Thursday, March 28, 2013

¡Exprésate! - Day Four - National Centre for the Arts

Today (ten years ago) was one of my most memorable. In the morning, we did a quick location scout to Adriana's parents house. I'm not sure who Adriana is. She had some connection with Holt. Maybe Marta can fill me in. But that wasn't the memorable part. Our photo-shoot at the National Centre for the Arts was. Just the architecture alone was fun to photograph but we visited the Music department, Art, theatre, dance and more. We started out in the studio of the art dept. where I photographed a student working on his painting. There were many student paintings all over the studio and the light was beautiful. From there we walked to the sculpture studio where inside a couple students were working on a metal sculpture. Outside a student was working on a clay sculpture and from here we walked into the pottery studio.

Painting and Sculpture class - Images by Don Couch

Next, we walked over to the music dept. During the walk, we encountered some students in a freestyle performance. They were running around the campus in a free flowing improv style. At one point the "leader" of the group grabbed me by the arm and we took off running while the others followed acting out a freestyle performance with me as the main character. He told me I was descending into Hell and the was reborn. I tried my best to keep photographing during this.

improv - Images by Don Couch

We then went to the theatre dept. was I photographed some students practicing a stage production, I recall the instructor was a bit put off by our presence but we did have permission to be there so he reluctantly let us in.

theatre class - Images by Don Couch

Next was the dance studio was next. Here I photographed ballet dancers practising. I could have spent all day here. In fact, from a photographer's standpoint, I could have spent all day in ANY of these studios. But this was the nature of this project. "Get in and Get out" "Gun an Run" was what I was told I would be doing. It was so true. It really tested my abilities as a photographer to walk in, access the location and get to work. Marta never pressured me but I was aware of all we had to accomplish in the short period of time we had. This "show up and shoot" style became my mantra. I quickly realized I couldn't control the who, what where and when of our shoots. So much had been preplanned before I even arrived in Mexico. I was here, I had a job to do and that's what I did.

Dance Class - Images by Don Couch

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

¡Feliz cumpleaños, Marta!

Day three had us location scouting with the video crew pretty much all day. After lunch we went back to the Zócalo for more location scouting.

Here, we go to the Gran Hotel Ciudad De Mexico. It plays the part of the “El Presidente Hotel” in the JAMES BOND film "License to Kill". The hotel has an enormous Tiffany stained glass ceiling from 1908.

Gran Hotel - Images by Don Couch

Also, it has a great view of the Zócalo. We went back into the Metropolitan Cathedral. One interesting thing inside the cathedral is a giant pendulum hanging from the ceiling marking the shift of the buildings foundation.

cathedral day three - Images by Don Couch

The pendulum in the center of the church has markings beneath it which show how the building has moved over the years. Being built on a lakebed, the cathedral, along with the rest of the Mexico City, has been sinking into the lakebed from the day it was built. Restoration and foundation repair began in the 1990s to stabilize the massive structure. We stopped by the The National Palace Or Palacio Nacional to photograph the Diego Rivera Murals there. Very amazing work!

Diego Rivera Murals - Images by Don Couch

Today is also Marta's birthday (¡Feliz cumpleaños, Marta!). We celebrated with a cake at the studio and went to Los Mariachis de la Plaza Garibaldi - Plaza of the Mariachis.

Marta's Birthday - Images by Don Couch

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

¡Exprésate! - Day two

Day two in Mexico City. I remember I met Marta for breakfast. I had no idea what the menu said! At this point I really didn't know any Spanish and I really didn't know Marta either. I do remember getting coffee and off we went to the the Zócalo, the main plaza or square in the heart of the historic center of Mexico City, one of the largest city squares in the world. It was the first time I saw the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary. I remember when I walked in and stood the in this magnificent structure, it brought tears to my eyes. I remember thinking what amazing monuments man will build to honor his god. Little did I know I was to see many more monuments to many gods during this project.

The trip to the Zócalo was a location scout. From there, we headed to the largest market I had ever seen, La Merced Market, Mexico City. Located east of the Zocalo, La Merced is a traditional public market located in the eastern edge of the historic center of Mexico City and is the largest retail traditional food market in the entire city. This place was a photographers dream. Hundreds of stalls full of food flowers clothes - colors, textures, and the most amazing faces. But the light. The light was a terrible mix of daylight and tungsten. It was difficult at best but with some fill flash I made it through. I was shooting with a Fuji S2 Pro. They had just come out. It proved itself to be a workhorse of a camera but it loved to eat AA batteries. So much so I couldn't get thirty shots off on set of four. It was embarrassing! Later, I bought a Quantum Turbo 2x2 battery for the rest of the project. But that's another story.

Market - Images by Don Couch

I remember downloading the cards, my 256mb CF and the three 1 gig CF cards and being so excited with this days work. The market photos were my favorite. One tech note here. My client wanted a camera that would produce in camera TIFF files. They did not want to convert RAW to TIFF in the field. Remember, this was ten years ago. I only wish I had LIGHTROOM back them. At best it was the FUJI software or PhotoMechanic. My choice for a camera was either the Nikon D1 for $5000.00 and was six megapixel or the just released twelve megapixel Fuji S2 Pro for $2500.00. My contract stipulated I had to have a backup camera so two Fuji S2's it was. As fate would have it, Fuji turned out to be a great camera as well as a good career choice for me as well. My use of Fuji introduced me to more great people like Joe Cullen and Kayce Baker and years later brought my dear friend Alfred Gordon back into my life.

Monday, March 25, 2013

¡Exprésate! - Ten years ago today

Ten years ago today, I began the assignment that would change my life forever. It started me down a path of travels and adventures I had only dreamed of. Traveling to some of the most mystical and magical places in the world, being paid to do what I love most, make photographs. This one project would take me to eight countries for almost six months. I thought I would post a photo a day from each days shoot or maybe a series of images and the story that goes with it. So much of this project is seared into my memory. It seems like yesterday. I met some amazing people along the way, many of them are still close friends to this day. Next to my lovely wife Brenda, I would have to thank Cindy Verheyden the most. She gave me my first break at Holt Rinehart and Winston and we formed a close friendship ever since. Next of course would be my partners in this epic journey, Marta Kimble and Paul Provence. We went through a hell of a lot together. From Marta's bout with "Degngue" fever, Paul's endless on again off again Atkin's diet to my stolen laptop are but a few of the many funny/tragic stories I will try to remember here. The project was ¡Exprésate!, A Spanish Language Textbook with an accompanying video. In all I made somewhere over fifty thousand images for this project. It will be fun to relive each day and see what I remember. I have an archive set of CDs of the entire project. All great journeys begin with a single step. Here is the first image I made on day one of the Mexico leg of the project. I am proud to say they did use this image.