Belleza en las Ruinas

This is something Leslie and I love: working with a gifted model in an intriguing location with beautiful light.
When we learned that we would be visiting an historic hacienda during our trip to Mexico for the wedding of our dear friends Calvin and Andrea, our first thought was: let’s find a model who will love and understand this decaying mansion.
With the help of the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops and local talent scout Paul Rodriguez, we were introduced to Elsa (pronounced EALzah), who turned out to be the perfect accomplice for creating these images.
Elsa is a ceramicist living in San Miguel de Allende who loves modeling and was quick to understand our vision for these beauty in the ruins images. Leslie did an entirely separate set of amazing images, which I hope she’ll share in a future blog.
The mansion, which is the centerpiece of a sprawling estate granted by the King of Spain in 1774, was the largest in Mexico. Once owned by the wealthiest person in the country, it is now slowly going back to the earth.
Yet its original beauty is still hauntingly evident. The peeling French wallpaper, the tattered silk ceilings, and the fading frescoed walls hint at its past elegance.
When we first arrived, Elsa, Leslie and I went off in different directions exploring the place (which was huge—we spent an afternoon there and never got into all the rooms).
We were looking for intriguing locations and beautiful light. I loved how this alcove framed Elsa, and the afternoon light bounced all around the white plaster walls, creating soft highlights and shadows.
Elsa was fearless. The back of her dress was covered with white plaster after this shot, and there were bat droppings everywhere. But she, like Leslie and me, was having so much fun making these images, nothing else mattered.
Elsa is five rooms away in this image, and there are as many rooms behind me.
The top of the servant’s circular stairway.
Oh the light. I love how Elsa’s black dress melts into the stairway shadows.
What a different look by just coming up one step into the light. I expressed my concern about Elsa being on the stairs, which were extremely rickety, to which she blithely replied “Oh, I’ve already been up it several times when we were exploring.”
A third stairway portrait. Three very different looks, just by shifting slightly in the light.
Elsa, bailando en la luz.
The beauty of this hand-frescoed wall captured our hearts.
At the end of the afternoon, Elsa rests on the second-floor promenade overlooking the central courtyard. Special shout outs: thanks to Calvin for arranging for us to be here, to Elsa for being so much fun all day, to mentors Keith Carter, who taught me to make images with heart, Cig Harvey, who taught me to make images from my heart, and to Bobbi Lane, who taught me how to see light. All of their influences are evident in every image I make.

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