For nearly twenty years my wife, Marie, and I explored and documented the rich cultural tapestry of southern Mexico. Marie captured what struck her most with her sketchbook, and I with my camera. When Marie passed away in January 2011, she had been working on a book entitled, Faces and Stories: a Sketchbook Journey in Mexico. I made her a promise shortly before her death that I would do my best to bring her project to fruition. This exhibit is part of that process.
For years, Marie was hesitant to do portraits of people; she said she felt like a voyeur. But she was also strongly drawn to know the stories behind many of the people that she met in our travels or who sat across from her in the zocalo. Finally she decided to muster her courage and ask people’s permission to sketch them. Their response was usually, “Why me?’ But they usually agreed, and once they saw Marie’s pencil dance across the page, they relaxed and began to tell their stories. Marie always made sure they got a quality copy of her sketch as a thank you.
I shared Marie’s hesitation concerning doing portraits of people. I was very timid and fearful of offending someone. However, her example encouraged me to try the same approach. And it worked for me as well. I printed an eight by ten photograph to give to the person I took the portrait of. Seldom was I refused permission, and usually, as was the case with Marie, a friendship started. The sharing was a two-way street, and both parties benefited from the experience.
As much as I love photography, I do believe that sketching a person is a more intimate way to make a personal connection. But to each his/her own. I can do more justice to a person through my camera than my sketchbook, although Marie did get me sketching and I truly enjoy it.
The images exhibited here are my attempt to combine our ways of seeing the world around us. They are images of people who entered our lives, places that caught our eye, and the bountiful colorful tradition that defines Mexico. They all reflect our journey through life together, our love of travel and crossing cultural borders. They are part of my journey to fulfill my promise.