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In 1984, I traveled with Fiesta Commission representatives to Mexico as part of a cultural exchange of festival organizers. I had just started working with the commission a few years earlier, and felt privileged to join the festivities and document the trip. As we landed in Guadalajara, we were met with by a very gracious team that herded us onto a large bus. We spent the next 24-36 hours touring the city, enjoying sumptuous meals at the finest restaurants and hours of celebration at their Dieciseis de Septiembre celebrations. On our last day we had a few hours of free time at Mercado Libertad, a huge market of local goods and produce. I broke away from the group and started wandering around the market. As always, I wore my camera, ready to take any picture that might appear.

When you spend a lot of time in one place, familiarity renders much of the scene before your eyes somewhat invisible – things don’t change much day to day, so you are more aware of the differences, all other elements being more assumed than observed.

In a strange city, what is common to locals is unusual for a visitor. I sat down in the main plaza of the market with a torta and a refreshing beverage. Directly across from me, I noticed venetian blinds hanging in the sun. The graphic nature of the gleaming horizontal blades attracted my telephoto lens and, as I focused, I watched a young woman talking with a gentleman, mostly hidden by the shades. Just as I snapped the picture, she shifted position, lifting her arm and extending her leg. We don’t know what they are discussing, but her position lends an air of unresolved mystery to the scene.

One of the things we miss in this age of digital photography is the darkroom epiphany. I didn’t know what I had in this picture until some days later, when I developed the roll and the contact sheet came through the developer. The tiny frame on the contact sheet was promising and when the resulting print appeared in the developer bath, it became a favorite. I take pictures every day, but the images that keep coming back year after year are important threads in the fabric of life.

Shades of Guadalajara

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