Behind the Portraits of Jorge Isaac Lopez’s ‘Por Ahi Ando’

There’s something endlessly fascinating about human beings.

Panamanian photographer Jorge Isaac Lopez agrees, which is why he’s dedicated the last few years of his life to travelling the Americas, capturing sad clowns, fisherman, everyday New Yorkers, young female boxers and more, for his photographic series, Por Ahi Ando. J. Isaac says that the process of connecting with strangers both in his home country and abroad brought him to the conclusion that, “The rhythms of every city vary in incredible ways, but something that never changes—despite our race, customs or religious beliefs—is that we all share an intense desire to be heard and to be seen.” We caught up with J. Isaac to find out the stories behind some of his favourite portraits from Por Ahi Ando, below.


Oli Camarena is probably one of the most important surfers in our country right next to Gary Saavedra. He comes from a humble town in Santa Catalina, Veraguas, a distant province from our city. Even now, when he’s not surfing, he works along with his dad fishing to provide for his family.


The first time I went to California I stayed at a friend’s house in Venice Beach. I met this very sloppy guy dressed as a clown and asked him if he knew about Panama. He said he did and that he went to Bocas Del Toro, which is coincidentally one of my escapes when I’m in the city. He said he’d rather be there, and I remember thinking I’d rather be exactly where I was at that moment.


I was at a party working for a local hostel chain, snapping photos here and there, and then a couple waved me over from a distance. As I approached, they told me to take a photo and started to kiss. I could really feel the love they had for one another. I asked them if I could use the photo and one of them responded, “Put it anywhere, spread the love.”


Curundú is an area of low-income housing in Panama. Two of the buildings in the Curundú projects were involved in riots that began when some residents opposed the requirements that they had to start paying rent. The press and social media showed a completely distorted reality, making us think that everyone in Curundú was involved, when really it was a small percentage of the people. I wanted to know the real truth behind the hatred the media was spreading for the people of Curundú, so I decided to risk it and head there myself. What I found was that most of the residents were in total disagreement with the rioters, and only wanted to live a decent life and work hard to make a living. I met this builder who told me, “I’m from Curundú and everything is cool, man!” He told me that the situation in the area is vastly different from previous years, when coming in with a camera like I did would either mean getting robbed or even killed. His positivity in his situation really struck me and taught me a valuable life lesson—not everything you see on the news is an inherent truth.


Angie was 15 back when I took this picture. While I was interviewing her, she told me that her parents wouldn’t let her practice boxing because “it’s a boys sport.” I followed her the whole day to get the shot—I think it immortalises her fight to be exactly who she wants to be in this world, and her struggle against everything that oppresses her.


Casco Viejo is a world heritage site in Panama, and is without a doubt one of the most important and touristic areas in the city. Just like Brooklyn and a lot of places around the world, it’s going through a gentrification process that most Panamanians have decided to ignore, because Casco is the only place where the party’s at for people my age. Since 2013, I’ve been documenting Casco Viejo’s places and people, and how its cultural significance has started to disappear. Now everything seems to just be a shell of its former self, as while it’s mandatory that all buildings’ facades must be preserved, the insides can be modified in any way. My book is titled Deconstruction Under Construction and it’s a visual narrative of what’s been happening in Casco over the years and the local people’s inaction towards these changes.


I think this was probably my first solo trip to New York. Seeing Bruce Golden’s street photography of this crazy place was what inspired me to head there alone and try to take some memorable photos. I spent hours and hours in Manhattan, shooting around the city for eight days. This moment caught me instantly, I was really drawn to his mannerisms as he spoke on the phone. I was too shy to ask for a photo so I shot from the hip instead.

See more from J. Isaac on his website or Instagram @whoisjisaac

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