Day 2: Portrait Photography in the Markets

First stop is the small village of San Juan Guelavia for the last day of the Feria del Carrizo. This pueblo, just across the highway from Teotitlan del Valle, is famous for its finely woven baskets made from strips of bamboo. We spent about an hour here before going on to the bigger regional Tlacolula Sunday tianguis.

Hanging Out Two, San Juan Guelavia, Oaxaca, Mexico

San Juan Guelavia is a friendly town.  If you ask, Podria tomarle su foto? Would you agree to have me take your picture? most people will respond positively. Of course, we always ask first because otherwise how would one get consent to take a portrait with eye contact from the subject when he or she is no more than two feet away?

Guajolote, San Juan Guelavia, Oaxaca, Mexico   Huevos Criollos, San Juan Guelavia, Oaxaca

At the Tlacolula market, when we asked, the response was predominantly NO. Some people wanted a fifty peso propina (tip).  Others asked us to buy something and then they would consent.

Rug Vendor, Tlacolula Market, Oaxaca, Mexico Selling Chorizo, Tlacolula Market, Oaxaca, Mexico

One group of men said they didn’t want to be taken advantage of, to have their photos used in a magazine, even when we explained that we were amateurs taking a workshop to learn photographic techniques.

What do you think about paying someone to take their photo?

Herb Seller, Tlacolula Market, Oaxaca, Mexico From Tlapazola, Tlacolula Market, Oaxaca, Mexico

I managed to get some people to agree based on engaging them in conversation, admiring their work, and just trying to figure out who might be receptive. It’s important not to take rejection personally!

Best Turnovers, Tlacolula Market, Oaxaca, Mexico Waiting for the Collectivo, Tlacolula Market, Oaxaca, Mexico

After lunch at Comedor Mary, on the edge of the permanent market facing the side of the Tlacolula church, we decided to return to Teotitlan del Valle where we settled in to Drupa’s Cafe. They are so generous here. With excellent WiFi, hot chocolate, pannini sandwiches, coffee and chai latte, we met here with Matt for a learning session on lighting and reviewed each of our ten best photos from Day One, that included feedback for improvement.

Mixtec Basketweaver, Tlacolula Market, Oaxaca, Mexico

These photos here represent my person eleven best of almost two hundred photos I took today.  And, finally, below, a husband and wife of many years, separated by their hand-woven baskets, wait for customers in San Juan Guelavia.

Waiting, San Juan Guelavia, Oaxaca, Mexico

4 Responses to Day 2: Portrait Photography in the Markets

  1. Norma, This is a question I have thought about in the past and the thing that really made me think twice about taking photos of people was when I thought about my own daughters. When they were small, blonde and very photogenic, I had some stranger ask me if they could take a photo of them. I did not want to be rude, but I did say “NO”, it just was kind of creepy. No stranger has ever asked me for a picture, so not sure how I would react. I don’t particularly like having my photo taken, I am usually the one with the camera, so there are not that many pictures of me. So even if people say it is ok, I wonder if they really are just in an awkward situation and they don’t want to be rude.
    I like the one of the cute guy with the white hat.

    • Mary Anne, yes, asking for and taking photos of people is a very sensitive situation. And, as parents we want to protect our children and keep them safe and secure, so photos can be very exposing creating vulnerability because you never know where they will end up. I’ve been asked for photos by strangers on occasion and have always said YES because I feel flattered, but that’s just me. So, I think it’s a personal choice about how comfortable one is. Thanks so much for contributing and for liking the photo!

  2. Very tricky.
    When I was in Oaxaca, I was surprised when I was told to ask before you raise that camera and also surprised when people would refuse (even from 20 feet away – I thought he was waving at me as a greeting!) So I gave up and stuck to the items in the market itself with people, if any, in the background and not their faces.

    For me, it wasn’t worth it to try and take portraits in a public area where it is impossible to tell who will refuse. Whatever the basis for the refusal whether it be religious, cultural or superstition, it is heartfelt. The process is somewhat dehumanizing. I know that is not your intention, but, when tourists are snapping their cameras at you all day as you try to go about your business, you could easily feel objectified. I think you would feel the same if tourists came into your workplace and did it to you.

    When you have to pay, or even when you have just asked them and they said yes, too often you get the full frontal, big grin when what you want is to capture a less-staged moment. My favorite is of the 2 young men, whose expressions are sardonic and real. The married couple with their baskets is a wonderful composition and a portrait too.
    I think arranging ahead of time for a group that is willing (paid or not) makes more sense. It seems that after a while, they will relax and you will get more reflective shots.
    Just my thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *