Blog about living in Mexico by Photographer Erin Parker

Ever dream of selling everything & moving to Mexico? I did it and these are the stories.

Roots

Despite dreams and perfect planning, shit can hit the fan at weddings. I've seen it. It's not specific to destination weddings or bridezilla expectations ... it's just shit and it's as unpredictable as it is shitty. 

But nothing ruins weddings because at their root is love. Stop gagging, it's true. Panic, frustration, meltdowns are met with grace and humility, patience and creativity. Being calm and having a sense of humor helps every time. 

Look at these two: 

This is Jeff and Alison. They got married in March. I took some of my all time favorite photos at their wedding where more shit happened than at any other I've seen. Literally. Over five days, more than 60 of their 75 guests got sick. En route to see Jeff for their first look, Alison saw the reception area for the first time and everything was wrong: the colors, table placement, the location of the ceremony. It was someone else's wedding vision. And she's not picky. Then Jeff's dad passed out and someone said he may have had a stroke (he hadn't). Son sleeping off sickness in the next room, arm aching from the IV he'd needed early that day, Jeff took a breath before going see his new wife. 

They laughed all night. Guests peeled early. No sparklers. Minimal dancing. But they were married. They were in one of their favorite places. They stayed focused on the root of it all: Love. 

It's true. It's all you need. 

But it helps if both people to show up. 

The girl with the greatest smile is Lindsay. She tried her best, but was too sick to go to her wedding. She got ready, we went into town with her fiancé, Sean, and took pictures, and then I told her I'd see her in 10 minutes. Thirty minutes later Sean got the call she would be late It was a brutal choice, but she couldn't muster her best self. 

The ceremony was postponed. Cocktail hour started. She didn't improve. The ceremony was pushed back again. Dinner was served. The moon was full. Hundreds of candles. The bride went to urgent care. Everyone held onto hope. She'd mentioned dreaming of a moonlit ceremony. 

The ceremony was canceled. 

Sean drove her up in a golf cart so she could see her wedding come to life. Everyone stood and cheered when they walked in. She cried and laughed. I got the photo of them standing where they were supposed to marry, illuminated by candles held up by their brothers. The reception was lit up behind them. Full moon overhead. 

After hugs and more tears, they left and their friends partied on. A college buddy split his pants dancing. Sombreros came out. A barefooted drunk girl broke a glass. Everyone had a great time. 

They got married the next morning. She was back to her normal self. Her hair wasn't in an updo. Her make-up was subdued. His boutonniere didn't survive the night. It was intimate. It was on the beach. They laughed. Guests cried. It was sweet.

I took photos of them on the beach after the ceremony, full of energy and joy. The wedding didn't go as planned, but it did go. Of course it did, love was at its root. 

Biographical Bullshit

I've been trying to write a little bio blurb for This Is Reportage, a new (and wonderful) wedding photographer collective I joined, and it's not going well. 

I don't know what to say and I say too much. It's endearing, isn't it? 

So I put off writing it and look at my work. Then I look at Instagram and spiral down into photographers' feeds and lose my breath. There is such incredible work out there. And so much of it. Self doubt creeps in. Of course it does, isn't that the problem with social media? 

I see these pictures of mountaintops and castles and think I'll never shoot in a place like them but I'd love to. There are moments and faces and light that make me think I could never shoot it better but I'll try to. There are scowls and moodiness and trends that make me wince and wonder what the hell happened to romance but I know tastes vary and I will not appeal to everyone and that's okay. I reach a point where I'll drift back into my own work and I like what I see. 

I see happiness. 

Maybe that's all my biography needs to be. 

Lauren + Luke

Lauren + Luke

Clare + Chris

Clare + Chris

Jamie + Danny

Jamie + Danny

 

 

Cindy + Brandon | Sayulita, Mexico

During the introductory phone call with these two, they had me laughing and chatting like we'd known each other forever. It was apparent from that call that photographing their intimate wedding at Villa Amor in Sayulita would be like photographing family. These are a few of my favorite photos from that day. 

This is Cindy dancing with her dad as Brandon watches. It looks like he and I were the only ones paying attention. I use my camera as a shield during father daughter dances - to catch the moment and hide any rogue tears. My wedding regret is not dancing with my dad. We danced down the aisle but that's not the same. I didn't give him the chance to dance with me while we both cried in front of all the guests and I'm really sad about it. Maybe I'm reading too much into the significance of the dance ... but looking at Brandon in this picture, I think he gets it.  There aren't many time in our lives that we get to honor our parents publicly and this dance is one of those opportunities. If the focus in the photo was on Cindy and her dad, she wouldn't see how her husband honored her relationship with her father.  Brandon's stillness feels respectful. 

The photos feels like it's out of a dream. Villa Amor is situated on a hill on the south side of Sayulita. The fireworks started as I loaded up my cameras in the car to go home. We'd said our good-byes. When I saw them, I grabbed my camera and ran. One never knows how long fireworks are going to last but they were too incredible to miss. The following was Cindy's take on the show ... 

This picture was taken at the end of the night as a result of a completely random and unexpected fireworks show. (Keep in mind, we tried to arrange a fireworks show for after the wedding, but the town had voted to not allow them anymore) We had just said goodbye to Erin for the night and were enjoying the last few minutes of the open bar in the courtyard when, out of nowhere, we hear explosions and the sky lights up. We, and all of our guests, realized someone was setting off fireworks so we all ran through our villa and out to the terrace.

My husband and I are snuggled up to one another talking about how Erin is probably screaming to herself that she left too early. I hear, “Hey guys, turn around.” There she is, capturing yet another wonderful moment of the night. She turned around and came running back to capture this and other shots. Thank you, Erin, for your dedication to capturing every last moment!
— the bride, Cindy

This photo was taken the day after their wedding. We didn't do a photo shoot in town the day of because they didn't want to leave their party (I get it). They put their outfits back on, wiped some chocolate cake off of Brandon's vest, loaded the golf cart with beer and off we went. Hotel de Hafa is an oft photographed location in Sayulita, clearly it's bright and lovely. The symmetry of this picture, their body language, the color - it works. It's just a couple of sexy people being sexy in a sexy place.  

Melissa + Ryan | Sayulita, Mexico

My last wedding of the 2016-17 season was meticulously planned by the bride. She didn't hire a planner and researched all her vendors, locations and details with astonishing perseverance and clarity.  Melissa was incredible about communicating the moments and details that mattered most to her. Everything she'd hoped and planned for came to fruition without a hitch and I was along for the smooth ride. These are a few of my favorite photos from the day and the stories behind them. 

This picture feels like a painting. I took it early in the reception, when everyone still had their clothes on and tequila had yet to cross their eyes.  

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I’ll stop the world and melt with you
— Modern English

I've always liked the song and wanted to recreate it as a photo. It was a bit tricky. I needed to use a slow shutter speed, but I didn't have a tripod so I had to handhold the camera. The sunlight was filtering through tall palms swaying in the sea breeze - so the sun on their faces was compromised with every strong gust. We were also blocking one of the main beach access points in Sayulita, so we had to be fast. It worked. 

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I think creating an unusual bridal party portrait that shows the personality of the people and the uniqueness of the place without any gimmicks is a lot more satisfying than lining them all up and asking for a happy face. Melissa & Ryan's wedding was at Brisa Mar Palapa - a Sayulita wedding venue just above a cemetery. They'd asked for bridal party portraits on the beach and I knew we'd pass through this spot on our way there, so I asked if they wouldn't mind just trying to make a picture here. Everyone was into it. I didn't want anyone looking somber or sexy. In Catholic culture, the dead are celebrated (think Dia de los Muertos) and in our culture - what is a wedding but a celebration of life? It seemed fitting and it worked. 

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I'm feeling a little guilty because Melissa is not the drinker these pictures make her out to be. I just happened to catch her drinking the best two drinks of the night. This last picture is of the bride sipping a beer just after her ceremony on a sultry hot afternoon - moments before she and her brand new husband signed their marriage certificate. After all the planning and the beautiful ceremony... you can almost taste that beer. It had to be great. And the layering: on the left, you see the officiant holding the envelope with the wedding certificate; her sister is sweeping past to make the table for the signing look nice; a groomsman is passing beers to someone else on the right; and the groom is holding his margarita. I like seeing the variety of drinks, and the view from the venue. There's a lot going on, but there is stillness in her sip.

MelissaRyan_173.jpg

Wedding Planning - The bride | Venue - Brisa Mar Palapa | Catering - Don Pedro's Restaurant | Dress - hand-sewn by the bride's mother 

Giving Thanks

I am thankful for the brides that let me be the photographer I want to be ... a story teller. Yes, with every wedding I shoot, I tell the wedding story - this is where it was, what it looked like, who was there, what they did. I don't always get to see the essence of a couple, but I try. I want to get pictures of what they look like when they think no one is looking. Oh man, do I try to get to know those things about every couple that invite me to be a part of their wedding. It's a level of intimacy that's difficult to tap into. Not every couple wants to reveal it. Sometimes, the circumstance of the wedding - the guests and the travel and the stress and relief and expectations and having someone not too far removed from a total stranger pointing a camera at them, make it pretty fucking hard to be photographed ... so I try not to push it. 

Sometimes it happens. When it does, it affirms me and all the choices that make this Mexican life work. So thanks to those couples who show me their intimacy.  

Why Me?

The results of The Best of Sayulita were released today and I was not voted Best Photographer. Some dude who takes photos of vacation rentals won. There are 16 photographers listed on SayulitaLife. Only two are architectural photographers. The rest are societal - portraits or weddings. Semantics, I know. Other categories were specific facets of a broader spectrum (best pizza, best burger - not simply best restaurant). I wish photography had been too. Would I have won? I don't know. There's not even mentions of runners up. 

I'm competitive. I like contests. In the photojournalism world, I regularly won. I was repeatedly acknowledged for excellence. I'm new to this market. I'm new to this industry. I'm NOT new to this craft. What a boost it would have been to be recognized. 

The contests I was winning as a photojournalist were judged by photojournalists. The work, the photographs were judged against one another, not the photographers. Names were blocked out, not even allowed to be taken into consideration as the images were viewed. Best of Sayulita was a Facebook contest. To vote, one had to log into the social media platform. Does this technically make it a popularity contest? Yea. Kinda. The more "friends & followers" the more votes. I'm gonna look at the winner and run his numbers against my own. I bet he out friends me. 

I wanna poo-poo Facebook so hard right now, but I can't. 

Without Facebook, I wouldn't be married to Phil. Without Phil, I wouldn't have Sydney. Without Sydney, we wouldn't live here and This Mexican Life would be someone else's reality. 

A friend and I had a tequila fueled argument about photography recently. He kept asking why other photographers are hired when given the choice between me and them. Why doesn't every couple chose me? The simple answer is people have different tastes. Blue isn't everyone's favorite color. Lasagna isn't everyone's favorite food (though it should be). My friend is not simple, and as I mentioned, tequila was involved so I was forced to flush out "why me?".

Me, knee deep in a lagoon, shooting a welcome party in Bora Bora. 

Me, knee deep in a lagoon, shooting a welcome party in Bora Bora. 

I'm a storyteller. Every wedding day has it's own story. Yes, the components of the day are always similar. the couples aren't. The location isn't. My experience in newspapers trained me to blend in. I can seemingly be everywhere at once. It's easy for me to relate with all walks of life. I take time to meet couples before the wedding, and their family and their friends. Not a minute of their "big day" is wasted on me being introduced to the who's who in their lives. I do my research. I know the moments they want me to capture and photograph the unexpected ones too. 

I entered a different contest recently. I submitted 10 photos from one wedding to Fearless Photographers Best Wedding Stories of 2015. I didn't win that one either. Rightly so. The winning images were mesmerizing. The photographers inspire me. Their work teaches me. Just looking at it makes me better. 

It doesn't matter, really, if I win anything. What matters is that people trust me to tell the story of their day. The reviews past clients share of my work are more satisfying than any award. They're personal. What matters is that I love what I do and I will always strive for excellence.