Note To Self: Don’t Forget To Make Contact

“Headless Manikin Man”

Okay, so I’m having a bit of a blogging identity crisis. For several years now, I’ve held fast to the notion that a reader friendly post should include a couple of images and about three paragraphs of good copy. I do enjoy post of all sorts and I read and follow a ton of them, but I have to admit my attention span and my patience does have its limits. Am I saying that I prefer single image posts with a short caption? Not at all, in fact I often wonder if some people have simply not heard of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Am I saying that I devour well written novelettes disguised as blog posts, or that I seek out Photo Essays that require page scrolls until my fingers cramp to fully appreciate, definitely not. In my view, the ideal blog post falls somewhere in the middle ground. Look at my last few posts and you will see that I’ve strayed. My recent trip to Guatemala has turned me into a Monster, a Mr. Sit Down On The Couch And Look at My Photo Albums Guy. I’m so ashamed and I’ve gotta get back on track.

Architecture of Antigua

Architecture of Antigua

People of Antigua

People of Antigua

Back in the old days, we used contact sheets to show off our slides and negatives. You would throw them down on a light table and let others pick and choose what they wanted to see in more detail, perhaps through a magnified viewer. If one or two of the images were exceptional, you would invest the time and money necessary to further process them to a more presentable format. Sounds pretty ideal doesn’t it? It wasn’t, for if it were I wouldn’t have boxes of contact sheets and prints collecting dust in the basement. Digital did change everything and mostly for the better. We now have the ability to invite the WORLD to sit at our light table but it’s still important to hand them the contact sheets and not the sixteen by twenties.

Drying Her Tears

“Drying Her Tears”

Do you periodically get confused about your blogging identity? What do you think about bringing back the Contact Sheet?

This Father's Daughter

This Father’s Daughter

Before I go, I want to tell you about Photographer Rudy Giron in Antigua. First of all, he is an incredible Photographer with some of the best images of Guatemala that I’ve seen. Second of all, he has a popular Photo Walk Business where guides tourists/photographers through the streets of Antigua, giving history and cultural lessons and photo tips all at the same time. Thanks Rudy for re-kindling my desire to shoot people (with a camera of course). If you want to see a great example of an Artist who is thriving in his own originality, look him up.

Photographer Rudy Giron

Photographer Rudy Giron

A Gringo’s Impression of Semana Santa in La Antigua


Uno Mas Cerveza – Waiting for the procession to begin

Jessica and Tammy from our table side vantage point

Jessica and Tammy from our table side vantage point

In my previous post I highlighted the ornate Alfombras (carpets) that are laid out in the streets of Antigua, only to be erased by the feet of the many who participate in the Semana Santa Processions.  The Processions are impressive on all accounts and as a first time observer it took me a while to acknowledge the magnitude and complexity of the spectacle. Even now, a couple of weeks after returning home to Colorado, I am still trying to figure out exactly what I witnessed. I’m not Catholic but I know about the Stations of the Cross and the Passion Play which are traditional manifestations that commemorate the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ. Semana Santa was a whole new experience, a Passion Play on steroids if you will.

Roman Soldiers

Roman Soldiers

Roman Soldiers On First Ave

“Marching To The Beat Of Their Own Drummer”

Signs of the Times

“Signs of the Times”

Turning A Corner copy

“Turning The Corner”

Good Friday, the day known for Jesus’ final march up Mt. Calvary to be nailed to the cross, is the busiest day of the week. Three massive processions, one for each of the three Churches in town, begin at their places of worship and wander through sixty some odd blocks of the ancient city. The first procession embarks at 4am and the other two in the heat of the afternoon. Keep in mind that these processions are very slow, taking up to 12 hours or more to make the rounds. Pace is set by the swaying feet of those carrying Andas (floats) which weigh upwards of eight thousand pounds. A changing of the guard takes place every block or two as a fresh group of Cucuruchos (Male Float Bearers) step in to keep the heavy Andas aloft. Throughout the day and night, the processions and participants and onlookers manage to steer clear of one another without a glitch, pure logistic genius.

Big Andas

Cucuruchos and the swaying Andas

Above the Andas

“Changing Of The Guard”

Toward The Hill

“Up To The Hill”

las dolorosas 2

Las Dolorosas

The Cucuruchos pay an entry fee for the privilege of carrying the Andas and they are grouped with others of similar height so that the weight of the float will be evenly distributed. At 6’3” I stood out like the towering Gringo that I am and it made me very self conscious but it did give me an advantage as a spectator. I can only imagine that if I had the upbringing and ambition to sign on as a bearer, I might be politely re-directed to another assignment after they measured my shoulder height. In addition to the Cucuruchos, there are many roles to fill. Roman Soldiers on foot and in Chariots, sign bearers, and more Men and Boys cloaked in purple or white or black lead off the procession. Incense smoke fills the air surrounding the floats thanks to those in charge of swinging fiery pots back and forth as they march and at the heels of the floats marches a band playing dramatic and mournful music. The float of the Virgin Mary brings up the rear and is carried by Dolorosas (scarfed Women dressed in white or black). Throw in a city cleaning crew which immediately picks up the remains of the destroyed carpets and a generator and lighting crew after dark and it all adds up to one heck of a production.

las dolorosas

Las Dolorosas at night

Band at Night

Lights and Music

Alfombras, The Temporary Masterpieces of Antigua

Ornate Fountan La Merced

Ornate Fountain at La Merced, Antigua

Consider the artistic pursuit of the ice sculptor, how he or she carves and etches the most elaborate details into their frozen medium only to have it melt a short while later. It makes me wonder how a person can find the inspiration and the motivation to create something so beautiful, to be seen and appreciated by so few in the fleetingly short period of time that it exists. Likewise, the sand castle builder, the live performer and the master Chef have come to accept that being present in the moment is as much a part of their craft as the art itself.

I am aware of the fact that all art is temporary, yet so much of my own personal motivation comes from the desire to create something that will outlive me. I am driven by the notion that somehow, the legacy of my work will make me a little less mortal. I guess that is why I’m drawn to the mediums of writing, photography and painting. The extent to which these things will remain in existence is unknown, just as the architects of the ancient city of Ixemche in Guatemala had no way of knowing that their structures would still be standing some 600 years after their deaths.

Two Beauties At Iximche

My Wife Tammy and My Daughter Jessica at Ixemche

Contemporary Guatemala is like a giant museum of fine art and Antigua is one of it’s most impressive exhibits. Art is everywhere in Antigua. Art is in the ornate Spanish and Mayan influenced architecture. Art is in the cobblestone streets and the clay rooftops. Art is in the quiet out of the way courtyards and the public gathering places. Art is in the gentle slopes of the surrounding Volcanos and in the fertile crops that grow on them. Art is in the colorful skin tones of the native people and the fabrics that they wear. I think you get the picture, Antigua is Art.

cafe courtyard copy

Cafe Courtyard, Antigua


Blood Moon Rising on Good Friday, Antigua

Purple Robe and Mayan Soldier

Mayan Soldier and Cucuruchos

If there is one week of the year that one would most want to visit Antigua, it would be Holy Week. Semana Santa is the week prior to the celebration of Easter. Needless to say, religion in Guatemala is overwhelmingly Catholic and Semana Santa is revered as the most important week of the year. For us, we were lucky to secure reservations for Wednesday through Saturday. It was fascinating to witness the population expand from around 35000 to over a quarter of a million as people from the surrounding villages and from all over the world squeezed into Antigua to join in the celebration.

Getting Buzy_tonemapped

Before the Procession

I’ll be sharing a bunch of my photos from Antigua during Semana Santa in the next couple of posts, but for the remainder of this post I want to re-visit the idea that Art should not be judged upon how long it lasts. Of all of the images that I left Antigua with, the Alfombras (Carpets) that are laid out on the cobblestone streets are the most indelible. Alfombras are made out of sand, sawdust and pine needles and are adorned with grains and seeds and plants to produce masterpieces that will be walked on and destroyed by the extensive processions that follow. Enjoy!

Green Carpet

Carpet Artists

Carpet From Doorway copy

Carpet Characters

Carpet Stencil

diamond carpet

Family Carpet

Red Purple Carpet


Long Carpet

Reflections Of Guatemala

Cucuruchos Waiting Room

Cucuruchos Waiting Room – Before Thursday’s Semana Santa Procession Through the Streets of Antigua

Its been a solid month since my last post and I have a boat load of excuses. Income tax season always comes with it’s own complications. Throw in a Mac Book Pro crash, a few business woes and a trip abroad. Even super man would have a hard time lifting the blogging pen. As the dust settles I find that Spring is exploding all around me and I’m ready to get back in the groove. I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire artistically speaking. I have two canvases on the easel and many more on deck. Our video business is evolving as we await our television debut (One of Our Videos will appear on Arts District, a weekly show on Rocky Mt. PBS – 5/7/15) and our trip to Guatemala for Semana Santa (Holy Week) has filled my inspiration bucket with an abundance of inspiration. I can’t wait to share it all with you. cityviewblog   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our Daughter has been living in Guatemala for almost four years and I’m ashamed to say that We’ve been too busy during that period of time to visit her, until now. Easter is a magic time in a land of Volcanos and Coffee. Experiencing it with Jessica, from the perspective of an Expat was really special. Tammy (my Wife) and I have been drawn to Mexico and Central America over the years and have always managed to find ourselves in places where English is used, at least enough for us to get by. I can say that we would have had a very difficult time on this trip, had it not been for Jessica’s understanding of the culture and native language of Guatemala. Note to Self: Learn Spanish.

Cupuchins Rooftop

Church And Convent at Capuchins – One of Antigua’s Beautiful Historic Buildings

As we approached, the lights of Central America’s most populous city were an impressive sight. Traffic lined Streets and Avenues weave their way through the hills and valleys, stitching a luminous quilt of light over the darkened land. Over 4.5 Million People live in the greater metropolitan area of Guatemala City, a melting pot of the Indigenous Mayan and Spanish Cultures. Once on the ground, we gathered our luggage, made our way through customs and looked for Jessica’s welcoming face in a crowd at the terminal exit. First impressions included brightly lit advertising signs everywhere, Motorcycles delivering fast food, stop signs (Alto) that mean go, razor wire everywhere and armed guards in front of businesses….Oh how I’ve missed the exhilaration of culture shock.

Boys Fishing At San Juan Boat Dock

Boys Fishing At San Juan Boat Dock – Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

In all, we spent eight nights in Guatemala including two in the city, three at Lake Atitlan and three in Antigua. Our adventures would take us to Jessica’s home and workplace, to the crowded markets of Zone One and to the winding and hazard filled roads through the highlands. We would ride water taxis from village to village, hike among waterfall’s, spider-monkeys and bamboo at Lake Atitlan. We would witness and participate in the pomp and pageantry of Holy Week in one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen, Antigua. In all, I have way too much to share in one post. I’ll be breaking down my show and tell into a series of posts over the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy.

Mother And Child Antiqua

Mayan Mother and Child – Antigua


Tuc Tuc Ride At Panajachel