Just an hour by plane south of Mexico City lies Oaxaca, destination for the many tourists who prefer the streets to Mexico’s resorts and beach life. Served by a small – some might call it regional – but nonetheless highly efficient airport. The heart of Oaxaca is definitely its Old Town.
A world apart from the rest of Oaxaca, the Old Town is bright, clean and teeming with locals and tourists alike. Unlike my assumption that most of the visitors in Mexico City were American, I’m told that most of the visitors to Mexico actually come from Canada, once again bringing Trump’s all-too-willing alienation of border-sharing Mexico into question. Either way, they spend and are treated as well and courteously as visitors from anywhere else.
Like planning for our stay in Mexico City, my pre-visit research didn’t fill me with too much enthusiasm; brightly painted houses, stalls selling everything you’d expect and lots of tourist-y photo opportunities. The reality is quite different. The city fathers have clearly understood that the Old Town is a fabulous awareness and revenue generator. They ensure the streets are spotless and the locals and their trading is up to international standards. The pavements can be a challenge however – watch where you’re walking as the tree stumps, pot holes and (very) uneven paving could easily turn an ankle, or worse.
Photographically, once you’ve sated your thirst for gaily painted buildings and locals in traditional (and street) dress, then you need to start to look a bit deeper. For me, that meant a continuation of the manifold textures offered by Mexico City.
Like the capital, Oaxaca is beset by graffiti, poorly disguised as daubing and senseless defacement of all too many vertical and most horizontal surfaces. Occasionally, a housing, or political protest is to be seen, but the most remain unintelligible and at least to me, pointless.
That said, there’s plenty to photograph – there’s history to be seen, colours, textures, metal castings, welding, pottery, wooden fascias and the inevitable markets; you name it and sure enough, Oaxaca will soon show you its offerings.
Unlike Mexico City’s tightly packed streets, Oaxaca gets plenty of sunlight penetration and if you are of a mind, the resulting shadows and shapes can be very photogenic and doubtless unique.
Our week in Oaxaca was great fun, relaxing, the food almost as good as advertised and the photography OK. I have the term; “damned by faint praise” in mind, but that’s not the case. Oaxaca isn’t an undestination, but well worth a visit if Mexico is already on your photo bucket list.
For the technically curious, I shot almost all of these images with the wonderful Fuji X-H1 and either Zeiss 25mm f2.8 Biogon, or Zeiss 35mm f1.4 Distagon. The appeal of these two lenses is quite clear in the images above.
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