Guatemala by Tom Bell

The highland village markets are filled with people in colorful indigenous clothing, buying and selling brightly hued fruits and vegetables, blankets, woven goods, wood carvings, and articles for tourists.
Guatemala | Tom Bell

When I first traveled to Guatemala in the late 1980’s, it was presented to me as “the land where color was born.” Indeed, it may be.

The highland village markets are filled with people in colorful indigenous clothing, buying and selling brightly hued fruits and vegetables, blankets, woven goods, wood carvings, and articles for tourists. Everywhere, there is color. And my photographs reflected it.

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

I mostly do candid street photography, attempting to capture the character and nature of people in their own environment. Amid all the color, Guatemala is filled with people of strong character. When I showed my images to people, the photographs were met with enthusiasm, but the comments always centered on “all of the beautiful colors.”

At some point, I came to my senses and realized that color is a distraction. It often takes away from the story I’m trying to tell. I started processing the same images in black and white, and the difference was astonishing. I was now telling the stories I wanted to tell. Comments on my images were now about the character in a face.

I visit the highland market villages once every two or three years and continue to build a portfolio documenting the people and places I encounter over time. I see modern society slowly eating away at the Mayan traditions, clothing, and way of life. While they are not in immediate danger of disappearing, the influences of contemporary life are becoming more and more apparent.

I’m pleased that I’m able to document and tell the stories of these people while their traditional culture is still alive and thriving.

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

Guatemala | Tom Bell
Guatemala | Tom Bell

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