Joining LHSA gave me a sense of belonging to a community of likeminded individuals dedicated to everything that Leica stands for. Photographers worldwide have shot the entire gamut of the human condition through the viewfinder of Leica cameras for more than 150 years, and the understanding of the products’ rich history inspires users in their continuing pursuit of excellence. Being a member pushes me to strive for a higher level of creativity in my imagery; it is both a privilege and an honor to be part of LHSA.
Project: Oaxaca, My Love
My new Leica M10, with an Elmarit 28mm, f/2.8 ASPH lens, came in the post just after the New Year, while I was packing for a month’s stay in Oaxaca City, Mexico, where I have previously attended workshops with Maggie Steber. I had decided to give it a “baptism by fire,” in the colorful and festive UNESCO Designated Historic City that sits 5,102 feet above sea level, northwest of Mexico City.
I chose the M10 for its sensor, larger buffer, simplicity, ease of use and compact size. At the time the Elmarit was the most compact lens I could find that was surprisingly sharp. My M240 and SL, as well as the Noctilux 0.95 and Summilux 1.4 stayed home. Trusting in Leica’s legendary reliability and durability I decided to go for broke and not bring a backup camera. My experience of shooting with Leica evoked such faith.
Oaxaca’s beauty can best be described by the kaleidoscope of customs and traditions from its sixteen indigenous cultures, each one making offerings of colorful festivals, rituals, art, cuisine – to the strong Earth energy emanating from its bosom since 11,000 B.C. when humans first appeared in the area.
So, off I went shooting for my project, Oaxaca, My Love. “My cup runneth over,” or should I say, my new Leica M10 runneth over with mystery, joy, celebration, and interesting shots of the locals who did not mind being photographed in their true nature. They were kind, polite, accommodating, hospitable, peaceful, festive, and embodied the quintessential joie de vivre. Every now and then, I would stop and photograph the landscape, architecture, and quiet moments that caught my heart.
“This is not about Oaxaca, this is about you, Jose!” Tania Bohórquez, writer and creative director for famed photographer Antoine d’Agata, exclaimed after reviewing my three weeks’ worth of images.
Tania was drawn to the miscellaneous shots not part of my intended “travelogue,” and, despite her busy schedule with Antoine, she helped my producer, Eva Lepiz (Maggie Steber’s assistant in Mexico), chose and sequenced the photos while I discerned the images with poetry.
“I Must Leave” reflects my personal journey over seventy-three years: my search for a lost childhood, the challenge of clinical depression, my twenty-three years of ministering to the old and dying, and my own version of man’s eternal search for meaning. I am planning to turn it into a larger project, “The Ritual of Darkness.”
As my friend, Maggie Steber, wrote, “But really I see something new in this work. I think all this was always in you, you just found a way to express it, to share what you see and feel, and who you are, who you really are. Not how society describes us, insist on describing us, not by the merit of who and what we are and how we think, but how exterior things define us. This piece tells much more than that.”