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'From the Andes to the Amazon Basin in Ecuador'

Diary of an explorer. 1939 – 1946

This publication are based on a collection of photographs, maps, sketches and other notes describing 10 expeditions Dr. Karl Theodor Goldschmid (KTG) undertook from 1939 to 1946 exploring the Amazon jungle area of Ecuador, then unknown and virtually impenetrable. These records are stored under the name Goldschmid Archive in Zurich, Switzerland together with other material from expeditions to other parts of the world at different times. 

The section of Goldschmid Archive about Ecuador was chosen for publication as a result of the close affinity that KTG always maintained with Ecuador through his professional and personal experiences. It was chosen also as a result of the impeccable preservation of the photographic materials and documentation, which facilitated the synopsis we present herewith to our readers. 

Since his days as a student, KTG was an explorer with a passion for photography; he climbed over 60 peaks in the Swiss Alps, carrying a camera with him always. Numerous large sized negatives, some of them on glass, are a testimony of this early passion.

Before beginning his assignment to Ecuador he purchased one of the most modern cameras available, the Contax II, with which he started to make colour negatives using the Kodachrome (35mm) film, newly released to the market by Kodak. In addition to this new model, he also carried in his rucksack (back pack) a 9x13 and a 4x6 camera, his tripod, a light meter, and other photographic materials.

At that time, the Kodachrome film was developed exclusively in the U.S.A. A delay of four to six weeks would be required for the actual photos to be returned to Quito. In spite of the fact that it was during the war, the delivery was always on schedule, and no film was ever lost. My father always thought of (considered) himself an amateur photographer, however his photos proved that he had a gift for capturing an image. He had a so-called  “good eye” for photography. 

The Ecuadorian Amazon region at that time was lacking infrastructure: there were no roads, plans for bridges were scarce, and construction had barely started; there were no villages of significant size. The indigenous communities consisted of original members of the ancestral tribes, joined by a few Ecuadorian and foreign settlers, and colonies of missionaries from various religious groups. Hence we considered that the expeditions and the reports written about them are of timely interest today. 

A selection of photographs, mostly colour slides - among the first ever taken in that region - have been compiled in an attempt to visually recreate the series of routes explored by KTG. 

But what value would these images have without a description of the experiences, encounters, deprivation and beauty, experienced and captured in various locations under many different circumstances. 

Presenting a very personal perspective, the Goldschmid Archive seeks to illustrate a brief insight of Ecuador during a period of transition into modern times.  

Heinrich Goldschmid