Exposing Common Ground within the Ordinary

My camera is with me most places. I try to strike a balance between placing myself behind the lens and putting my camera away. Sometimes the camera facilitates a deeper understanding and association with the subject, and other times it acts as a barrier, both physically and psychologically, the photographer as observer and the subject as observed. A delicate back and forth, a constant employment of intentionality, lest you disintegrate that relationship with your subject that you are desperately grasping for, eager to immortalize within the frame, hoping that your photographs are able to communicate the genuine.

The subject. Mexico is a novel country for me, and though I am here to learn from and understand the small-scale fisherman and their communities, the challenges of conservation and resource use in swiftly depleting oceans and fluctuating communities, there are endless subjects to turn my lens towards during my time here. This is good, as I struggle with gauging when my photographing is appropriate and when it fosters distrust or suspicion, when it facilitates the dimension of observed and observer which makes it difficult to communicate the genuine. So, in moments of these reflections, I put away my camera and I observe with methods humanly universal – my eyes and my ears.

I take the opportunity to document the concealed beauty within the ordinary, the mundane, because this is where the heart of any given culture resides. The daily, the nondescript, the tossed aside. The landscape – its buildings and streets, its signage and its structures, they offer up stories themselves. They are insight into a given community. Its values, its livelihood, its pastimes and its challenges. Traveling to Mexico with my camera and not documenting the mundane would be nothing less than a missed opportunity. More so, in the ordinary there is common ground to be uncovered and to be celebrated. I took the opportunity to photograph subjects familiar to me on the surface, yet harboring a cultural importance all their own.

Painted Advertisement, Puerto de la Libertad.

Neighborhoods are littered with the evidence of economy, of exchange. Eliciting the purchase of a product through advertisement. Of buying and selling. In this case, a fish buyer displays his various products, in Spanish and in English.

Well-worn basketball court outside of Prescott College field station.

Basketball courts, even when deserted, are dense with familiarity. They color the memories of most people, found in communities and exempt from the divisive force of walls or borders.

Gill net used by a fisherman, Kino Bay.

We construct communities on foundations of discipline and hard work. Hard working individuals, perhaps differing in the intricacies of their interests but driven to secure a livelihood. For them, for their families. The work at first glance may look mundane in its daily necessity, but upon closer consideration warrants appreciation.

Collage of found objects on the beach, Punto Cirios.

A collection of items found on the well-worn coastline, relics of a culture of disposability amid a handful of organic objects. A worryingly common characteristic of coastlines everywhere, regardless of country. A tragedy of the commons.

Decorations hang from a wire, leading up a dirt path to a place of worship for la Virgin de Guadelupe.

A side road led me up a trail to an artfully and appreciatively decorated place of worship & prayer, the tinsel and paper flowers a bit bleached from countless days in the sun, but just as powerful in their ability to imbue the space with a peace both foreign and familiar.

Silhouette of person behind the lens, streets of Kino Bay.

I felt comfortable collecting images of the ordinary, the stuff of common ground. I do want the opportunity to engage in the stories of the fishermen, but I haven’t struck a balance, necessary in a respectful and genuine photographic representation that I hope to construct. I don’t feel that my knowledge is sufficient, my understanding is quite adequate. It will never be. Any photos I take will be instilled with some degree of misrepresentation, of bias, towards the story that I hope to tell. But I want to try, and I will continue using the lens to understand this country and its people. Of course, the deepest of realization demands placing the camera down.