Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon, to which there is no land route. One can get to the city only by boat or plane. One of the attractions of Iquitos is Belen district.
It is here where at a huge market people can purchase everything – from Chinese trinkets to illegal wild animals. Belen is not only the largest bazaar in the Amazon but also huge slums – slums in the heart of the jungle. The district of misery lies on the river Itaya and for six months is flooded with water, which is why locals call it the “Peruvian Venice”.
It is estimated that in the “floating district” there live 65,000 inhabitants, although the number is much higher. The society lives in makeshift homes on platforms and high stilts protecting them against flooding during the rainy season. Due to overcrowding, in homes, there live from two to five families with children, often in two rooms. The majority of the population lives in extreme poverty – without electricity, sewerage and drinking water. Defecation, bathing, washing and cooking in the dirty river full of garbage is commonplace for most people. Only “richer families,” that is, those whose father has a stable job, have access to electricity and clean water transported from the city. In the life-giving water float piranhas, snakes, plastic bottles, feces and other filth. The situation does not improve during the dry season, the waste and the remains of garbage wait until the next tide takes them, the dirt is everywhere! The low standard of living has led to an increase in unemployment, crime and alcoholism. Often, the only source of income is the money from illegal drug trafficking, prostitution and illegal poaching animals from the jungle. Another problem is the very low level of education or lack thereof. For half a year, schools are flooded with water, which causes their shutting down. Even when they are open, few children attend them. Firstly, it is too expensive. Buying a pen and notebook is often almost impossible, not to mention books. Secondly, often the elderly are illiterate, so they do not see the need to send their kids to school. Thirdly, 13 year-old girls are often already mothers and they do not care about it. Existence in the district forgotten by the government carries a lot of uncertainty and anxiety, many respiratory diseases, HIV or malaria as well as premature parenting, child deaths due to drowning, lack of education, hunger and overpopulation.
About Szymon Barylski
Szymon Barylski Polish photographer born in 1984, based in Ireland. Szymon is involved in documentary photography and photo essays. Photographing is a tool for exploring and learning about the world. He try to tell a story and show it directly. In his opinion, people are an inexhaustible topic and a source of inspiration. Szymon said: „When travelling, I meet people; as a result I create the image of my relation with them. The exploration of the environment where I take photos allows me to create emotional and convincing scenes.“ He thinks you cannot photograph the things you do not know well. That is why he prepare himself for each project individually, accurately, going into detail in the newspapers and on the Internet. Next he looks for an inspiration in other photographer’s photos and conversations, as a result he can create real pictures. His own narrative presented in his photos is at the same time very personal and common. Szymon thinks that a lot of people can identify themselves with his works.
Photographer wish his photos could increase individual and collective awareness about the social, political and economic need and urge people to act, be part of positive changes. [Official Website]