People and Places
I began photographing the western highlands of Guatemala fifteen years ago. I still believe the western highlands to be the most beautiful part of Guatemala. However, with time I moved farther afield to other parts of the highlands. Thus I came in contact with Maya of different idioms, traditions, and cultural traits than I had known before.
I always return to a location to give photos to their subjects. What began as a simple experiment, though, appears to have gotten out of hand. What I was doing was not unique, however. Visitors to a place often take and pass out photographs to the subjects of those photos. However, whatever talent I have as a photographer, pales to my ability as a distributor of photos. When I go for a visit, I also come back with photos. However, the visit is my real objective.
I gain enormously through giving away photos, however. The doors of many Maya households open to me. Likewise, my camera and I are a part of many communities. It’s fun to walk through a market, for instance, and have every vendor ask me to shoot their photo. It’s also fun to walk in a procession or a parade and have both the participants and onlookers modeling for me.
I hope you like my photographs, but I believe the real value of my work is the giving of photos. There are way better photographers than me, but there may not be a better distributor of photos. For one thing, passing out 900,000 photographs may be unprecedented world-wide, Some would argue that only a crazy person would do such a thing.
Recently I received mild praise from Oliver, a young Catalan photographer with superior talent to mine. He liked my photos, but told me that the moment a subject looks back into the camera, the photograph is ruined. I explained, however, that I had an ethical aversion to shooting photos of people without their knowledge and permission. Oliver explained to me that he uses a powerful lens and hides well, and so, no problem: no one knows he´s doing it.
I don´t agree with his technique. However, these days everyone photographs on the sly. Tourists on public boats on Lake Atitlán routinely aim their cameras at me, even though I’m not that interesting looking. For a Maya woman, however, with her colorful garb, thick long hair, and rare beauty, the invasion of privacy must be an everyday annoyance.
I therefore choose a direct approach to photography and welcome the interaction.this approach affords me.