Ladies in Waiting
There is something beautiful, noble and, at times, deeply poignant about many of the older women I have encountered here in Mexico over the past few years. I have felt privileged to photograph the señoras in various contexts, places and times of the year. Be it in Oaxaca to the south, Veracruz to the east or San Miguel de Allende in the heart of the country where I spend six months of the years, they have a way of drawing me in. Some I have come to know well; others have been chance encounters including surreptitious photo moments. Call them "opportunities". This is just a small album.
Above is Marguerita at work in the large mercado not far from our home. After selling me avocados, tomatoes, jalapenos and a handful of cilantro for a few pesos she'd invariably offer me a guayaba (guava) or a tangerine.
Not far from her I'd also pass by the tiny, deeply wrinkled woman who awaits patiently on the frigid, cement steps day in day out, selling small munecas or dolls. She's often donning a pink dress.
Recently, during Semana Santa, I did alot of street photography. Just before Palm Sunday, I watched women weaving reed crosses for Palm Sunday by various churches. Maybe one day I might learn this craft, a craft probably handed down from their mother or abuela, grandmother.
When more confident, call it courageous, I first ask to photograph. Sometimes, it's simply not possible — the person may be in her own world. This occurred when after shooting grandes dames at a wedding around the corner, I suddenly came across a solitary figure wrapped in a black shawl, sitting on cold stone. With but her hands visible, she looked anonymous...
How many times have I seen her before? Here she was now in a very different and unusual setting awaiting, yet again any display of generosity. I hesitated to capture her image having made a commitment to myself not to photograph people begging. I couldn't help it though. This was different: our eyes would never meet. Beyond any social statement, what attracted me was the composition: a striking contrast between her ebony black figure and the wall with its bright, freshly painted sample of colors. Definitely a Sol Le Wit study.
All the more ironic, almost eerie, were images I had just captured of other "ladies in waiting", in this case with spiky, high heeled shoes and long, slinky, sequined dresses for a Saturday wedding. Death is not on their mind.
As these photographs testify, I was more drawn to older women, not only because of their strikingly beautiful, indigenous faces but also because many still maintain of their traditional dress including rebozos or shawls. They are the ones making for a testament to a quickly disappearing culture in Mexico. And, as I continued to seek older women through my camera lens, I realize I am also drawn to them because of my own stage in life. We are all "ladies in waiting."