed my life forever.

Still, the land of my ancestors came calling again. I dug into my memories like an archeologist, excavating my earliest recollections in Uruguay, where I spent summers and winters on an estancia (ranch)— watching the sunrise and galloping across the open range with the Gauchos

The life of the Gaucho (Uruguayan cowboy) carries a mystique through which I could feel the pulse of my roots – the ritual of drinking mate, the gravitas of his statue, the rough hands and face marked by years of hard labor, and the profound silence in which he lives.

On the morning of my 38th  birthday in 2003, I went to northern Uruguay searching for the authentic Gaucho.

As I sat under a tree by the side of the dirt road to drink mate with an old gaucho, I asked him, What is the gaucho?”  After a long silence, he replied, “The gaucho is the land he treads upon.” 

This phrase would become the cornerstone of my work and guiding compass as I embarked on a ten-year journey from North to South America, photographing the different groups of “cowboys,” which resulted in the books “Gauchos” and “Cowboys of the Americas”.

“While the man on a horse looks over the land, the indigenous farmer walks it and becomes one with it.” 

During my last trip photographing “Cowboys of the Americas” in the Ecuadorian Andes,  I was riding with Guido, my guide, along indigenous farming land when he suddenly stopped and pointed out a small plot. He proudly told me that the money from the potato “harvest” would pay for his children’s schooling. It hit me then that “Harvest” would become my next project. 

Harvest is a depiction of the agricultural practices that have existed since time immemorial and resist on the outskirts of a globalized world, with each agricultural cycle as an opportunity to repeat the series of movements that define the lives of farmers and their rural communities.