Monday, February 2, 2009
El Musico Ciego: The Blind Accordion Player
I have always fancied myself a photographer, and after a thousand tries I do have a few shots I am proud of. Many were taken over years of traveling in Mexico. Some of my best were slides of people. However, there is a time when the camera is intrusive, invasive, even disrespectful. I was scolded once by an indian woman for taking her photo in a Oaxacan market place. "You Americanos think you can do what you please" she said defiantly. I was embarrassed, shamed by her public outburst and deserving. After all, what was my fascination with photographing poor indians, vendors and peddlers? Poverty is not artistic or poetic, is it? I have read about cameras with false lenses which appear to aim one way, but shoot another. I learned to take a shot of people by pretending to aim at several possible locations, one of them being my true subject, and then after I had focused and cropped the image in the viewfinder, quickly pressed the shutter. The result was sometimes a shot capturing an unrehearsed moment in time, an shameless expression, unposed.
It is said that indians feared the camera, because they believed a photograph stole their soul. I have envelopes stuffed with the usual snapshots of kids, parties, camping trips, friends, family, pets but most are just that, snapshots. This for me, is one of the few that stands out. I was torn whether to take it or not, and I waited until the entire street was clear of people. There was something powerfully beautiful, tragic yet uplifting about a blind beggar playing accordion on a cobblestone street in Patzcuaro, Michoacan. Forgive me.