In Peru’s heights and valleys sustainable Quechua populations still live very close to nature. Photographer Matt Dutile found the dignity of Quechua people and the landscapes that surround them. From pink lakes to 5000 metres heights Peru’s scenery is diverse and breathtaking. Trekking in these heights wasn’t easy but with the help of coca teas and altitude pills Matt was able to photograph the most beautiful cultures and lifestyles through the mountains of Peru.
How did you end up in Peru?
I left for Peru a month in May 2014, I was working with a trekking company there to build their catalogue and then I had some small editorial work around the Cuzco region.  So the work was a mix of everything some of it was in the city, some of it in in the sacred valley and the heights that where pretty far removed.
How are the people living in those heights?
So we had two heights, one is the Lares, which is some of an alternative to the very popular Inca trek to Machu Picchu. It is included in the circuits but is not well known – it is one of the most incredible scenery in the area. You go through these passes through the valley area and along the way you stop in these little Quechua communities and the people there are living as rural and as agrarian lifestyle you can think of. They have very little access to outside villages, walking a day or two and bringing in supplies with their donkeys or horses. They are pretty much sustainable livers and most of them are farmers who grow potatoes, corn. Then, they have Lamas and Alpacas either for wool or for meat products.
So, what’s the significance of the lamas and alpacas for the people you photographed?
That mountain in Ausangate in Quechua culture is the ancestral place for lamas and alpacas – it is where they first appeared. Actually, some people in these regions are living nomadic lifestyles and they move with the lamas and alpacas. It is some of the last remaining pastoral communities in the world. They are really dependent on these animals for food, for wool and weaving very intricate garments and clothes that they sell. It is a massive part of the culture there.
How’s the food culture?
The food is just so good. Peruvian food is very homie and comfort food, is not extravagantly crazy it is very feel good easy to approach food. Especially the pollo a la brasa, whatever they use to cook it, it’s working! It is just a quarter of a chicken, some fries and a salad – it is one of the simplest things I’ve had.
There is this mystical idea of Peru and its landscapes. How was your personal feeling of this land?
I thought it was gorgeous, the scenery around Ausangate is like nothing I have seen anywhere in the world. It is really open and its changing topography is breathtaking. So, Ausangate is the taller peak of the areas and it is about 5 hours South of Cuzco. It is crossing these high mountain passes and the scenery is always changing so from passing a small village to passing these streams, like little tiny irons due to glacier melt off. You’ve got Lamas and Alpacas that are climbing up through rocks and then, you reach open lakes and smooth boulders and a few more hours after that you are in red rocks and the bluest lake you’ve ever seen. It’s constantly changing and it is really stunning.
You started as a commercial photographer, how was the shift to travel photography?
Well it can be a melding in some circumstances and it depends on whether you are shooting for tourism piece, or resorts or editorial. Travel is really a mix of everything – you are keeping in mind the people, the culture, the details, the monuments and the famous sights. What separates the travel photographer from your everyday vacation photos is that you are really crafting your story and you have to come in with a perspective and it might change a bit when you get there and you discover things, but you are always coming with your idea you want to tell. It might change a bit as you meet people, but to some extent you are working within your vision.
So, what was your vision of Peru?
I always try to approach things from a dignity angle. I wanted to show the dignity of the culture and the tradition of the people that are there. I want someone else to be as amazed by it as I was by the really wonderful individuals you meet as you go and to find a common connection. To understand those different lifestyles of what makes Peru a unique place.
See more of Matt’s work here.