Indigenous Gathering in the Heart of Coban.

Photograph © Jeremy Wade Shockley 2010.

Expect the unexpected. As a traveler I lived by this mantra, as a photojournalist even more so.

Having traversed much of Guatemala by bus and boat, we landed in the Colonial City of Coban, in the heart of Guatemala, hoping to take a couple days respite before pushing north into the Peten Region. The colonial cities of South and Central America have always held my imagination, for their age, character, and historical significance, something that one can by no means avoid noticing. Cobblestone streets and battered storefronts, a plaza central with its beautiful, haggard and resilient plumage, the Catholic Churches surrounded by stately government buildings, architectural indicators of a past glory.

For all of the above reasons, I was more than eager to set out into the streets of Coban, as the day cooled and evening set in.

It was by good fortune that we arrived in the days leading up to an annual indigenous gathering held in the plaza each year, drawing artist, musicians, and dancers from all the far flung regions of the Mayan world, and particularly those from the heartland of Guatemala itself. This sort of energy and excitement is what drives me as a photographer, and the opportunities to connect with people and create instant relationships become very real.

This young man of Mayan decent, is a jeweler and a musician. I had visited with him and his travelling companions earlier in the day, photographed their public performance, a vibrant, spontaneous tribute to those singing and dancing on the street corner.

This image was captured much later, a more personal moment, one I was able to share as an outsider having gained a certain degree of trust in the early hours of the cultural celebration.

When you photograph around people do you set out to make immediate photographs or do you use the camera to create relationships, perhaps cultivating a more intimate image over time?

Jeremy

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