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Latin American Fotografia: Nicole Franco

By David Schonauer   Tuesday October 7, 2014


In 2012, Mexican-American documentary photographer Nicole Franco and her husband moved from San Francisco, California, to San Miguel De Allende, Mexico. “It was rather spontaneous, in that my husband and I were only supposed to be visiting Mexico for two weeks to scout out possibilities, and we just never left,” she says. “We moved for my husband’s work but we have a special affection towards San Miguel because it's where we were married earlier that year. My great grandparents are from the state of Guanajuato, and I spent some time there during my youth, so it was like a homecoming for me. I felt embraced by Mexico and haven't looked back since.”

Franco, who works extensively with NGOs, began looking around for a documentary project, and found one when she attended a local meeting of the Rotary club. “The topic of discussion was water—it's scarcity, contamination, and harvest methods,” she says. Franco learned that decades of mining, erosion, and pollution had left the area’s water supply contaminated. “The situation was dire, particularly in Mexico's central desert, where our town resides,” she says. “After the meeting, I began my research, connected with people and quickly realized that water had become a highly politicized issue.”

         "Dry Well," by Nicole Franco

Franco’s research led her to the small rural community of Guerrero, about 15 minutes outside of San Miguel. “According to several organizations, this particular area had very high levels of arsenic in the subterranean water,” Franco says. “Not only is the natural groundwater disappearing faster than can be replenished by rain, but the water that is accessible is highly contaminated. Communities depend on pozos, or wells, as their main water source. Now that those are exhausted, they look to harvesting the rain but still use well water when they can. And there my project began.”

Franco focused her story on the Ramirez family of Guerrero, who she met on her first day in the town in February 2012, and who she continues to photograph. “They immediately welcomed me into their lives,” she says. It was on that first day that local children, eager to show the town to Franco, took her to the local water tower.  A few of them were thirsty after walking around in the afternoon heat and went to the well for a drink, but only a few drops managed to escape,” she recalls. She captured the moment in a photograph she titled “Dry Well,” which was later named a winner of the Latin American Fotografía 2 competition.

         From Franco's "Charros" project

Franco is currently working on a project about charros, the traditional horsemen of Mexico. “It will be more of a portrait-driven series, but I am having fun photographing charreada events, too,” she says. “I think it's good to find balance in your work. This project is light-hearted, colorful and just fun. Their horsemanship is truly something to marvel and their clothing is very beautiful.”

She also has plans to explore the issue of water use in Colombia and the Dominican Republic.

 

 

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Dispatches from Latin America