American-born photographer Thomas Ives has worked for international news and feature magazines for over 38 years. His photo essays and images have appeared in National Geographic, Time, Geo, Stern, Newsweek, Life, Smithsonian, and many others publications. He currently lives in Vilcabamba with his Ecuadorian partner. For more about Thomas, click here, or here (en español).
A universal mise en scène is played out on the streets of Vilcabamba.
Mom was dragging me off to the elementary school where she cleaned on weekends. I found the look alike rooms, unintelligible scribbles on blackboards and smell of stale kids rather …. boring.
These last six meters to the door was our battlefield where free-spirited toddler goes mano a mano with heavy-handed pedagogy.
I’ve just turned two and that is my membership card to the Not on my watch club: the right to reject yucky food, cutesy clothes, bath time and being bossed around in general. I’m on my own, am firm of stride, self confident and I would like to do some unsupervised exploring … if you don’t mind!
Mom has called me six times, attempted bribery with caramelos twice, invoked the formal threat ”Maria de Lourdes Carmenza Riofrio que ven aquí inmediatamente!” and is on the verge of the hackneyed “OK mi amor, CIAO” with a dismissive wave of the hand. Ha! The tricky abandonment fear card can be played only once during a child’s difficult toddlerhood. Kids either ignore it or go into a wide-eyed catatonic state …. scaring the mother more than the child. I pursed my lips while scanning for an escape route.
The tension was building in both camps. I tried to make myself smaller by pressing my shadow up against the wall and going into a practiced non-focused stare of defiant invisibility.
It wasn’t working. Mom was marching towards me, my not-completely-wired brain ping-ponged between options: turn and bolt uphill while grinning, or stand my ground barking out an emphatic NO! punctuated by foot stomping and my face wrinkled into a theatrical frown.
What happened next will astound you!
A immense delivery truck stopped in the middle of the street to ask directions, effectively blocking the photographer’s view of the resolution.
— Thomas H. Ives
Image taken in Vilcabamba, 2015, at Juan Montalvo School. Copyright Thomas H. Ives 2015. Contact; firstname.lastname@example.org