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Oct 31, 2015 11:16 AM ET

Archived: No Dar Papaya: Photographs from Colombia 2003-2013: A beautiful book of Polaroid photographs which celebrates the beauty, diversity, and distinctive character of Colombia

iCrowdNewswire - Oct 31, 2015

We live only to discover beauty.  All else is a form of waiting.

Vivimos para descubrir la belleza.  Lo demás es una espera.

–Kahlil Gibran

Colombia is a fascinating, beautiful country with tremendous geographic and cultural diversity. Internationally, however, that is not how the country is portrayed. Before first traveling to Colombia in 2003 to photograph, friends and family in the US were concerned for my safety. My mother cried because she thought she might never see me again.

To be sure, there is an armed conflict in Colombia, now in its fifty-first year, and the illicit drug trade has had far-reaching effects on Colombian society.  Over those five decades, many thousands of people have been killed and displaced by violence. But, there’s so much more to Colombia than ubiquitous stories of violence, desperation, and misery might lead one to believe. 

 No Dar Papaya offers a different vision of Colombia, one that recognizes the beauty in the everyday.

There was no goal to create an alternative, it evolved that way because I’m not drawn to violence and misery. I’m drawn to beauty, and there is so much of it in Colombia. My response was to create these photographs, and that beauty is what I share in this book, twelve years in the making.  The book will offer an intimate experience in which to appreciate and learn more about Colombia, beyond what is in the news media: the overlooked beauty, cultural richness, and joy in the country.  You’ll experience an inside view of Colombia in the pages of No Dar Papaya; you may just change your impressions of this country, its people, its cultures.


In 2004 I was invited to exhibit Royal Colombia at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Cartagena and at the Centro Colombo Americano in Medellín, as well as to teach photography in several universities. More invitations to return to Colombia followed, and I would always bring my Polaroid camera, creating photos over eleven years.

I was inspired to convey some of the beauty, culture, creativity, and uniqueness that was all around me. 

A Fulbright Fellowship in 2010 allowed me to continue work on the project. In 2013 the project was complete, and in 2014 Icono Editorial in Bogotá published the book, and there were accompanying exhibitions of No Dar Papaya in several cities in Colombia.  The work was well received and got a lot of attention from the media (please see Press section below).

Exhibitions in Medellín, Santa Marta, and Pereira
Exhibitions in Medellín, Santa Marta, and Pereira


We (many who have collaborated with me) want to share this vision of Colombia with the public in the United States to foster cross-cultural understanding between the U.S. and Latin America, and we need support to do that. It’s expensive to produce a beautiful book of photography. As is common these days with photography books, the artist has to come up with funding. Up until now, the project has been largely self-funded, which allowed me the freedom to create the work and get this far with the project. But now, in order to publish the book in the United States and share this vision of Colombia with the public here (and beyond), funds need to be raised to contribute to the cost of producing the book, which is why I am looking for funding through Kickstarter. I would be grateful for your support, and very happy to give you a beautiful book in return.

If we manage to reach our goal, it will be only a matter of weeks until the book will be available here in the US, and in time for Christmas. Any funds raised beyond the goal will allow us to expand our outreach and donate books to schools and libraries in Colombia and in the U.S.

Any pledge amount brings us closer to our goal of launching the book and sharing this vision of Colombia with the world. The way Kickstarter works is all or nothing– we must reach the goal or none of the support pledged will be received. Please click the “Back This Project” button at the top of the page and help us spread the word by sharing this page with others. Thank you!

No Dar Papaya? 

 miniatura de video del proyecto

Why Polaroid?

I love the the distinctive look of Polaroid. The nature of the camera and film requires a different, more deliberate approach to photographing than other formats I’ve worked with. It was the perfect medium for what I wanted to convey in Colombia.  Polaroid film is no longer made.  We are surrounded by digital photos and can become inured to them. For me these Polaroid photographs are less about the descriptive and more about the emotional content. I’ve never come across a body of work of this scope created with Polaroid 600 film.

 Juan Alberto Gaviria Vélez

Juan Alberto Gaviria Vélez, visionary curator from Medellín, has written the introduction to No Dar Papaya. His knowledge of both historical and contemporary art in Colombia is vast, and his commitment to using art to improve the lives of people unrivaled. He is the founder of Desearte Paz, an innovative program in Medellín which brings art and artists to schools and communities to provide opportunities to and enrich the lives of youth in the city. I have had the privilege of working with Juan Alberto on several occasions including as a volunteer instructor with Desearte Paz, and I am honored that he has written the introduction.

The Book

  • Hardcover, embossed front and spine
  • 23.5 x 30cm (9.25 x 11.8in)
  • 128 pages
  • 190 Polaroid photographs
  • In English and Spanish

Because the text is minimal (the introduction by Juan Alberto and an essay by me) we’ve been able to create an elegant design and make it bilingual, equally accessible to readers of English and Spanish.

Other Rewards


San Andrés, 2005 (please see Rewards #7 and #12)
San Andrés, 2005 (please see Rewards #7 and #12)
Medellín, 2004 (please see Reward #8)
Medellín, 2004 (please see Reward #8)
Cartagena, 2010 (please see Reward #11)
Cartagena, 2010 (please see Reward #11)
Capurganá, el Chocó, 2011 (please see Reward #10)
Capurganá, el Chocó, 2011 (please see Reward #10)


#1  Santa Claus in Bogotá Holiday Cards

Santa Claus in Bogotá holiday cards (please see Reward #1)
Santa Claus in Bogotá holiday cards (please see Reward #1)

#2  No Dar Papaya Greeting Cards

No Dar Papaya greeting cards (please see Reward #2)
No Dar Papaya greeting cards (please see Reward #2)
Complete set of 6 No Dar Papaya greeting cards (please see Reward #2)
Complete set of 6 No Dar Papaya greeting cards (please see Reward #2)


No Dar Papaya in the Colombian media

Primetime national nightly newscast on Caracol:

 miniatura de video del proyecto


 Primer Café, Canal Capital:


Mañanas con Uno, Canal Uno:


El Espectador:




The Bogotá Post (in English):


And a link to a piece about No Dar Papaya in Fototazo before the book was published in Colombia (in English):


Special thanks to Los Genuinos de Pereira for the music in the video.

Other Work

Work from a couple of projects I did in northern California, where I was born and live, can be found on these two sites:



Contact Information:

Matthew O'Brien

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