In many places, when man assumes his archetypal role as builder, he acts as sculptor, taking the raw form, the earth, and shaping it to his needs, nearly unrecognizable in its final state. For the people of Lima, their relationship with the earth is fundamentally different. They don’t sculpt the land; the earth remains visible if not nearly unaltered despite their development. Whereas the people of developed nations affect the form and therefore identity of the land, the people of Lima quite literally merely scratch the surface—their relationship to the ground is not one of dominance, but acquiescence. It is only in two dimensions that they can affect the land. They conform to the surface. Their relationship is inverse—it is the earth’s will which is primary. In this way, they do not sculpt but can only paint the landscape, their presence forming a mere translucent film over the land’s topography.

I am Peruvian by blood and birth, but I’ve grown up an American. In the U.S. and in most places, I feel like I am in a city, region, or nation—those intangible creations of people. But in Lima, I felt not like I was in a city, in Peru, or even in South America, but atop the Earth.

Carlos Jiménez Cahua studied chemistry and visual arts at Princeton University. Jiménez Cahua recently had his first solo show in New York at Anastasia Photo. His work has been reviewed by The New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal, and will be on display later this year at the Princeton University Art Museum in an exhibition entitled Emmet Gowin: A Collective Portrait, marking the retirement of his former teacher.

See also: Built Green: An Interview with Neil Chambers

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