Chichicastenango – locals call it “Chichi” – has attracted buyers and sellers for centuries from all over Guatemala and has grown into the most important market in the Maya region. It was founded by the Spanish after they destroyed the nearby K'iche' town of Utatlán in 1524 and its name means "Place of the Nettles".
Guatemala – Photo Tip

A photo without a human being is a dull one

Photo by Ton Koene

Guatemala – Photo Tip A photo without a human being is a dull one

My golden rule is that a photo without a human being is dull.

Ton Koene
Ton Koene Travel Photographer

The biggest risk for anyone taking pictures in Latin America is to end up with lots of clichés: shots of the churches, volcanoes, lakes and markets in which these countries abound. You can find these postcard photos in any tourist shop.

No matter how beautiful the church is or how soft the light of dusk, it is always a dull picture. Photographers therefore often apply dramatic effects in an attempt to make the image “special” but heavy dark clouds or orange skies make it even worse.

My secret has always been to involve people in my shots. But street photography of people just walking or shopping doesn't cut it for me, it also gives boring pictures. My approach requires patience and a bit of luck.

Sometimes it happens that a painting is born in front of you. That happened to me in the town of Santo Tomás Chichicastenango, Guatemala. I photographed a street vendor selling brooms and other plastic homeware while she was talking to the owner of the house, while a drunkard slept and a mother took a rest. The house was painted in typical Tigo blue, the color of a telephone and internet provider in Guatemala.

It looks like the scene was all staged for a movie and that the director could shout “cut” at any time. But it was real life and did not last long. Within seconds, the salesman moved on, the woman went inside and the scene was dull again, not worthy of a picture.

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