Agua para Nescafé
Tlacotalpan, Mexico 2009
I’m quite elated to return after a year hiatus to my beloved Tlacotalpan. It’s so close to Veracruz, so full of life and personality. Whenever I have a return student I feel happy both for me as the teacher and for the student: because I know that he or she will be taking better, subtler images. Chad is back. He knows what to expect, what to do. I can read in his face that he’s happy to be here again.
The town slowly comes out of its sleepy mood as more visitor start streaming in to pay tribute to the Virgin of Candelaria. We savor this laid back feeling wondering in town taking pictures, having our faboulous breakfasts in the market, photographing birds as they fly together along the river. It’s a good group of students. I can feel it. They slowly get to know each other. As the celebrations get under way, our shooting time starts getting more hectic, almost round-the-clock. We do not get much sleep. The musicians have just started their three days festival, the horses parade, the Halloween parade, the bulls running madly all over the place, the crowds hysterically running away while provoking the bulls to charge, the rides, the killing of many pork, the religious ceremonies in and out of the church they all contribute to the incredible pandemonium that takes over the town unstoppable.
At breakfast or dinner we exchange stories, we look at the files of the only digital student shares with the rest the group. We all learn by looking at her images. Suddenly it’s time to return to Veracruz to process all the film and continue with our editing. But the fun of shooting in not over yet. One day we drive to the capital of Veracruz State, the intriguing Xalapa and some of the beautiful surrounding villages. We continue to explore. We run into a brigade of sugar cane cutters. They let us graciously take pictures of them both at work and during their break. In our dinners at my house Sissy and Silvia treat us to great meals during our breaks from looking at the many rolls of color and b&w film. Some good images start becoming to surface. The happiest is Silvia: the group’s beginners. She managed to take her best images in the last few days. I had told her that she was going to learn as much from me as from the other students; that better images will finally start coming out if she followed our advise. She now fully understands what I meant. As we complete the final editing we realize that each student had a very personal and different way to tell the experience that we have just lived. Chad has some very good images that will definitely provide more depth to his previous images. Frank has applied his sensitive eye in a very personal way getting some intimate photographs. Romain has created a beautiful set of a very unique Tlacotalpan. The interesting common denominator about his photographs is that are not at all about the celebrations: they are more his state of mind. And as I was saying above, Silvia understands the big jump she took compared to the portfolio images that she brought. What never stops surprising me is how the miracle of taking some good photographs has taken place once gain. A few weeks later I have had the opportunity to finally look at my contact sheets. For the first time in five years, I feel that my pictures are beginning to understand the essence of this celebration.