Kicking up dust as I trudge through the streets of this centuries-old city, daily I am contemplating my identity here as an outsider, a tourist, an agnostic, a Native American, and a photographer.
Through this class we have examined the place of the Mexican in their landscape, especially as related to the struggle for identity as its ownership has changed hands.
As I have roamed around, the theme that I have recognized time and time again is the relationship between the landscape and spirituality. In modern-day San Miguel, there are remnants of the polytheistic religions of the pre-colonial days, as well as rampant representations of the Catholicism stuck straight into Mexican culture even after the Spaniards occupation had ended. In this selection of images, I have attempted to convey that in my stay in here, I have looked both broadly and narrowly. These recurring images led me to explore the interaction between what is now, what has been left, and what will always be part of Mexican identity.
It was crazy, indeed. It’s ironic to me that this parade happened to be on Father’s day. While photographing this event, I found myself hardly looking through the viewfinder, pointing my camera around sporadically with the shutter releases going at 3 fps. When there is so much going on, it’s almost more fun to take your camera less seriously, and join in on the celebrations. I looked down a lot, only to get lots of pictures of people’s feet. Which was interesting to me. I loved how the people in the parade either wore normal shoes, for comfort’s sake, or made shoes to accent their costumes. The feet are the most integral piece to the parade, a moving force that once caught up in, one is trapped in the moving herd of people. Overtaken by the colors, the sound, and the movement of the whole thing, I began to see myself in my own costume of “otherness”, maybe that’s why I chose to shoot from the hip or from above the head. I have literally a thousand pictures, none of them properly composed. Scrolling through my files, the next one happened to be just as much of a surprise as the last! I loved it!
Here are my favorite images from the day:
Barely awake and on unsure footing after a day of fever and nausea, I found myself awaiting the Dia de los Locos parade in the intense overhead sun. Having heard of its theatrics and intensity I was worried about having enough strength to stay up right and shooting. Sitting in the Jardin at 11:30 I could hear the heart beat of the parade from the distance, the over amplified bass of generic music that blasts from each parade float.
Meeting up with Muriel and Susan, Lindsay and I made our way to meet the parade head on. Being in the parade route but walking against its flow was both exciting as well as exhausting. I was impressed by the energy levels of those in full costume who had already been dancing for hours. Their energy only over shadowed by the screaming hoards of children shouting “Dulces!” while candy was pelted at them and rained into their upturned umbrellas.
I was surprised by the costumes, but not because of their inventiveness, although some definitely were. The majority seemed to be Disney based and not from their own rich Mexican heritage. I had expected to see a lot of indigenous based outfits instead of what felt like Halloween costumes. I suppose that was my own American gaze expecting the Mexican people to be frozen in time.
It was hard to find a moment to reflect on what was actually occurring instead of just reacting to whatever was happening, which is very counter intuitive to my usual photographic process. I don’t know if it was the energy, the sun baking my brain, the candy bouncing off my hands, or the multiple dances with men dressed as mice, but I decided to embrace this spontaneity and just shoot whatever I responded to at that exact moment.
For my final project here in beautiful San Miguel, I studied the alluring yet threatening night scape. Mysterious lights, menacing sexiness, and subtle moments that make up the nighttime here is what I was responding to while shooting. The hottest part of the day time offers the harshest light, but the minute the sun settles below orange and yellow rooftops, the ominous night takes over. The night not only offers a seductive landscape, but also haunting moments where shadows dance into alleyways, and strange figures appear from a frenzied imagination.
This investigation of night will continue, most definitely, as this project is far from finished. Now that I have a firm grasp of what it is that I am seeking, I will pursue this duality of haunting yet alluring beautiful sense in the future. The choice to print the hung show in color was mostly a decision based on technical errors, and lack of time (although I was unsure of which suited the project better.) But after consideration, and feedback in critique (that it lacked the glow it previously held), I have posted the images to the blog in color.
I’d also like to take the time to thank the professors for the opportunity to be here, and the endless amount of support, and grace given. Although there were moments of definite doubt in my abilities within myself, it was a great opportunity for growth and confirmation that my work can be done even in time constraints and new locations. I have so much gratitude. Thank you.
Upon arriving in Mexico, I was faced with the challenge of understanding and photographically representing a culture that I had little background knowledge of. I hardly have a good grasp on American history, let alone one on our neighboring country. Nevertheless, as an individual I am always thinking of the effects of consumerism on our twenty-first century global economy.
Every culture has different social classes that can easily be differentiated by those who excessively buy goods and those who sell goods in order to make a living. The obvious consequence to a global market saturated with goods to buy and sell is the enormous amount of things that get discarded and thrown away in the trash. When I was faced with the challenge of what to photograph in Mexico, I found myself focusing on the shapes of debris juxtaposed with the unique architecture of the cobblestone roads and antique buildings.
Focusing on debris that has been left behind by those who consume, I came to the realization that all cultures have similarities when it comes to commercialization and consumerism. Everyone in the world, no matter if the civilization is “developing” or “developed” consumes products and then discards of them when they are of no more use. The pictures that I chose for my final edit focus on 3 different aspects of this consumerism. The stores where buying and selling occurs, the people who work to gather the discarded materials and take them to a centralized place, and the products themselves, discarded on the streets, awaiting to be gathered by trash companies.
Waking up early in the morning to photograph a parade, Dias dos Locos, that has been referred to as “total chaos” is not necessarily the most exciting start to a day. However after waiting for a couple of hours for the parade to start and finally approaching it head on was a pretty exhilarating experience. With the idea of trying to cover the parade as an event for a newspaper, which Susan talked about as we were walking to find the parade, I attempted the challenge. Once we found the start of the parade, I began to walk against it, photographing the participants and the audience as it travelled by. To find some order in the endless amount of visual stimuli, I tried to find moments that encapsulated the overall feeling of joviality the parade and audience exude. And so here is my vision of the Dias dos Locos and the moments I found within it.
Lindsay Crisler again
Being a photographer in a new place always offers a certain feeling of security. As an outsider coming into Mexico, I’ve been able to find comfort behind my viewfinder which is often a vulnerable place at home. In the US, the person on the street never wants you to take their picture because who knows where it could end up the internet later as if that’s exactly what I’m going to do with an image. But here in Mexico, the camera has offered me a connection to the people and the place counteracting the language barrier. I have been able to visually document my sight of Mexico and the Mexican sight back to me. Through these ways of seeing or gazes, I’ve been able to structure a body of work that shows an interaction between my perspective of Mexico and the Mexican response to me. In using the gaze in a two directions, my experience of Mexico has been given a new dimension that I will surely continue upon later visits and implement in other new places.
Yesterday’s parade gave me an entirely new perspective about shooting “on assignment.” The sun was high, about mid-day, when the droves of ROYGBV human-creature hybrids flooded the streets of San Miguel. Armed with a too-heavy bag, no water, and no idea what I was in for, a friend and I staked a spot behind the ropes near the beginning of the parade. Once the first group came rolling past, we realized we were only in the way, sticking out like sore gringa thumbs. As the costumed participants hurled candies from backpacks we ducked under the ropes and began to follow the parade. This quickly led us to the realization that all of San Miguel was lining these streets, and once we had squeezed ourselves out of the standing crowd, there was no way for us to get back in, safely behind the roped lines.
So along the route we went, dancing with strangers, and caught in the chaos, I gave up my viewfinder. I figured no matter where I shot or how carefully I tried to compose, there would be at least a dozen people in each frame and I had little to no control over what would happen between deciding to click the shutter and actually getting the photo.
So, in the midst of a dehydrated claustrophobic freak out, and photographing people which is generally what I aim not to do, it is safe to say that I was thrown 100% out of my comfort zone. My “photographic box,” as it was deemed in critique on Saturday, was shattered and though I am not completely happy with the photos, I am happy to have had the experience.
HOLA! This is Lindsay Crisler
Mexico is not any where near the Mexico of my perceptions. It’s been five full days since we arrived here and the visions I once had of open dust filled streets and rural palm lined towns have disappeared. While some of these characteristics that have come to represent Mexico for the rest of the world are apparent in the country, there is an undeniable essence of Mexico that one cannot experience without visiting it first hand.
With the context of visits to an anthropological museum, modern art galleries, and lectures in Mexico City, our first few days offered much insight into what makes up this essence or identity of Mexico. The history behind the struggle for an identity with the domination over the indigenous people by the Spanish and the subsequent mix of both cultures offers a basis for how Mexicans regard themselves today even 500s year past. In conjunction with these historical and social experiences in the city, the Paz writings allow for a modern connection with what we are currently seeing.
The idea as the Mexican living life behind a mask has appeared not only in the art we’ve seen but also the interactions with people on the street. Daily life here in San Miguel seems to be bustling but quiet; often people are conversing and spending time together are young kids or families. Compared to places like New York City, you won’t find the large loud groups of tourists (other than ourselves at times), people adamantly talking in foreign languages on the phone or masses of shoppers going through shops. In Mexico there is a difference from the daily action and jovial expression of one’s own emotions or any thing beyond the average scheme. However, the parade that passed through San Miguel today demonstrated just how the Mexicans do express themselves when the time is right. Men, women, children were out in costumes screaming, singing and cheering throughout the entire city without regard to normal standards. The men dressed in indigenous clothes drumming and dancing struck me most as the unveiled. Their outfits alone allowed for a connection to their heritage while their impassioned screaming made you feel like this was truly a rite of their people. In observing these men along with the other celebrators it confirmed the idea of the mask but also showed that the Mexican does not necessarily repress themselves into solitude but more so hold their jubilation and connection to others for another time.
This idea I find very compelling and the possibility for this unveiling to seep through into daily life. I hope to find these leaks and the incorporation into daily society and photograph them.