We have uncovered a wealth of hidden flair in our Team of Many Talents series – from the artistic to the musical, and the truly altruistic, we are greatly enjoying celebrating the impressive array of hobbies and skills among our team members.

Mauro Cuevas: Photographer (and Guide at Awasi Atacama)

Today we turn to the visual with a journey through the lens of talented photographer, Mauro Cuevas, who forms a part of our valued team of guides at our Relais & Chateaux lodge in Northern Chile, Awasi Atacama.

Where did your love for photography start?

“My love for photography began approximately 20 years ago, when I worked for a season in Patagonia. I remember that my work schedule was great, I started to work at 7am and finished at 3pm and then I had the whole afternoon off that day and all morning until 3am the next day. This gave me the opportunity to explore and spend the night in one of the park’s mountain hostels.”

When did you get your first camera?

“One morning I was returning from one of these hostels when I suddenly found a Zenit (USSR) camera with a 27mm lens between the rocks, it was old, dirty and badly beaten, clearly it had been between the rocks for a long time. but it was beautiful and I decided to repair it, it took me a while but eventually I managed to make it work, it did not work perfectly but at least I took pictures.” 

How did you learn about photography?

“There was a guide who had some knowledge of photography and he was the one who taught me the basics to start taking photos. I learned many things simply by taking photos and making mistakes, I spent all my free time playing with my new camera and it is true what they say that practice makes perfect, I learned from both good and bad photos. At the end of April the season was over and I had no choice but to return to Santiago, it was horrible, but my new friend kept me company until eventually it stopped working some years later, I would love to have her with me, but an unfortunate event took her away. So I went from an analog camera to a digital one, but never gave up my favorite hobby.”

Tell us a little about your background? Where were you born and where did you grow up?

“I was born in May 1972 in Santiago de Chile, we lived in a good neighborhood for a long time until my parents got divorced, my mother saw that our future in Chile would be difficult so she decided to immigrate to the USA when I was 12 years old. At 16 my mother finally was able to take us with her to Las Vegas, USA, and life was good again, I can’t tell you much about it because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas haha!”

What brought you back to Chile?

“Eventually, at 22 I returned to Chile to visit my grandparents and ended up staying and living with my father. My mother was not happy, but she said she wanted me to be happy and if I wanted to stay in Chile I could… but ‘you better start a career and finish it young man!'”

What did you study?

“I studied foreign trade engineering, but by the time I graduated the Asian Crisis had struck so I couldn’t find a job in foreign trade for many months, eventually I decide to take a paid vacation and I got a job as a guide in Patagonia, and that is when I started taking pictures…”

Did you decide to return to your degree?

“When the tourist season was over, the Asian crisis was still going on, so it was hard to find a job. Until I found a job as a translator for an engineering project in Punta Arenas, it was full of German engineers who needed to communicate with the Chilean workers. It was the lucky shot I was looking for, I was making good money and having a great time for quite a while, until I had the brilliant idea of getting married…”

How did married life suit you?

“Short story, there I stopped having fun and she took all my money!” 

Rising again…

“This fall gave me the opportunity to recreate the beautiful memories I had from my stay in Torres del Paine, but this time in the driest desert in the world. And so it was that I arrived in San Pedro de Atacama in September 2015. I worked at a couple of different places, and was a freelance guide for a while…”

How long have you been with Awasi?

“I have been with Awasi about a year and half – before I worked a long time as a freelance guide. I liked the freedom of being able to decide when I would work. I was mainly working for hotels that do group tours in vans so I was impressed when I started with Awasi as the experience for a guide is very different – everything is personalised and based around the rhythm of each guest. In other words, you have complete freedom to create the best itinerary for your guests. At other places I would be ticked off for talking too much with the guests, here at Awasi they thank me for doing just that – it doesn’t get any better than that!”

What are the highlights of guiding in Atacama for you?

“The highlights of guiding in Atacama are the diversity of landscapes in a relative small area, were you can find salt flats, wetlands, huge mountains, a variety of wildlife, which although difficult to see, can be achieved by visiting specific places at appropriate times.” 

Does private guiding make a big difference to the experience you can have in the Atacama Desert?

“The area offers many different activities that can be appreciated much better in small groups, it is a place to be in contact with the immensity of nature – in this sense it is a fantastic place for photography.”

Mauro Cuevas is a guide at Awasi Atacama, our Relais & Chateaux hotel in Northern Chile’s Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert is famous for having some of the world’s clearest skies. We have a wonderful star gazing experience which is a highlight for many of our guests.

Rather than looking at the stars themselves, the ancient custom among the people of the Atacama Desert was to create shapes from the black shapes between the stars.

Each room at all three Awasi lodges is allocated a private guide and 4×4 vehicle. We believe that your excursions should be designed for you around your personal interests and needs.

A special thanks to Mauro for sharing his beautiful images (and for his interview – we hope it brought a smile to your face, as it did to ours!). You can see more of Mauro’s photographs on his instagram account here.