Tag Archives: Nico Sandi

Nico Sandi: The Storyteller

Crouched on the ground, his forearms rest on his knees while a monopod stems from the bottom of his camera. His hands fold over the body as he pulls the camera to his right eye. Wrinkles form at the corner of his left eye as it closes relinquishing his full attention to the viewfinder and the scene the lens holds before him.

His left hand cradles the lens, sliding the focus ring back and forth ever so slightly before their faces become sharp. His right hand grips the camera’s body as his finger fidgets with the shutter speed dial. When the exposure is right and the aperture is set, his index finger hovers over the shutter button.


Kids riding bikes in Bethel. (Photo: Nico Sandi)
Kids riding bikes in Bethel. (Photo: Nico Sandi)

Nico Sandi captures a moment shared between three children on their bikes in Bethel, Alaska.

Nico can be found all over the world with a camera in hand.

Prior to his trip with Creighton’s Backpack Journalism program to rural Alaska, his past two summers were spent on other backpacking trips: a trip though Europe with his sister and a solo trip to Patagonia.

“I love traveling. It’s when I’m most comfortable. I considered myself to be someone who lives a simple life. I don’t like to carry to many things, traveling with a backpack is very much me,” Nico said.

The Backpack Journalism project is just the very beginning of Nico’s summer video adventures. He is also working on a video about the 25th anniversary of the Jesuit martyrs in El Salvador for RSP classes this fall and will be traveling to his home country, Bolivia, to film a documentary about Jesuit missions with Don Doll, SJ.

Nico's Favorite photo from Alaska.
Nico’s favorite photo from Alaska. (Photo: Nico Sandi)

When forced to choose a medium, he prefers video over still photography because he can focus on the story instead of being bogged down by photography rules.

“Video is just a series of photos put together. In video, you can tell a bigger story in a more compelling way than a picture,” Nico said.

With his love of backpacking and video, it was as if Backpack Journalism project was tailored precisely to him.

“It’s basically what I want to do with my life. I want to go and do backpack journalism—travel around the world and find interesting stories and find a good way to tell them through video or photography,” Nico said.

Nico is a storyteller; instead of using a pen and paper, he uses a camera.

“I really like to tell stories about people. I want to do meet people, find what their story is, and show that to others.”


From right to the left, Nico Sandi, Tony Homsy SJ, and Tim Guthrie. Alaska, Fox island
From right to the left, Nico Sandi, Tony Homsy SJ, and Tim Guthrie. Alaska, Fox island

Many of you had listened to my story, and how I came to Creighton, actually by a personal invitation from Fr. Don Doll, S.J. And most of you would hear me talking about our friendship, two Jesuits photographer (an amateur and a Professional) share the same passion about photography as a mission and as a vocation, more than anything else. Our relation has been getting deeper and deeper, especially when Fr. Don keeps providing me by nice tools, (you can call me a “user”).  Continue reading Friendography…

Experiencing Culture at Cecilia’s

I was one of the first ones up yesterday morning, which almost never happens.

The only others up were those who were assigned to be on the interview team and Nico, who’s a video pro and always a step ahead of everybody else.

Sarah, a volunteer at the Church who was a Jesuit Volunteer last year, suddenly came into our breakfast/break room and told us that Myron, the interviewee that morning, wanted the interview team over as soon as possible. Cecilia, who we interviewed a few days ago, had also called. She was making soup, so if we needed b-roll of that, we needed to go over there immediately.

Talk about a rushed morning.

Nico was ready to go shoot b-roll and grabbed Scott, who’s quickly becoming a video pro, and the interview team started to gather equipment. I quickly felt out of place, since I wasn’t on the interview team and video isn’t my strong suit. I figured I wasn’t going in either group.

Carol, one of our faculty advisors, told me to go with Nico and Scott to see Cecilia and to observe, be present and take down notes about the b-roll the boys were shooting.

So Leah, who had just woken up, Scott, Nico and I piled into Sarah’s truck and drove to Cecilia’s. Her house isn’t big, but it is tall and skinny. When you walk in, you take off your muddy boots. You walk up a flight of stairs to her living room and kitchen.

When we got there, she had reindeer meat boiling in a pot of water. She added onions and later carrots, kale, noodles, parsley and basil. She had run out of tomatoes, so she instead put in a little ketchup. (I tried the soup later that morning, and yes, the reindeer meat was delicious!)

She showed us how she stirs, always in a clockwise motion, following the sun. She “follows the sun whatever [she does],” even when she purifies her house.

Next she showed us a little bowl of burned ayuk, or tundra tea leaves. These are tiny leaves you can pick out of the tundra. They smell fantastic and you can brew them to make tea. Cecilia burns them and and purifies her house from east to west (again, following the sun) once or twice a month.

When explaining why she purifies her house, she says that everybody leaves something behind in her house or wherever they go. It’s either positive or negative energy, like feelings of anxiety or excitement. Purifying her house removes all of that energy.

She must pick an awful lot of ayuk, because she also picks them for the Catholic Church. She has for the past two years. The Church uses the burnt tundra leaves as incense.

As Cecilia cut the different ingredients to put in her soup, she cut them using her ulu, which is a knife that is shaped like a wide “u.” She told us that when a woman gets married, she is given three things: a ulu, a traditional stirring spoon made of wood and a sewing kit complete with scissors, a smaller ulu, a thimble and needles.

While the soup was cooking on the stove, she proceeded to pull out her traditional Yup’ik mukluks (boots made out of seal and otter with waterproof stitching) and parkas. The four of us had lots of fun trying on the parkas. She told us her mother made the mukluks but she made the parkas.

Cecilia let us try on the parkas she made. They are so warm, and I love the pockets! Photo Courtesy of Nico Sandi.
Cecilia let us try on the parkas she made. They are so warm, and I love the pockets! Photo Courtesy of Nico Sandi.

Even though I didn’t really need to go to Cecilia’s because everything that happened was caught on camera, I was happy I got to go and learn a little more about the Yup’ik culture. I felt like I was at my grandma’s house, but instead of hearing about my family, I heard all sorts of traditions and history from another culture.

She told us that every Christmas her and her siblings would receive new mukluks and kuspuks (hooded overshirts with pockets; each group has a different pattern and style of kuspuks).

I hope that moment, when we laughed as we tried on the parkas and examined the mukluks, reminded her of past Christmases.

Anticipating the Adventure

It’s been a wild week. It’s included lots of late nights and early mornings, trying to listen and absorb seven hours of information a day, leaving the classroom with my head spinning and wondering how I ever survived high school without drinking a single cup of coffee.

I left the classroom this afternoon after a week of bootcamp with both a feeling of excitement and nervousness. One moment I’m ready to get on the flight, get to Alaska and start meeting the people; the next, I’m anxious about packing and embarking on a trip which will force me to step out of my comfort zone.

I touched on this in my last blog post, but I’m most excited about the chance to meet the Yup’ik people and learn about their culture and way of life. We’ve talked a lot this week about what we know about the Yup’ik. We know they treat nature and especially animals with a lot more respect than we often do. We have also talked about the people’s experience of cultural trauma, caused by an age of modernization and a desire to respect tradition. These conversations and topics have been interesting, and I’m excited to hear about them first hand.

I’m also thrilled to have the chance to be a part of a documentary film team and know at least a little about each aspect that goes into making a documentary. I’m so excited to work with our group. Each member has so much talent to bring to our project, and throughout this week we’ve become a little family.

Meet the team. We're all anticipating the journey ahead and ready to reflect on our experiences!
Meet the team. We’re all anticipating the journey ahead and preparing to reflect on our experiences!

With all the excitement comes a little fear. I’m nervous I have yet to pack, I’m nervous about squeezing everything into one big suitcase, and I’m nervous about living in a place for two weeks that I’ve seen once or twice on a map.

In terms of documentary film making, the video equipment terrifies me, even more so now that I’ve learned the basics of video in a matter of five days. I’m imagining a moment during this trip when we’ll have an interview to do and we’ll have to set up cameras and I’m going to forget how to focus the camera or set the shutter speed or f-stop. Luckily I’ve got a dozen other people who have my back.

During one of our practice interviews, we each had a chance to step behind the camera. Don't worry, Tim's right behind me helping me make the interviewee look good!
During one of our practice interviews, we each had a chance to step behind the camera. Don’t worry, Tim’s right behind me helping me make the interviewee look good! Photo courtesy of Kari Welniak.

Despite all my worries and fears, during our reflection today I heard some really good thoughts. Two graduates who had gone on previous Backpack Journalism trips came to sit in on our reflection. Matthew Dorwart went to Uganda on one of the Backpack trips, and his advice was to be present in the moment. We shouldn’t worry about what we’re doing tomorrow, or the 10 page paper we’ll have to write when we get back. Be present or we’ll miss out on the big and little moments, on the setbacks and breakthroughs.

Something that also struck me was Nico Sandi‘s reflection. He mentioned that it’s important for us to be respectful and keep in mind the community into which we are about to enter. We’re 20 (sometimes obnoxious and loud) students entering a community about which we know little, and they don’t know much more about us. Learning about the community and helping them tell their story is what is most important, the ultimate goal of this trip.

My goal is to keep an open heart, let the experience touch me, and pack as lightly as possible.

Alaska, here we come!