//Ad libs: How they lived

Friday, March 31, 2006

How they lived

I admit I hadn't heard of the photographer Manuel Gomez Miralles before I wrote this week's cover story. Absolutely my loss.

Quite the trailblazer, he was. Miralles (1886-1965) was among the first professional photographers in Costa Rica, says Alejandra Chaverri, who's restoring his work.

For years, his home base was his studio in the capital city of San Jose. But he seemed to be everywhere in the early 1900s, shooting elegant buildings, child coffee-pickers, oxcarts, chicken-sellers, jungles, students in school uniforms.

You feel as though he's tried to capture every slice of daily life in the urban and rural landscapes of Costa Rica, from natives of the Talamanca area toting hemp to brassed-up soldiers in the city of Heredia to milkmen with their gleaming metal cans.

Armed with his camera, he also joined the ranks of the press, covering political campaigns and the 1910 earthquake in the city of Cartago, a disaster that killed 1,750 people.

It must be something to know you are leaving behind not only images of great beauty but documents that will soon become historic -- future people will look to them to see how you and your compatriots lived.

Pictured: Manuel Gomez Miralles, captured in 1924 by an unknown photographer.