My trip to Mexico city was long overdue. There are many reasons to visit Mexico apart from the obvious reason of being so close to the US. The food, the culture, the history are all major draws. But for some reason that did not happen until last December. Finally, it was in the last two years when I began to explore color photography that I got interested in Mexico. More specifically after talking to Alex Webb who mentioned that there is something about the color of light in those places that hits the stomach, I had my eyes and my planner set on Mexico. Finally, muting all the voices that come up around security and other concerns – I made the trip. Not knowing the language is a disadvantage. Also being careful on where to tread is the smart thing to do in such places especially if you are working in the streets in an unknown place. I was lucky to find Alex Coghe who is an accomplished street photographer to provide a one-on-one photo experience.
For two days I worked with him going through the streets of Mexico city. Alex impressed me in various ways. As an Italian, he bears the feeling for light that is characteristic among Italian photographers – something that you can get when you see the work of Vittorio Storaro or Paolo Pellegrin. You see in the films of Fellini. So during the two days I was thrilled to get into the spaces where there was some play going on with light. Alex mentioned he is deeply inspired by Daido Moriyama – not just the high contrast images of electric proportions but also when it come to the style of working. He uses a compact camera to get close. He was using his Leica X2 where he could and a Ricoh compact camera in more intimidating places – very similar to Moriyama’s style of using a compact to shoot in Shinjuku area of Tokyo. Shooting is fast, pre-visualization is the key to composition.
Alex is a very kind person and his friendly nature made my experience quite fruitful – not to mention the two restaurants he took me. Here he writes about the experience and the photos posted from the food excursion. The other aspect of Alex’s photography was his interest in blending urban elements into the pictures, which I found very intriguing. Urban elements blended with how people go about doing their daily business bring out the modernity of life in a city. This is in the core of why I love cities and what I try to capture in the street expressions. Modernity is in a way how the new combines with the old. Decay and decadence not in just the structures and the visuals but also in the psyche and beliefs – largely all man made. But at the same time the underlying spirit to survive and thrive and prosper – indulge in arts and culture, work, raise children, and find happiness amidst all odds. A modern city also defines neighborhoods in their own way – with its own flavor, color, and sounds, which I saw from – Colonia Roma to Zona Rosa to Polanco. Things changed exuding their own distinct character. In short, an anarchy, an organized chaos of contradictions. In that sense Mexico city held its ground and made it a fascinating place to go around.
I cannot write about Mexico city without mentioning street food. Cocinita Pibil in its fullest expression with the bone or in a Tamale was my favorite. So was the Taco Villemelon which had pork, pig skin, etc. With Pulque, it is a just a greasy, tasty escapade – without which your Mexico city vacation is incomplete. After food comes the need for music. My last night was at the Sheraton Maria Isabel. Their night club Bar Jorango was quite entertaining. The two Mariachi bands – a bunch of guys singing popular number numbers in Spanish that I did not understand and then a bunch of middle aged women playing a rock version of Mariachi as well. Overall, a nice excursion to feast all my senses.
One of my photography teachers at ICP – Joe Rodriguez advised me not to mix photography with family travel. I have been fortunate that I am able to take these trips as pure exploration of my photography. Relaxing and fulfilling.