March 28, 2010

Insights

A beautiful, brightly burning friend asked me to share some insights a little while back. Pictures of sheets, she implied, were fine, but what about something more profound. (That's not exactly what was said but it's what I took away). It's been a lingering thought since. Tonight, in the remote reaches of Guatemala, in the little town of Jacaltenango, I feel like I can share one fresh off the synaptic presses.

A few hours ago, I ended up engaging my co-op coffee guide in a quiet conversation. I'd been making pictures all afternoon but as we spoke my cameras were sitting on the table. Those tools had acted as the catalyst for a conversation about how lovely his town was and how frightening it was during their horrific civil war. He said, "During the war everyone was scared. We couldn't work. It's was too bad. And me, I love working in the countryside but I couldn't."

See it? It's a tiny thing that he said, nestled in there amidst the past fears and regrets. It's in the present tense. That little bit about loving his work. His backbreaking work. He loves being a farmer. He's a coffee farmer and he loves it.

Maybe it's because today I saw the steepness of the hills here, maybe it's because I watched men much older than me carry immense weight for miles, or maybe it's because I got to sample the distilled essence of family and home that the use of the word love had resonance. Our conversation moved swiftly to other subjects but I knew that a little beam of light had shown itself to me. One I could capture only in my memory yet still share in the fanciful form of "insight."

So here it is: Love your work. Love right through your fear.

Make pictures, Love.

March 25, 2010

Oaxaca Vespa

I am alone. Obviously. The Vespa is my stand-in. Here we are in Oaxaca! I joking call it "Vespa porn" but they are just pictures in places I like or am otherwise compelled to shoot. Textures attract me, quality of light makes it more photogenic and whatever camera happens to be with me makes the picture. This one is made with my Nikon but I'd be as content to share an iPhone photo. Clearly.

Since this trip I'm on is intended to be coffee-centric, the opportunity to make shots that are less client-focused or sponsor-friendly has not been a real priority. At the risk of sharing too much and even going off-topic, I've had a slight lull in the desire for formal image making. Obviously, when I'm in the coffee regions and visiting farmers I'm on it but when I'm just chilling in lovely parts of the world, the camera is an after-thought. Sure, I'm making my low-fi stuff, that doesn't really count, does it? What I'm talking about is the desire to make everything precious. Right now, the low-fi path has its considerable allure and the more formal stuff suffers.

Balance is tricky. Perhaps the distractions of schedule and my connections to affairs stateside have me distracted. Let's see. I'm sharing here just to purge. Heck, the last Flickr upload included a bunch of JPEGs directly from my point-n-shoot. Zero manipulations. Is that sloth or honesty? I'm fine with both but I prefer the latter.

Make pictures, don't get hung up on how nice they are.

March 19, 2010

Huatusco Coffee Farmer

Finally, a moment to reflect. As some of you may know who are following along on my Organic Coffee Vespa Tour, I haven't had that much down time to share my formal efforts. Let's see if that changes.

I made this portrait in one of the tiny villages outside Huatusco, Veracruz. I'd been traveling around visiting various farmers and farms with the proud co-op leaders. Their effort in the region has been a shining example of how collective effort can challenge big business and the continued commodification of coffee. The farmer's know they produce a quality coffee and deserve better. (Incidentally, these are the folks from whom Ben & Jerry's acquires the Fair Trade Coffee Extract used in some of their ice creams).

At one particular stop there was a perfect place to set up (or hold up) my white background for some quick streetstudio-style portraits. I had all but stopped making pictures along came this fellow with his irresistible wrinkles and the look of a man who knows what hard work is all about. He's a coffee farmer after all.

I didn't give it much love in post. The white is not totally white, there's no burning or dodging, just a little level adjustment and color shift. It's certainly good enough to share and I'm making the latter the priority.

I knew I'd want to blog this one as soon as the shutter clicked.

Make pictures and share 'em.

March 03, 2010

Mundane Travels

Mundane Hoover Dam

This little diptych is a inspired less by the hugeness of the Hoover Dam but by the electric wire infrastructure that it spawns. Big dams make big power and by all accounts we're using it.

Mundane Las Vegas X
This second pairing happened on a walk to the airport. My streetstudio days have made me partial to the letter X so when I see them I tend to pause and make a photo. Seeing two in such a short time, one terrestrial and the other celestial is just a bonus.

I'm off to more southern climbs these days. After a good run in Vegas, my Vespa is taking me into Central America to explore Organic Coffee and the faces behind my coffees. For fans of this blog that means the posts will be coming fast and furious in addition to all the photo blogs and alike linked from clayenos.com/vespa

Spread the word.

Make pictures.