This past January, I returned to Guatemala for the first time since I was a little boy. Over the course of several weeks, I shot a series of photos that told the unique story of my parents’ chance meeting on a bus in the 1970s.
My family’s story is unique: my parents met on a bus traveling from Guatemala City to Panajachel in 1977. The months and years that followed were well documented through film photographs and letters. Though they married and began a family in Canada, Guatemala continued to be a fundamental part of their – and later my and my siblings’ – lives, as we would return to visit once or twice a year.
Late in 2013, I went to visit my parents at their home in Montreal. Flipping through a couple of old photo albums, I discovered images from their first meetings and journeys in Guatemala more than 30 years prior. My curiosity was more than piqued. I studied the photos carefully and wondered if I could somehow recreate them over the course of an upcoming month-long trip to Guatemala.
I brought roughly 50 photos to Guatemala with me; they showed my parents in various settings and my goal was to recreate each one. I encountered numerous unexpected road blocks. Many locations no longer existed or were completely unrecognizable. Others were situated on what is now private property and could not be accessed. Still others required multiple visits in search of an elusive angle or vista. The process was difficult, confusing, and exhausting… but extremely rewarding.
The photos contained in this post are some of my favorites from the project. The entire series of photos, which I featured on my Instagram page, was titled ‘Volver a Guatemala,’ a reference to the Spanish love song ‘Volver, Volver.’ This series serves as a reminder that we can bring the past to life through photographs and that there is great power in telling old stories. They bring a continuity to our lives, and suggest that there will always be a future to the story.
Zach is the son of a travel-writing father and a wanderlust mother who met on a bus in Guatemala. He grew up following his father through Central America. Most recently, he spent three years based in both Beijing and Hong Kong, which allowed him to explore the lands of Australasia.
A polyglot, Zach considers language to be travel’s greatest sidekick and is always eager to use language as a means to immerse himself in a new culture. As a photographer, he has worked with both professionals and amateurs in many corners of the globe.