Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Camera is my Passport

“My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.” - Steve McCurry

Chiapas is Mexico’s southernmost state. It is an amazing place with a diverse population of indigenous people (many direct descendants of the ancient Maya), striking Maya ruins and the magnificent colonial town of San Cristóbal de las Casas.

I planned on just spending two days in San Cristóbal, but ended up staying for four. With its cobblestone streets, intriguing indigenous people with their flamboyant traditional clothing and the glorious coffee (Chiapas is a renown coffee growing area), I found San Cristóbal the perfect place to linger.

This part of Mexico has a highest population of indigenous people who are very close-knit and suspicious of outsiders. They are very sensitive to having their photo taken and as a result I made very few photographs that I was satisfied with.

For three days I struggled to make images of the indigenous people, many who come from the neighboring villages of Chamula and Zinacantán. Fortunately, I was able to meet up with a fellow photographer and fellow San Diegan Jim Cline. Jim owns and operates his own photography tour business Jim Cline Photo Tours that concentrate on Latin American and Asia. I met Jim a week earlier in Oaxaca during Day of the Dead celebration. He was leading his annual photo tour group there and I would run into him occasionally around town. He was in San Cristóbal a couple of days ahead of his next tour group and through Jim I was able to connect with some of his local contacts.

On the last evening I met up with Jim and he was able to organize an impromptu portrait session with some of young girls who sell their wares in front of the main cathedral in the town plaza. This young girl and her toothy smile made the wait all worth the while.

I am still amazed after all these years how my camera has given me many unique insights to different cultures.

‘My camera is my passport’ and it has been stamped many times with cultural visas from around the world.

Happy Travels!

Text and photo copyright by ©Sam Antonio Photography

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