Way back in April, I had an opportunity for a truly unique photo shoot. Our good friends, Lenore and Jose, had recently returned from their place in Oaxaca, MX and we had a spectacular day in April to photograph Jose's amazing rugs! Fortunately, for this type of photography my Canon 1D Mark IIN with a Tamron 28-75 mm lens was adequate for the task at hand.
José ( Jose Buenaventura González Gutierréz) is a Zapotec Master Weaver from Teotitlan del Valle, in the state of Oaxaca, México. He learned to weave from his father when he was ten years old and weaving has been a family tradition for at least seven generations, and probably many more.
Given the amazing artistry of each rug, I wanted to do justice to not only the pattern and masterful weaving, but the incredible colors! And that meant we needed light! Great light! Great lighting can be composed in a studio, but natural light, if you can get it, is spectacular. But it means you have to work fast, because it's always changing! I also wanted to show pictures that displayed not only the colors, but the textures and the scale of the rugs, and searched for different interesting ways to display them. The portrait shot above was shot with ambient light with a reflector. I set the camera to f/4.5 at 1/25, ISO
640. This enabled me to let more into the camera.
We were very, very lucky on April 17th 2015! We had clear skies! Add in fact that the lush NY vegetation was dormant and we had a super day for the shoot! The muted colors of the landscape made it easier to make the rugs the focal point of the shots! For the shot below I used the same camera and lens, but I changed the camera to get a much longer depth of field by changing the f stop to f/16 at 1/80th of a second and an ISO of 100. The ISO could be much lower because, unlike the portrait shot in the barn, I had plenty of light to work with.
José’s rugs often include traditional Zapotec patterns, taken from the well known ancient archaeological sites in Oaxaca (such as Mitla and Monte Alban, both built by the Zapotec people) but also from the small ruins in his home village. By including these symbols and patterns José hopes to keep them from being lost. Maintaining the Zapotec knowledge is a very real concern for his people because Zapotec-the language- is rapidly being replaced with Spanish in almost all areas of daily life.
The spectacular reds, maroons, oranges and pinks are derived from cochineal, small bugs that infest cactus. The blue hues are created with indigo from the coastal areas of Oaxaca
José cards and spins his wool by hand. The amazingly brilliant colors you see here are as much a part of his art as the weaving itself because Jose dyes his own yarn using only natural and organic dyes! He uses locally grown materials, such as pomegranate, bark of coco, marigold flowers, mosses, and cochineal and indigo.
Other rug patterns are taken from ancient rock art in México, Europe, Northwest Canada and around the world. Still other designs are original, and José has made many custom designed rugs for his clientele from all parts of the world, including Japan, Cuba, Canada, Germany and the U.S.
The photos shown here are a small sampling of Jose's work. I already have material for several more posts and am looking forward to taking even more photos of Jose at work!
Up next, shooting the Arabian Canadian National Championship Show