Ethan G. Salwen is a writer and photographer based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he moved from the United States in 2006. His current professional specialty is writing on diverse topics of photography, with a focus on the intersection of technology, creativity and business success. Photographically, his passion is documenting the cultures he encounters in his travels and in his life in Buenos Aires.
On Living Abroad
After five years in Buenos Aires and feeling more at home there every month, Ethan has no plans of living in the United States in the foreseeable future. “It’s all about the Digital Revolution,” Salwen explains. “Thanks to the Internet I am now far more connected to my network of family, friends and colleagues than I was in 2000, when I went into business for myself .” Salwen says that living abroad is still a “daily adventure” but that his adventures in discovery have become more subtle, especially now that he has learned some basic Spanish and how to navigate the bus system, the medical system, buy most foods without confusion and, most critical, to let go of his Gringo sense of Time.
We’ll stop talking about Salwen in the third person, as we is really me and I’m really not one for formalities. So in my own words, I talk about my writing here, my photography here and my education and life perspectives below:
On My Education
I studied photography for two years at the Rochester Institute of Technology, earning an associates degree in applied photography, also known as “photojournalism with a super, über nerdy curriculum.” I went on to spend four years earning my bachelor’s degree in English at New York University. My focus was on creative writing and the Classics. Later, I picked up a master’s degree in English Education from Columbia University.
Of course like everyone, my greatest education has been outside of school, where I continue to hone my skills through years of trial and error, learning write, report, edit and manage projects for various publications. Some consider me an expert in aspects of digital photography, but nowadays pretty much every one is. (Tip: Free tutorials on YouTube.) The hardest photographic lesson I have taught myself is to ignore the fear that grips me when I walk into unknown places with my camera out in the open.
On Travel and Cultural Adventures
My truest passion is travel. However, I do not have a very strict definition of travel. It certainly is not about meerly covering ground, although that is often exciting. To me, travel is more about satisfying my curiosity about a wide range of cultural ideas as well as pushing my own comfort level.
Travel is about exploring, which is really what I wanted to be when I grew up: an adventuring explorer. I was thinking along the lines of becoming someone like the kick-ass, unstoppable Norwegian Rauld Amundson, who was the first to reach the South Pole in 1912, or the shy but unflappable Neil Armstrong, who was the first to the Moon in 1969.
At some point in my teenage years I realized that the so-called Golden Age of exploration had passed long before I was born. It was a major bummer to find out all the proverbial blank spots on the map had already been filled in. I got over my dejection by realizing that my blank spots on my personal map could never be filled in. Even if I make it to the South Pole and the Moon, there will be much more to discover.
On My Humanist Perspective
In case you must know, to all of the big, standard questions about belief systems, religion, politics and so on, my answer is: Humanist. What other way is there to go? To offer a sense of what the humanist perspective is all about, I share a line from one of the novels by the late, great writer and humanist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Into the mouth of his character Mr. Rosewater, he puts these words:
“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”
– Ethan G. Salwen