Buenos Aires From a Different Point of View

Nothing against the fleet of bright red double-decker sightseeing buses barreling at full speed around Plaza Congreso – but you’re unlikely to experience much of the charm of Buenos Aires when you’re listening to generic tourist information through a headphone set. Discover the allure of the Argentine capital with an alternative sightseeing option, from an ‘iPhoneography’ class to tours focused on architecture and street art.

Self-portrait in Mercado de Pulgas

Self-portrait in Mercado de Pulgas – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

‘There’s no magic at the tourist sites,’ says Jocelyn Mandryk, photographer and co-founder of Foto Ruta, a small outfit offering urban photo experiences in Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile. ‘Not usually, at least – tourists go to Plaza de Mayo with their cameras and expect to feel something,’ she says. ‘But the magic of this city is in the back streets, the little-known pasillos, old buildings and markets.’

And that’s exactly where she takes travelers on Foto Ruta excursions, whether it be first-time visitors looking to discover some of the city’s mystique or professional photographers seeking access to abandoned factories and off-the-beaten-path spaces.

Crosswalk, Palermo Hollywood

Crosswalk, Palermo Hollywood – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

This week, I tried out one of Foto Ruta’s freshest offerings, the half-day iPhoneography tour. Our group of four met Mandryk at Decata, a picturesque café in Palermo Hollywood, for a mini-lesson on how to harness the technology of our everyday devices to capture fine details and inspired street scenes. After downloading the recommended apps and going over some picture-taking basics, we’re off to use our newfound tools at the Mercado de Pulgas ­– the famous old antique market jam-packed with glamorous old mirrors, wooden chairs and vintage telephones – and Gorriti street, where a stylish parade of cyclists roll by sidewalk café tables, old houses, colorful street murals and hipster boutiques.

Girls crossing the street, Palermo Hollywood

Girls crossing the street, Palermo Hollywood – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

Seated afterwards for a glass of wine in Bar del Gallego, we huddle over our iPhones, comparing images as Mandryk offers advice on photo editing. It’s a lovely  moment. There’s a certain excited energy ­– everyone feels creatively inspired, including, understandably, a Dutch tourist who just landed in Buenos Aires the day before. But I live here, and I walk down these streets all the time; today, I saw things a little differently. See some more of the images I took in this iPhoneography online gallery.

Morning traffic, Palermo Hollywood

Morning traffic, Palermo Hollywood – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

Foto Ruta, of course, isn’t the only organization offering active and alternative sightseeing in Buenos Aires. To see the city on two wheels, check out Urban Biking; if you’re interested in architecture, Jewish history, or literary Buenos Aires, try the excellent Eternautas. To delve into the city’s fascinating street art scene, sign up for a tour with Graffitimundo – and look for an upcoming feature on their upcoming documentary film and new gallery space here on Only in South America blog.

Foto Ruta iPhoneography tour

Foto Ruta iPhoneography tour – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

Discover the hidden corners of Buenos Aires with LAN Airlines and its affiliates, offering daily nonstop flights from Miami to Buenos Aires, plus daily connecting flights from New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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