Photographs of people’s faces can be so evocative of travel; somehow you can capture the spirit and image of a place with a single shot of someone. But of course it’s not always the right thing to do, and as an independent traveller, learning how to respect the local people, and their beliefs, is an essential part of getting closer to their culture. Taking direct photographs can offend, in some parts of the world there is a genuine dislike, and in some parts of Asia in particular, there is a belief that each photograph steals a part of the soul.
Then of course there are those who want money for a photograph, and then there are those who are very happy to be captured on film.
The Oaxaca region of Mexico is so full of evocative faces. The valleys surrounding the city are home to the descendants of 16 different indigenous tribes, each with their own appearance, dialect and culture. Apparently the locals can tell at a glance which tribe someone heralds from, we didn’t quite get that far but it’s impossible to miss some of the more distinctive features. Some look very much like we imagine so called “Red Indians” to look (there’s cowboys too!); some are short and squat with wider faces; some of the older ladies, presumably from a particular tribe, keep their hair very long and plaited, and then tie the ends of the plaits together with an oversized and brightly coloured ribbon.
There is no racist element to this identification process; on the contrary, it is the immense pride in heritage that keeps the distinctive looks alive.
We managed to capture some shots of faces which we think evoke the spirit and the memories of the vibrant city of Oaxaca. Some are reproduced here.