Every day, if the weather allows, indigenous people flock to Zócalo, the huge central square of Mexico City. From early morning they transform themselves, dressing in traditional clothes, wearing the makeup of their ancestors, dancing and performing rituals. They burn medicinal roots and cleanse the souls of tourists. But this is no shabby act to delight passers-by in hope of a few pesos; the people they treat and entertain are Mexicans themselves. And to those performing it’s an important way of life; one that keeps their traditions and rituals alive, their legacies assured.
In this case it was important for me to document the fabulous feathered robes and the intricacies of this man’s makeup, but I wanted more. I wanted a picture with a look that communicated something special and would make the viewer stop, think or wonder.
To get it, as always, I needed to break down the barrier between us, so we talked and got to know each other a bit more than tourist and subject. When I took the picture, I loved the look he finally gave me. Something where maybe there is a little bit of a secret or something dangerous.
To make the most of colour in a picture like this you need light. He was leaning in a doorway out of the sun, so along with the Sony Alpha 1 and 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens, I used a small LED light. This helped me bring all the delicate hues and tones out of the feathers, as well as highlighting his face.
The exposure I used was 1/125sec at f/8 and ISO 1600. I might normally shoot with a wider aperture, but here I wanted the extra depth-of-field from f/8, so the picture would have all the fine texture and detail of his garments visible. With the Alpha 1’s Steady-Shot Inside image stabilisation, I knew 1/125sec would keep the image nice and sharp, but I was happy to let the Auto ISO ride up to 1600, too. With the Alpha 1, I know I can go to something like 6400 without really thinking about noise. It’s really just stunning. And of course, the eye-tracking AF locked on immediately.
When you work with a camera like that, one where you can rely on it to perform without question, it frees you up to be more creative. I trust it implicitly, and I don’t need to spend time playing with settings or even check images on the screen to see if they’re in focus or well exposed. I just know they are. Because I can focus on a moment instead of playing with the camera it becomes like an extension of my eye. For that reason, the Alpha 1 really is the total camera.
"What matters for me in photography is not what a picture is showing and presenting, but rather what kind of questions it provokes"