El Progresso, Northern Baja California – December 1998
Driving through Mexico in the winter is something I’ve done all my life. Traveling on highway D-1 brings to mind the classic topics of life, death, creation and eternity – mainly because that’s what the land looks like: eternity, or maybe the surface of a distant planet. In California you can go weeks, maybe months without a trace of existential thought. In Mexico it hits you about sixty miles in on the transpeninsular highway. Winter light is low and clean. It reveals and hides in equal measures. The land is covered with a fine dust that has the flavor of tequila and you find yourself wondering if what you’re tasting is the country – the earth itself is in your mouth and eyes. You will also find yourself taking time, going on hundred-mile tangents and forgetting what day it is.
My friend Philipp Rittermann had been using an English B&W negative film: Ilford Delta 400 – and for a year I tried, but could rarely squeeze the kind of response he was getting out of it – except on one day in December of 1998. For one day, in the wilds of Baja California, it all came together with the help of my faithful Mamiya 645 and an R25 filter. This photograph was taken while traveling north, fifty miles off the pavement east of El Progresso – just before sunset.
Beautifully written, John. Forgetting what day it was, and not caring. I miss those winter sojourns!