Sol y Sombra – snapshots from Oaxaca, Mexico / by Samuel Allison

Oaxaca is a street photographer’s dream realm. In the high desert of southern Mexico, the contrast of sunlight & shadow couldn’t be starker. It’s like an invisible set designer is splashing uncanny displays of light & color all over the place. And there’s no end of human pageantry in the colonial streets & plazas, where the people of indigenous pueblos wear their traditional clothes, speak their ancestral languages, and bring their time-honored crafts to market. You never know when you’ll run into a festival, procession, or spontaneous art performance. The joy & mystery in the streets of Oaxaca are inexhaustible. 

For me, coming here meant following in the footsteps of one of my idols, Mary Ellen Mark, who led photography workshops in the city for many years. I limited myself to a pocket-sized camera with a fixed 35mm lens for this series. It was one of those back-to-basics exercises that photographers need periodically to reconnect with the magic of capturing light & shadow in frozen images. And perhaps along the way, I communed with the spirit of one of my photographer heroes.