Medicine Man

Medicine Man (Shaman) | Photographed by David Boucher

Mexico City,  Mexico

On the Zócalo in Mexico City, adjacent to the Catedral Metropolitana, troupes of Shaman, dancers, and vendors set up performances and healing ceremonies. Ceremonies entail the use of burning herbs and vegetation along with chants and prayers designed to heal and cast out unwanted spirits. Performances are based on ancient Aztec ceremonies; performers and Shaman dress in elaborate traditional feathered headdresses and attire for the frenzied performances. Traditionally, men performed the rituals, however, women and, on occasion, children participate in the dances. There are different troupes, although similar, each has a slightly different ritual, dance, and drums or other accompaniments. Individual Shaman perform the healings while using various articles, artifacts, smoke chalices, and chants.

There is no special story that accompanies or is behind this photograph other than I spent the day, on a Sunday in February 2013, walking the Constitution Square Plaza de la Constitución El Zócalo Of Mexico City D.F.(The Zócalo) and the Historic Central District of Mexico City. The area is rich with opportunities and can be overwhelming. I spent a good deal of time watching and going from troupe to troupe and Shaman to Shaman attempting to gain a position that would hopefully produce a reasonable photograph. The photograph was taken rather late in the day with the sun at a low angle, producing some rather favorable light. I was fortunate to capture this Shaman in a pensive expression. While I obtained a number of reasonable photographs that day, this one seems to elicit a positive response. Jay Maisel, when talking about walking and photographing on the streets says, “to wait for the gesture.” There is no way of knowing when “the gesture” will present — they just happen. I was fortunate to capture the gesture of the Shaman. Shaman and troupes are spaced around the Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico, which has since been disrupted with construction. Most are involved in chants, dances and preforming smoke rituals. This particular Shaman I happened on at the end of the day and while he was between rituals.

While I don’t always configure my camera in this manner, I do when walking the street. Situations and gestures present almost fleetingly and to be ready prohibits available time with which to fiddle with camera settings. I am fortunate enough to travel and live aboard for two weeks at a time and to have the opportunity to walk around and be immersed in a culture. Generally, when I travel, take a camera body, one lens (Nikkor 28-300mm, f3.5-5.6), extra batteries and charger, a battery grip, rain sleeve, and a polarizer all in a very small, non-descript camera bag. I sent the camera up at ISO 1600, lens at its maximum aperture, Aperture Priority Mode, Auto White Balance, continuous high-speed mode, and bracketing for three exposures.

Metadata: Nikon D300, Nikkor 28.0-300mm f3.5-5.6.
Taken: 10 Feb 2013 @ 1647hrs.
ISO 400, 300mm,1/2500 sec. @ f5.6,


-- Content copyright David Boucher --