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Red Gold

The Creative Process of Jhoss Marulanda.

Jhoss is a Media Communicator from the University of Antioquia (Colombia). He has worked in television and media content generation for ten years, and does photographic projects. He is sharing with us his photography work "Red Gold”, about the work of coffee pickers in his native country.

Jhoss: 'Coffee is not only part of the landscape of Colombia, but also its flavours, its people, its identity. The link between Colombians and this grain is so deep that there is are very close social relationships between collectors, businessmen, and consumers, lovers of its flavour'.

'Without a doubt, coffee pickers are the most important people in this industry, because they understand the value of it better than anyone. Red coffee is collected to bring money home and, at the same time, to keep alive a tradition almost as old as Colombia itself. They, the gatherers, the rural people, have left the cities to spend a lifetime collecting this red gold for a world thirsty for coffee'.

I made this photographic series while I was making an advertising video about the export of Colombian coffee. For this project there were five people: two camera men, two producers and an assistant, and while I was working I realised the important role that the gatherers play, and I started taking these photographs.

To do our work we traveled to Atánquez and Fredonia. In Atánquez lives the indigenous community of the Kankuamo, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in the Department of Cesar.

Kankuamo's work collecting coffee, sugar cane, banana, avocado, mango but what they produce the most is panela and coffee.

When I arrived in the town of Atánquez, it was very nice to meet the indigenous culture. They still have many of their traditions and there were some restrictions when taking pictures out of respect for their rituals. There are families who have been collecting coffee for generations.

We also went to the San Cayetano farm in Fredonia, a company that produces coffee on a large scale, and is located an hour and a half from Medellin. They are the pioneers of Antioquia’s coffee, and they have large hectares of land as we can see in the following photo:

The coffee peakers work in the morning and at noon carry their bags to be weighed to know how many kilos each has collected. So, they are paid depending on this. The more bags you collect, the more pay you will have.

Juan José Ibarra is a collector on San Cayetano’s farm. "Coffee to me means many things, it means my own life because I have lived from coffee for many years and my family too. We must not let the coffee tradition die because many lives depend on it, not only our lives as collectors. It is also important for many more people”.

The collectors speak highly of the coffee bean, they like to know that their work brings happiness to many people. They have a lot of respect for coffee, because it is their livelihood that gives them food.

In this photo we can see the collectors waiting for their bags to be weighed.

It is important that the grain that is collected is always red, as this is one of the requirements that demonstrate the quality of the product.

The indigenous community of the Kankuamos produces their own coffee, and they sell it in Valledupar, the closest city. They work, sell and distribute everything among their population.

They also participate in several national coffee contests, and are part of the Colombian Coffee The Growers Federation is in charge of buying their coffee and exporting it to other countries.

The collectors speak highly of the coffee bean, they like to know that their work brings happiness to many people. They have a lot of respect for coffee, because it is their livelihood that gives them food.

When I arrived in Atánquez for first time, one of the things that caught my attention the most was seeing how people had the coffee bean outside drying in under the sun outside.

Colombia really has a great coffee tradition that runs throughout the country.

I have visited many coffee points, and I have always found that all the communities that work the coffee bean treat this fruit with much love, it is their source of work, it is the field, it is life.

For me the most important thing is the collector's work, because they are the ones who spend most of their time between coffee crops, in the field.

In this photo we can see Iván, Kankuamo indigenous, coffee collector in Chemesquemena. Once they collect the grain, they take it to Atánquez to roast it.

To take my photos I work with a Canon 7D and a 6D camera. Sometimes I use a flex. For the editing of my photos I usually work with Lightroom. My friend Edinson Arroyo helped me with the selection of these photos, since they were published in Monocromo magazine, here in Colombia.

Well, for the students, the best advice I can give you is not to be afraid to photograph, and to face your own projects. Sometimes you feel the fear of not knowing if you are capable of doing something, but you have to take risks to win. Lose your shyness.


English correction: Rebecca Brown.

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