Towards the end of October of last year I traveled to Mexico for events relating to the Day of the Dead. The first part of my trip found me in Oaxaca alongside some of my favorite people and colleagues from different parts of the globe. Oaxaca is the home of Gorilla Glass, owned by Jason Pfohl our most amazing host. We were there to attend several events that Jason had organized, all culminating in art gallery openings and the local events celebrating the Day of the Dead.
While I was there, Jimmy Buddha, owner and designer for Diablo Organics, mentioned that he needed photos for their 2014 calendar which would be male models posing in what are typically pin up poses. The theme would be “Man Meat”. I liked the idea and the possibilities around me; we were in a beautiful place.
Oaxaca is known as the birth place of agriculture of the Americas. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010 for being the place where were found the “earliest known evidence of domesticated plants in the continent, while corn cob fragments from the same cave are said to be the earliest documented evidence for the domestication of maize.” The amazing variety of plants to be found in Oaxaca add a very intriguing mystique to the beauty of the vegetation. I spent a lot of time at the Ethnobotanical gardens in the city where hundreds of native plants species were housed in what used to be monastic grounds. That’s a topic for another photo blog, however. Needless to say, my camera got used a lot in Mexico.
Jason lives in an industrial area which is where the Gorilla Glass compoud is located, it is surrounded by beautiful mountainous landscapes and the climate was perfect. There were so many interesting places surrounding his home that to me were begging to be photographed. I saw one of these places out of the corner of my eye while we were driving down a road. I knew exactly how I wanted to shoot it. The area was rich in textures and it seemed like another planet carefully tucked away from the busy life surrounding it. It occurred to me that this would be the perfect backdrop for the “Man Meat” calendar and I mentioned it to Kevin Jump. He was also visiting Mexico for many of the same reasons I was; except he had ridden his motorcycle into Mexico all the way to Oaxaca along side Jimmy Buddha and this is the same way he would go back to his home in Phoenix, Arizona.
Kevin (@MAKEROFTHEWHOLE on Instagram) is a body piercer currently working out of HTC in Tempe, Arizona. He has been piercing for well over a decade, if I remember correctly, and is held in high regard by many in the industry. I fist met him in Las Vegas during the 2013 APP (Association of Professional Piercers) conference. That year we were asked to participate in the first ever fashion show dedicated to body jewelry. We walked down the runway together, barely dressed and representing Maya Jewelry to the sounds of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”. Definite highlight of that year; I made a video blog about that week. Kevin would be perfect for this photo shoot.
One day while Kevin and I were at Jason’t home I managed to convince him to go to that spot that I had pointed out to him. The spot was a pond which was surrounded by earthen structures which seem to have been sculpted by erosion and water. It seemed like a somewhat private space which was great because Kevin would be nude for the entirety of the shoot. Further testament of the privacy of the spot was the man made shelters sprinkled throughout the scenery. These constructions were open to the elements with evidence of homeless occupants strewn around*. We knew we had to respect the area as we didn’t want to disrupt anything.
It was a beautiful warm day. There were beautiful clouds in the sky but we were there when the Sun is at it’s highest. Not exactly the best conditions for photographs but I knew how to shoot this, I had my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens. What I didn’t have was a flash unit, I had left it at Jason’s house which meant that I had to make a lot of compromises in my exposures. I like to shoot in manual. I would have to have Kevin facing me with the Sun at my back as much as possible so it meant that Kevin had the Sun in his eyes for the majority of the shoot and I had to make do with available light. Still, I am quite happy with the results. It’s very rare that I get to be the photographer for these kinds of assignments but these images are priceless to me. The results are exactly what I was going for and I guess this means that I can call myself a photographer from now on. There is so much more to the story of my tour of Mexico, all of which is attached to some of the best photographs I have ever taken. I hope this series of photographs sets the tone for the rest of what I have to share from that trip. It was life changing for many reasons and it took me on an adventure to the birth place of Quetzalcoatl where I encountered “beautiful wisdom” and left an offering at the altar.
To see more of the photographs of this series, visit the gallery, “Kevin for Diablo Organics 2014 Calendar” on my website. Let me know what you think! I’d love to get some feedback on these photos.
* Update: Jason Pfohl has been gracious enough to correct some of the information on this post. He writes, “A little more background on the site; those are the cantera mines. Thats where all the stone for the churches comes from. Cantera comes in several colors; green, yellow, and pink. And the “homeless shelters” aren’t for homeless people, its for the workers to relax in the shade when they are chipping away at the site”. Thanks for the information, Jason!