Teotihuacán (cdmx 3, el penultimo dia)

When I was in college, I had a professor that did a bunch of field work in Northern Mexico, I want to say in Chihuahua, but it may have been one of the other states. Anyway, besides relating to us what most of the people there really wanted in life (clear title to their land), he alsa told us that in the bars there, you never order ‘ultimo’ for the last drink of the night, because that would be the last drink ever.

Now this was the same guy that came up with the coyote-pendejo spectrum, and placed himself at the bottom intentionally, so maybe take that with a grain of salt, but I do like the idea. The implication, on the last real day of the trip, that there will be another. These photos, appropriately, are from the second to last day of this trip. It was the last day of substance, for sure.

Teotihuacán is a complex of three large pyramids, and many smaller temples and sites of archeological importance. I won’t bore you with a history lesson, except to say that the folks that built them saw their whole civilization collapse. It was the 6th largest city in the world at its peak, more than just a religious center or burial monument like the ones in Egypt.

Anyway, all of that was a long time ago, and now it’s a place where you can visit and be awed and a little sad that it’s all gone. We took an uber to the main entrance, and immediately got sold a tour on quad bikes, which was actually a pretty decent way to get around. They took us to some fun little shops, I bought sophie a gift, then we parked the quads and walked into the actual preserve, where there are no motor vehicles for the tourists.

It’s a big place. I don’t know if the pyramids are larger than the ones at Giza, but the walk is definitely longer. We walked from the back gate to the Pyramid of the Moon, by way of the Pyramid of the Sun, and then to the temple at the other end of the compound, which you get to by crossing a dozen pre-columbian staircases, up and down, both ways. My travelling companions were both fine. Me, that hasn’t seen the inside of a gym nor had a season of travel and being out-of-doors in far too long, well, I was pretty wiped.

We spent too long, well, went around to see everything we wanted to see, and by the time we got back to the quads, the last place on the quad tour was closed. The dude took us to the bus stop, where we decided discretion is the better part of getting back to the hotel and ordered an uber again. While we waited I drank a liter of gatorade and then another half a liter of water. Little bit dehydrated. The ride home was pretty uneventful; good light, sunset. The sign that pointed to Cairo, maybe not mocking me, but for sure a sign of something.

Posted on 2023-05-27T05:21:22Z GMT

mexico city, pt 2

Part two not day two; the days have run together. Pretty sure this was mostly Sunday, though. Something I meant to say in my essay yesterday but didn’t because I’m a bad writer (or rather at least someone who just publishes his first drafts) is just how green of a city the DF is. Huge parks, lots of trees. More than other cities? Definitely more green than NYC.

We visited a history museum, and it was pretty fascinating to see they way they tell the story; I studied the Mexican revolution in college (one of the three profs in my political science department did his doctoral work in Chihuahua), but of course I was reading english language, and thus american-slanted versions of the whole story. A set of facts isn’t a story, and so the story they told with basically the same facts was interesting.

For example, the Porfiriato, the post-french king nominal republic that is told in US history as a dictatorship in all but name, is regarded as a period of relative peace and prosperity, at least by the museum wall texts. I do wonder if there’s as much controversy over them there as there is here? Like the wall texts in many US museums that referred to my ancestors as ‘savages,’ sometimes adding ‘noble’. Not a huge fan of those myself.

After the museum, there was a nice walk through a park. The museum had a no food/drink policy, so immediately after getting out we were all dying of thirst. I drank a liter of gatorade and another half of water while we wandered towards lunch. Which was in the wildest food court I’ve ever been in. Outdoors, but with a bazillion umbrellas sort of interlocked like a Greek phalanx’s shields. Pleasantly shady underneath. So, outdoors-but-sheltered, and then the kicker: there was table service! Really, can’t be beat. Delicious food, too.

Then we got into a car and sped across the city. Well, relatively across the city. I don’t know. Our colleague Moses keeps an apartment there with his fiance, and they have access to a rooftop pool. They found out that we were in town and invited us over for an afternoon party at the pool. It was a great time; really lovely folks, I got to meet a bunch of the family etc. Beers were drank, cigars were smoked. I had forgotten my bathing suit, so our host offered to run across the street to wal-mart to get one. They brought back the biggest pair of trunks WalMart sold, and it was… barely big enough to get on. No pictures because I embarass myself enough as it is.

Then, a truly spectacular sunset, complete with stratocumulus clouds forming over other, distant parts of the city. I had a real hard time editing the pictures of the view down to just these two. If you held a gun to my head and made me pick between these two? not sure I could.

Anyway, on our last day, we went to Teotihuacan. But that’s the next post…

Posted on 2023-05-21T00:59:33Z GMT

mexico city, pt 1

So, this is a perfect example of what I was talking about in my last post: editing is hard, so I’m splitting the photos from my four (five?) day trip to Mexico City across three posts. I don’t even feel bad about it.

Any reportage like this is necessarily just a tiny fraction of a moment in the life of a city. W Eugene Smith, the famous, the legend, went to make a story about Pittsburgh. Initially, he was supposed to shoot for a month, come back with 100 pictures. He ended up staying for two years. He still considered it incomplete at the end.

No shade on Pittsburgh, it’s a fine city and I was happy to live near it during part of my childhood. But it’s a small city. And if that took one of the best documentary photographers to ever live a couple years to come away feeling like he hadn’t done the subject justice, then there’s no way I’m going to get anything but a tiny whiff of a place as big as Mexico City.

What was that like? Well, it was like every other place I’ve been in Mexico, but more. The Monument to the Revolution (next two images) was definitely built by people that had seen pyramids and were unafraid to build very large monuments. Very cool to go up in and see the view from the top. Friend/co-worker Maria was also there, which helped quite a lot as she’s fluent in spanish and I can never seem to not mix in portuguese. Also on the trip but not with us that evening was Josh, who’s been my boss’ boss for two jobs now, and Todd, who was speaking at a conference (which was also the nominal reason for the trip; the extra days were on our own dime and well worth it).

Also, just a lot of people? Think of Tokyo, or New York: millions of people living right up next to each other, doing every kind of human activity possible. There were definitely more and less dense areas, and the area we were staying in (Coyoacán) was definitely like, a nice part of town. Gardens and parks and good food, plus a nice plaza with those wolf (coyote?) statues in the fountain. Couple good coffee shops within walking distance of the hotel, that sort of thing. Also: great tacos. Everywhere I’ve been in Mexico that wasn’t a tourist spot has had its own unique take on tacos, and they’re all delicious.

These photos go through the first full day, plus the following morning (I think? the timeline is a little fuzzy and I didn’t keep field notes ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). I know I took that photo of the tree in the morning, and then we went off and did stuff. But that’s in the next post.

Posted on 2023-05-18T07:18:54Z GMT

a two hour tour

these are from last year, possibly the first time I came down to Santa Barbara for work, but maybe the second time. Not really sure. A bunch of the team came in at the same time so we could all meet each other and work in the same room for a bit. Coincidentally, I’m in SB right now for the same reason, 13 months later. I dragged my personal laptop down here just so I could blog while I was away from home. That’s not true I also brought it for Netflix. Anyway.

Had a thought today, as I was in the plane while we descended over the pacific. The approach to SBA is partly over water, and affords really nice views of the shore backed up by mountains. There was a perfect distance where the sky and the land and the sea were all even, and the photo naturally worked. The whole flight was one of those where the photos just jumped at me, so look out for those some time soon. Or later. Because the right distance is important.

When I’m taking a photo, I have to visualize, that is, kind of imagine what it’ll look like as a finished image. It’s mostly emotional, a response to the potential of the scene. It’s also something I have to be careful with, because the emotions I feel, as a person taking a picture, can be out of joint with the situation, but that’s another essay. So I take pictures by feeling.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.

The Waking, Theodore Roetke

And anyway, I also edit by feeling, at least at first. What makes it into the first broad set of selects is a simple ‘yes’. I take that and then refine it later. This set of pictures started out as 60, and you see here 12. So it’s not a small amount of work to decide what goes into any given post. This is where proper distance comes in.

As I’m editing, it’s important to see what’s in the picture, not what I wanted to see when I was taking it. It’s best if I can’t remember the previsualization at all. That way I can select the photos based on what works. BUT. If I try to do this too soon after a shoot, it’s a lot harder to let go of the things that I thought would be really good while shooting. It’s a kind of attachment that is hard to let go of.

In professional circles, they have the luxury of another person to do the photo editing. Sometimes several people. Photographer takes the pictures, sends in everything (or maybe a set of selects, I’ve never really worked with a photo editor). The editor can then assemble the photos into a story. They can do this quickly, because they’re not burdened with the emotions from shooting.

Me though, I work alone. Mostly because I don’t want to pay someone to edit my photos; the perspective of a good photo editor, just like an editor for writing, is invaluable. I’m about to start on a new project, and I might see about finding an editor to work with for it. Might be better for it.

Posted on 2023-05-08T07:36:37Z GMT

a walk in a storm

These are from the trip to OKC last month; I was staying in Mesta Park (well, not the park but the neighborhood). Decided to walk and get some dinner, and there was a huge storm cloud off to the east. If you’re not familiar with the weather in the middle, you might think that was cause for alarm, but almost as sure as water flowing down hill, storms in Oklahoma move west to east. This one was odd in that it was moving mostly to the south, but with a slight drift east also. I didn’t get rained on at all.

I should probably make a list of stuff to post here. I had a bunch of ideas for posts, photos I could put up, but that was a week ago and I have no idea what they were. I have a few photos from more recently, and probably a ton on the camera, and the stuff from mexico city, which will probably be two posts even though I know it would be better to make a really tight edit and put them all out in one post. One for the city and one for the pyramids seems fair, right? And then there’s a bunch of stuff in the backlog I haven’t touched. So. yeah.

I used to use the quick collection as a ‘stack’ to pull from, but now I don’t have that luxury. I have to make my own stack. I think the improvements to ingestion are probably worth it, but remembering stuff is hard. maybe I should make a blog notebook of ideas for things to write and photo sets I should post? They never line up that well, but maybe I could make the themes overlap a little.

It is a little weird to be blogging in the year of our lord 2023. It’s just an easy way to share photos that doesn’t involve becoming someone else’s product. I suppose I could do a newsletter? but nah, email sucks.

Posted on 2023-05-04T08:04:35Z GMT