Jerry Nelson is an internationally recognized photojournalist. His work has appeared in a wide variety of publicaitons and news outlets including USAToday, CNN, Huffington Post, Upsurge, CBS, Dream Row, Earthwalkers and others. He photographs ...
Why did you decide to move to Buenos Aires?
October 13, 2012 I married in America an Argentine woman. A week after the wedding she had to head home (Buenos Aires) because of work and I went to Washington DC to shoot and cover the Presidential elections. Once that was in over, I packed and came south.
How was the moving process?
Actually the "moving process" was non-existent as most people interpret 'moving'. "Moving" to Argentina, for me, was just one more trip. I picked up my gear bag and duffle bag and boarded the flight.
Being married to an Argentinian citizen, how did it ease your relocation (formalities, visa, etc.)?
I didn't get any special treatment from the US government because I was married to an Argentine and Argentina didn't make any concessions for me either. I had to wait my turn "in-line" like anyone else.
What helped me more though was being kind of well-known in the Washington DC area as a photojournalist. I took my paperwork to renew my Passport to their office on a Wednesday and was able to pick it up 24 hours later.
Did you face some difficulties to adapt to your host country (language, culture, do's and don'ts)?
No, I didn't have any problem adjusting. I've traveled and worked in 51 countries so I've pretty much gotten past the cultural faux pas that can happen.
The language though is something else. I didn't speak a word of Spanish when I arrived, well, other than "que pasa" which EVERYONE on the street in America knows. I haven't focused on learning Spanish... just picking up words and phrases here and there as I need them.
What surprised you the most in Buenos Aires?
How much Argentina is like America was 50 years ago. There's still street sweepers!! In the barrio, Belgrano, where Ale and I live it's very much like living in the Bronx in the 60s. There's a neighborhood butcher, a neighborhood baker and so on. You can walk down Cabilldo (the main avenue through this part of town) and shop owners are busy putting up their stock on the sidewalk in front of their story and you'll always get a "Buenos Dias" from the ones that you know. Anyone that is familiar with 1960s America is familiar with Buenos Aires in 2014.
Is it easy to meet new people in Buenos Aires?
Oh yes, it's very easy to meet people, but not just in Buenos Aires... all over the world. It really boils down to how you 'present' yourself. If you come across as an arrogant American, people will be put off by that and meeting people will be harder.
But if you just try to fit in and understand that this is THEIR country, people are open to meeting and becoming friendly. Their curiosity about America is as great as your curiosity about Argentina so, again, if you lose the attitude and don't come across as a boastful American, you'll do great.
Your activity (photojournalism) is based in Buenos Aires: what are the formalities to work as a freelance in the country? How was it at first?
There really are no 'formalities' as such to work as a freelancer in Argentina - just many challenges. Argentina can be a difficult place for freelancers to work. While photojournalists are more respected here than in America - in America everyone with a camera thinks they're a photographer - Argentine publications won't hire you unless you're Argentine. There's a strong bias here among the established media outlets that if you're not native, they won't but - or even look at - your work.
I've been here 11 months and have sold ZERO work to Argentine outlets. 100% of my stuff has been sold overseas to either contacts I made before I got here or contacts that I have made since arriving. In October I had work that ran on three different continents simultaneously - but NOTHING in Argentina, ever!
Could you please share with us something you like about Buenos Aires and something you don't like?
Mmm...something I like. Do I have to pick just one thing? I like pretty much everything about Argentina. The land, the people, the food - everything is just great. You can't go into a foreign country with the attitude of "That's not how it's done in America", and expect to be happy. This IS NOT America. Just relax and take the country for what it is and allow the experience, the place to wrap itself around you instead of trying to force your ideas on it.
Something I don't like? The corrupt, inefficient government. Oh sure, everyone will say that their country is corrupt and inefficient, but here in Argentina the government has taken it to a new level and have almost created an art form of corruption.
In America, people expect public servants (mainly politicians) to basically be good people and are shocked when someone turns out to be corrupt. Here's it's reversed. Here most people expect the politicians to be corrupt and it makes news when an elected official isn't corrupt.
What do you miss the most from the US, your home country?
Hamburgers. Hamburgers and baseball. Hamburgers, baseball and being able to sit at McDonald's and eavesdrop on the conversation in the booth behind you. Winter weather in December. Ale and I went to the Christmas Eve midnight service at the Cathedral last year and it was 88 degrees - at midnight.
Can you give us an insight on what your day-to-day life looks like in Buenos Aires?
Up in the morning around six am and check the wires for any news items that might need/want an Argentine perspective. Then a glance at the local prensa (press) website for late breaking news looking for stories to shoot and write about.
Often I'll be around the apartment all day writing, processing photos and uploading, but I'll also head towards Casa Rosada (Argentine version of The White House) to see if anything is going on there.
An afternoon coffee at the corner cafe and then back to checking on stories - and writing some more before Ale gets done with work around six. She and I get caught up on each other's news over dinner and I check the wires again while she's doing the dishes. Then about 9 or so we settle in for a little television time before calling it a night.
Which advice would you give to people wishing to live in Buenos Aires?
To live in Buenos Aires? Again, leave the attitude at home. Whether you live here a week, a month, a year or longer, you are still a visitor here. Don't complain about how things are here as compared to America - if America is so great, why do you want to live somewhere else. Allow the experience of living in a foreign country wrap itself around you and learn to adapt yourself to your new country instead of demanding that your new country adapt itself to you.
Visiting Buenos Aires? Take one day to do the 'touristy thing' and then leave the brochures and travel agents behind. Get away from the postcard vistas and experience the REAL Buenos Aires and Argentina.