No Bullshit Tlacotalpan
My second workshop in my new home: Veracruz and its beautiful surrounding areas. I had been patiently waiting for a full year for this new challenge, for this new opportunity to probe this very special celebration.
I felt elated that the 7 students (4 repeat and 3 new ones) made a good group and got along well. The name we chose says it all about our intentions to work hard:” Group No Bullshit.”
The first few days were slow, but they provided each photographer with the possibility to slowly tune in with the people and the place. At the end of the workshop, they all thanked me for having taken them there earlier. During our final editing, it turned out that some of the best images were taken in those apparently “slow” days in which they were really forced to see “true” photographic moments.
Another aspect of my shooting philosophy that I’m slowly inculcating into my students’ mind: to photograph even when apparently seems that there is absolutely nothing going on. Many things happen, and some are really extraordinary.
I shared with them my dummy on Cuba and some of the most recent working prints from the last workshops in Mexico, Peru and Ecuador. Some long and stimulating conversation on many different aspects of photography ensued from that. Keith gave me such a detailed critique of my project. He had written an entire page of suggestions. I was moved when he said that he was being so critical because he wanted the book to be flawless, to be one of the best book on the history of street photography.
6 out of the 7 students (a record so far) pledged to buy the limited edition copy of the book with an original print (signed and numbered) of mine to help me self-publish the book (more than 30 students have already made their pledge to do so.). Incredible!
As the celebrations began to unfold the rhythm started picking up. Juan disappeared with his musicians’ friends and we hardly saw him; the others and I kept the most erratic schedule to keep up with the pace. Keith and Sonia daily shared with us their digital files. We all learned from their images. I provided some suggestions on how to get better and more intimate with their subjects. Then it was bulls’ day. One after the other they crossed the river, risking, as always, to drawn; sowing panic in the electrified crowd once they emerged as mythological figures on the other shore. I foolishly fell twice slightly hurting myself. But the celebrations continued unstoppable. I limped a bit, but continued to search for fragments of life to capture.
Dorothy shot very little, but in the end showed to all of us that if you do see real “moments” it doesn’t matter if you don’t shoot profusely. Sonia was learning at light-speed some of the most important aspects of what a good picture is all about. The other students and I provided help and inspiration. Bob, Bruce and Chad were really hooked to the place and seemed to be working round the clock.
Then it was time to return to Veracruz. We edited over 100 rolls of film while Sissy was generously offering her Cuban Italian dishes. The miracle, once again, unfolded before us: among myriad of useless images some unique and special photographs begin to surface.
I had told my students that I was going to follow the Virgin of Candelabra’s devotion in Peru in 2008. After having finally looked at my contacts (of which I’m mildly happy, the probing continues slowly but continues), I realized that I need to stay right here, in this land that welcomed us with open arms. I’ll be back next year.