San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, January 4, 2017
Living in the highlands of central Mexico for the past year and a half while building SEEK Workshops with Elizabeth Watt and Andres Carnalla has helped me imagine possibilities, and to feel the moments of each day rather than rushing to get things done or simply struggling to find a parking space. What's essential to a creative life becomes clear- friends, conversations with enthusiastic colleagues, good food, exercise, and time. We do need more than those five things, but over and over I'm reminded that they provide the mental clarity upon which meaningful work can be built.
San Miguel is a place where you can catch your breath and consider that you can make something of value. It's a place where art, artists, and creativity are celebrated. People respond with enthusiasm upon hearing that I'm a photographer. Drivers stop to not obstruct my view as I take a picture, there's less aggression in the supermarket, and more friendly greetings from strangers as I step across the cobblestone streets of this 16th Century Spanish Colonial city and UNESCO World Heritage Site. And when an exhibit opens, curious visitors gather around the pictures just to look, just to see another point of view.
Expats often speak of the "mañana" philosophy that you encounter in Mexico, the idea that there's no rush. You can finish tomorrow, or another day. Some hate it, some laugh along with it in resignation, and others, myself included, embrace it. After years of daily newspaper deadlines, it feels luxurious to slow down to think, to let an idea germinate, to feel a place, to enjoy your friends, to take more time to finish a project so it's done the way you want it. But it's not a luxury- it's essential to give yourself that time. At SEEK we often talk about trusting the process- that delving into your work to savor the experience of working and creating rather than looking to the end result. In Mexico, the culture supports the process.
People visit San Miguel de Allende for many reasons - the architecture, the climate, the food, the cost of living. For us at SEEK, it's the place where we are building on our ideas of doing things differently. Of taking time, of finding flow within a project as we frame images with our cameras, of taking a hike in the countryside with or without a camera, of believing that good work comes out of simple concepts given room to breathe. That space inside our heads can be so cluttered with details and deadlines. Slow down, recognize that manaña will be here soon enough, and give yourself time to create or reflect. If your environment doesn't provide enough of that for you, join us sometime in San Miguel.