Best of Week Day of the Dead Photographs: Erin Loughran

Coming from Brooklyn, NY, this was Erin’s first visit to Mexico!  She studied film photography in college and used a SLR for years.  Of late, Erin said she got lazy  using a point and shoot camera or keeping the SLR on automatic. Her goal in attending the Day of the Dead Photography Expedition was to expand her photography skills and make more thoughtful choices about lenses, flash, lighting and night photography.  She also wanted to practice getting more comfortable taking photos of people  she did not know.

Photo 1:  Host Luvia Lazo at the family altar.  Erin says, “The family visit was amazing.  Being invited into a family’s home and hearing their personal stories and explanations about life in the village and the Day of the Dead was very special.”

Photo 2:  Luvia’s family altar.  Every family will create their own altar arrangement based upon family traditions and aesthetics. There is always the cane arch by which the dead enter and leave the world, candles, copal and wild marigold to guide the path.

“I’ve always wanted to visit Mexico during the Day of the Dead.  I figured this program would be culturally respectful and a creative way to engage with the celebrations.  I’d also like to build my photography skills and hopefully leave with some great memories and pictures,” Erin said on her registration form.


Photo 3: (Left) Laundry at the potter’s house.  Photo 4:  (Right) Portrait at the pottery.

Photo 5:  Sitting vigil at the Xoxocotlan cemetery.  Erin used a Nikon D40 camera. She got great night shots without flash using a tripod despite the fact that the camera’s ISO only goes to 1600.  Despite the limitations of her camera to bring more light into the exposure, Erin got great foreground detail and composition.

Photo 6:  Cemetery at Xoxocotlan.  The darker the conditions, the greater need there is to raise the ISO.  If Erin’s camera had the capability to go to ISO 3200 or beyond, she would have gotten more light into the lens to create a brighter photo.

Photo 7:  The magic of the altar includes a photo of the deceased family member, cups of hot chocolate and piles of special Pan de Muerto (bread of the dead) to refresh them for the journey to/from the underworld.  Erin captured the mystery of the family altar beautifully.

Photo 8:  The playfulness of the comparsa [sometimes also called a muerteada].  The street parades go on for days in Oaxaca during Day of the Dead, from October 30 to November 2.

“The responsiveness to the needs and interests of the group was really impressive.  The thoughtfulness with which matches with host families were made was wonderful,” says Erin. [Norma says, “Thank you, Erin.]

Photo 9: There are also parades that feature indigenous dress so that visitors can see the colorful handmade clothing that is woven and embroidered in villages throughout Oaxaca.

Photo 10:  The Children’s Comparsa.  This parade is not to be missed.  It happens on October 30.  Erin caught the mood perfectly.

Photo 11:  Symmetry and Asymmetry.  A doorway in Teotitlan del Valle.

“I felt safe and comfortable even on my own throughout Oaxaca,” says Erin. Thank you, Erin, for the joy of your company.

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