“Her lens brings us past the photo itself,” says Hilfiger in the book’s introduction, “ and discovers a deeper beauty that exists in every moment.”
Fueling Menke’s passion is the natural grace of indigenous cultures—in her words, “their immensely differing, but each in its own way traditional, iconographies, architectural modes, and styles of dressing.” On the islands of Lake Titicaca, which spans Peru and Bolivia, Menke captures the color of Andean ways of life where “the women perform manual labor in the fields, harvesting corn and potatoes. The men do all the knitting.”
On another project, she approached the holy Indian city of Varanasi from a different perspective, training her camera on children playing in or on the Ganges rather than at the crematory fires of the ancient pilgrimage site’s burning ghats.
Her images of Lijiang, China, by contrast, bring to life an outpost “weathered in the type of way only a deeply remote place can be, with centuries of life and wear. There wasn’t a wall, building, or face that wasn’t beautifully authentic and worn.”
Menke now lives between New York and the Mexican village of Sayulita, where she has cofounded the Costa Verde International School Project, which focuses on advancing environmentally friendly education. “Meeting people with such wildly dissimilar references and exploring new socio-cultural terrain is the source and inspiration of my life,” Menke says. “To be able to share that with the world is an incredible gift.”
Originally appeared in the December 2012/January 2013 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Frames of Reference”)