These Pictures Are Worth $1,000



A few weeks ago, I scrambled off of a bus in Riobamba, Ecuador, panicking, ready to throw up. My camera was gone. My camera was gone and I knew that it wasn’t just me being clumsy.  That it wasn’t just that I stowed it in another bag for some reason or another.

The water bottle is what gave it away. My camera was gone and in its place was a ¾-full bottle of water, placed in the main compartment, where my camera body should have been. I certainly would not have put a bottle of water in my camera bag. My lenses were gone, too. My mind raced from Is it me? Am I that clumsy? Did I put my camera in my other bag? … to … Who was it? When did it happen? Where’s that woman and her child who we were talking with for the last hour? Was it them? … And back to… Maybe it really was me. Maybe I left it somewhere. Could that be possible? Maybe I put it in my other bag…Eventually, after checking both of my bags more times than I can remember, clawing around underneath the bus seats and on the shelf above where we were, I was sitting on the pavement outside of the bus at the depot in Riobamba, a mess. A small crowd had gathered; probably due to my heavy breathing, red eyes, tear-streaked cheeks, and look of total defeat. I looked at each of their faces as they gathered nearer. My mouth dry, I tried to hastily explain to the first few people what had happened, hoping that they would somehow procure the camera from their bag and we would all smile and laugh as we realized what a silly mistake had happened. But I just sat there, wallowing in misunderstanding, flashing back in my mind to the various places we had been in past few hours.

Two days previous, my boyfriend and I had landed in Quito, Ecuador, with an itinerary I’d planned full of the most exciting and incredible things – mountain biking down Ecuador’s tallest peak, staying with a Quechua family in the rainforest, exploring rural communities where electricity was a luxury, eating guinea pigs and worms, driving up a volcano and hiking down into its caldera – I could hardly contain my excitement. As an aspiring travel & culture photographer, this was the itinerary of a lifetime. First on our list was exploring a local market and some of the surrounding town. I captured a day’s worth of images, took the memory card out, and popped in a fresh one. 24 hours and 10 GB of frames later, the camera was gone and so was its memory card, brimming with stories that would never be told. My insurance policy covered the $3,000 theft, but with a $500 filing fee and a $500 deductible, the theft was still a blow.

As for the thief, I can only hope that he’s able to pay off whatever debts he might have had prior to getting hold of my camera. Or perhaps he’s enjoying his first month in recent memory with a full belly. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s actually enjoying photography. As I look forward to my future of travel and the key role that photography will always play within that sphere, I think that this whole incident is rather meaningless in the end. There will be more trips, more exposures, and more stories to be told.

So, I end by asking you to enjoy the following pictures. They’re the only ones that survived the theft. They’re worth $1,000 and one heartache that I’ll never forget.

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  1. Angela Carrillo says:

    Awww I can’t believe that happened to you Lara, and I’m sorry it did and in my country. You’re pictures are beautiful all of them! You’re so talented I’m glad we met you and that Ecuador is also something that coincidentally we share a love for.

    • Lara Stephenson says:

      Aw, thanks, Angie! And it’s okay, it could have happened anywhere! There are bad apples all over the world — it doesn’t minimize my love for beautiful Ecuador any more…I already can’t wait for my next visit there 🙂 And YES, I’m so glad we met, too! <3 You guys are the best.

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