Kunas San Blas Islands


The Kuna of San Blas, known as Cuna when I visited in 1973, is a close-knit group of natives spread over 49 small islands on the northeast coast of Panama. They are a colorful custom-oriented culture that has managed to retain their ancestral way of life. Sheltered by their uniquely geographically isolation, they have balanced the trappings of civilization, and cleverly sustained their simple way of life. As a matriarchal society, they prize their daughters, and men marry into the subservience to the wife’s family and lineage. For some unknown reason, perhaps of the incestuous small gene pool, the kunas has the highest rate of albinism in the world.


John Chao Photography

Wounaans, Panama 1973

The Wounaans are a tropical forest group of indigenous people dispersed along the border of Panama and Colombia. Originally part of the Choco linguistic family…

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Bogota, Colombia 1974

Bogota 10-years before narcos and Pablo Escobar was a magical place. I landed in Bogota’s high-altitude El Dorado airport in the cockpit of a Boeing 70…

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1980’s DECADE

INDULGING DEFIANCE: Photography gave me wings but also a sense of boundless creativity. This was a decade of independence, anti-establishment. It was a decade that avoided entrapment, both stylistic and accomplishment,. an era of exploration and renaissance.

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A Year in the 1970's


MY NEED FOR SYNCHRONICITY took the camera to the road. It was a quest for visual accidents, the uncontrolled moments full of moving variables.

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don't kiss goodbye