El Último Hielero: Week 1

We just finished shooting the first week of what will be the short documentary, El Último Hielero (The Last Ice Merchant). For a preview of what the ice merchant does, see this post. Rodrigo and I pitched tents in Cuatro Esquinas, the small, rural town where Baltazar, the ice merchant, lives so that we can live close to the families and be around all day to shoot, without wasting time traveling to and fro.

We started the shoot with Baltazar’s brother, Gregorio, who is an ex-ice merchant. Gregorio used to haul the huge blocks of ice down from the glacier on Chimborazo on the backs of mules and make his own ice cream from basic ingredients like fruit and sugar, but he stopped when sales for traditional glacial ice cream declined and supplies grew too expensive. Now he sells factory-made ice cream. However, Gregorio agreed to show us how he used to make the ice cream. We followed Gregorio for two days as he travelled to Riobamba to buy ingredients and demonstrate the making of ice cream from blocks of ice.

Shooting on a Condor bus en route to Riobamba.

Shooting on a Condor bus en route to Riobamba.

Video Still: On a bus to Riobamba.

Video Still: On a bus to Riobamba.

The first day’s shoot following Gregorio began on the Condor Bus, the main mode of transportation from Cuatro Esquinas to Riobamba. Music blasts from the speakers, and different buses are decorated with different color schemes; the décor of the Condor Bus included swanky red upholstery and curtains that could come straight from a bordello.

The ice factory in Riobamba.

The ice factory in Riobamba.

Gregorio often buys blocks of ice from the ice factory, where the large blocks are frozen underneath the floorboards. The ice factory owner gave us a tour, along with a basic rundown of how the ice is made.

The produce market in Riobamba.

The produce market in Riobamba.

We then headed to the produce market where Gregorio buys blackberries to flavor the ice cream. The market is expansive with mounds of fruits and vegetables of all different shapes and colors and sizes.

Video Still: An ice cream shop in Riobamba.

Video Still: An ice cream shop in Riobamba.

Video Still: Gregorio buys ice cream cones.

Video Still: Gregorio buys ice cream cones.

And then to an ice cream shop to pick up 300 cones.

Video Still: Gregorio prepares the ice cream base.

Video Still: Gregorio prepares the ice cream base.


This is Gregorio’s old workshop. Here he processes his ingredients to make the blackberry base for the ice cream.

Gregorio cleans the ice from the factory.

Gregorio cleans the ice from the factory.

Video Still: Gregorio churns ice cream in a wooden barrel.

Video Still: Gregorio churns ice cream in a wooden barrel.

Video Still: Ice cream starts to form.

Video Still: Ice cream starts to form.

Outside, Gregorio prepares the ice, cleaning and crushing it. He then loads the crushed ice into a large wooden barrel in which a metal tube is placed with the ice cream base. By spinning the metal tube and stirring the mixture occasionally with a large metal spoon, the fruity red liquid slowly begins to freeze. Eventually the magic and delectable product emerges: blackberry ice cream!

Video Still: Gregorio and his delivery bicycle.

Video Still: Gregorio and his delivery bicycle.

Video Still: Gregorio sells his ice cream in town for 15 cents.

Video Still: Gregorio sells his ice cream in town for 15 cents.

Video Still: A man buys ice cream from Gregorio.

Video Still: A man buys ice cream from Gregorio.

Gregoria then loads the entire wooden barrel of ice and ice cream on his bicycle, and peddles about town, selling ice cream one cone at a time. He honks the horn on his bike to get the attention of passers-by.

Transferring footage at night.

Transferring footage at night.

Every night, in Cuatro Esquinas, I transfer the day’s film footage from camera to computer. Having scoured the area for adequate cables, Rodrigo was able to splice electricity to an outlet in Gregorio’s old workshop. This is where we finish every night, transferring footage by candlelight.

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Hello, Quito.

Tomorrow morning I will depart New York City en route to Quito. It’s been a whirlwind couple weeks trying to get everything ready, but my film bag is packed, my cameras are cleaned and I just picked up the last round of test slides (no more light leaks!).

Here is a picture that I return to a lot as I try to imagine what life will be like in Quito. I took this on our last day there in September, from the top of Basílica del Voto Nacional. We had to climb all the way up on stairs and then ladders, but the unobstructed view in all directions was worth it.

I’ll be updating this blog more frequently now, as I pick up where we left off on our projects. See you in Ecuador!

El Panecillo from the top of Basílica del Voto Nacional.

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Returning to Ecuador

In less than two weeks, I will be returning to Ecuador for six months to continue work on our projects. I’ll be arriving just in time to catch the premier of El Tren de los Sueños in Quito on the 26th. From there I will head directly to Huigra to continue on the search for The Major.

Along our trip in September, we were very lucky to meet a lot of kind and interesting people. I count myself as extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to photograph many of them. I’m looking forward to meeting many more people in the months to come.

Here are a few scans I’ve been working on recently and reviewing as I prepare to return to Ecuador.







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Spiders, Beards, Mountains.


Sandy and Rodrigo scout a location to recreate one of John Horgan’s photographs.

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