Mary Altier


Photography/Travel Stories

   
Mary Altier

Photographing Sicily, by Mary Altier
Published: Photographic Magazine

"Strategically situated, Palermo was a Phoenician colony which was taken by the Carthaginians in the fifth century BC. A couple of hundred years later, the Romans took over, followed by the Arab conquest about a thousand years beyond that (831 AD). The city later blossomed under the Normans as an educational center. The interior of the cathedral, or Duomo, at Moreale, 5 miles southwest of Palermo, is the greatest tribute to the richness of the Norman period. The interior is bigger than a football field and is covered with gleaming gold mosaics that depict traditional Biblical stories. Created by Greek and Byzantine craftsmen in the twelfth century, it is the finest example of the medieval Christian mosaic art in the world.

I left the cathedral to find two men on the street wearing black hats, and dark suits with red trim. Under their arms, they were each carrying a bagpipe made from a nearly complete pig carcass. As they approached, I readied my camera for some photographs. They put up their hands, which I interpreted to mean that they didn't want to be photographed. As I put my camera down, they began to play. They wanted me to photograph them, but while playing their instruments, which produced an unfamiliar, mournful sound."

Please contact Mary Altier at 831-684-1340 or photos@maryaltier.com if you are interested in purchasing any of the stories above and would like to read more.

 
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Mary Altier

Discover Turkey: The Undiscovered Europe, by Mary Altier
Published: Photographic Magazine

"The diversity of the Turkish terrain was a big attraction for me. Within Turkey is Cappadocia,, one the most unusual and distinctive spots I have ever visited. This region, between Ankara and Malatya and the Black Sea and the Taurus Mountains, is known for formations made from an eroded volcanic stone called tufa. Some of these formations are called fairy chimneys; they stand up erect within the moon like landscape making for an other-worldly panorama.

Hundreds of years ago, the inhabitants of the area found that they could easily carve into the tufa to make dwellings from the natural structures. As the land was invaded, the locals went underground, carving out caves to live in. With the arrival of Christianity, the Christians constructed undergroiund churches and decorated them elaborately. In the seventh century, as the Arab armies invaded the region, the Christians remained underground and hidden from view."

Please contact Mary Altier at 831-684-1340 or photos@maryaltier.com if you are interested in purchasing any of the stories above and would like to read more.


Mary Altier

Photographing Morocco, by Mary Altier
Published: Photographic Magazine

"The Berber women of the region wear a traditional costume that consists of an overskirt made of red and white striped fabric and a large straw hat with wool tassels. In the medina they are seen everywhere: selling fresh produce, walking hurriedly with their children, and carrying home their groceries. Unfortunately, they are not anxious to be photographed. I found that the best solution was to position myself in the plaza area in front of the mosque in the center of the medina, and shoot discreetly. I only use this method for shots that will not zero in on individual subjects. While this isn't my favorite type of people photography, it seemed to be to the only solution under the circumstances.

My work in the medina of the small mountain town of Chaouen was good preparation for photographing within the medina of the much larger city of Fes. Situated to the southwest, above the Middle Atlas Mountains, the historic city of Fes straddles the traditional trade route from the Sahara to the Mediterranean. The city of over half a million people has several parts, the most rewarding to photograph being Fes El Bali, the oldest part of the medina. The Fes River (Oued Fes) divides Fes El Bali into two parts, the Andalusian (Spanish) quarter on the east bank and the Qarawiyin quarter on the west bank. The narrow streets teem with activity as people and beasts of burden carrying large loads vie for the limited space. Echoed shouts in Arabic usually serve as a warning to plaster yourself flat against the nearest wall because a donkey with a wide load is approaching.

Before entering the ancient city gates and beginning to photograph, it is best to hire a good guide. Our guide, Said, took us to all of the important monuments which included ancient mosques and medressa, or schools attached to the mosques. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the mosques, but photographs can be made from outside the doors, as long the guide lets you know it is permitted. Many of the medressa are open to the public and may be entered for a small fee. Inside these ornately mosaiced but well used enclosures, the photographer may take the time necessary to compose carefully. A fill flash helps define the detail of the delicate designs in lacy filigree."

Please contact Mary Altier at 831-684-1340 or photos@maryaltier.com if you are interested in purchasing any of the stories above and would like to read more.


Mary Altier

Photographing Celebrations in Remote Locations, by Mary Altier
Published: Photographic Magazine

"I once arrived on a photographic trip to Ubud, Bali, exhausted after a long international flight, with no hotel reservations. Carrying my camera equipment on my arm and my pack on my back down a long, hot, dusty road, I asked for a room at one small hotel after another. As night fell, I spotted an entryway leading to a family owned hotel called The Monkey Forest Hideaway. It was at the end of the road, next to a dense tropical forest. The friendly proprietors left me a bottle of cool water in the simple room without electricity. Too tired to eat, I threw myself on the bed in the dark room and went to sleep. Soon the sound of live gamelan music woke me. Grabbing my camera equipment and tripod, I followed the sound and the stream of people into the nearby Monkey Forest, where the Balinese were celebrating a Hindu temple festival. I slipped into the temple, set up my tripod among the celebrants (flash is not permitted at a temple festival), and began shooting. The photos of dancers in motion, which were taken that night, are considered some of my best work. The moral of this story: if your goal as a photographer is to seek out festivals and celebrations, you will need to use a combination of research and spontaneity.

I recently visited Tana Toraja, Sulawesi (Indonesia) to photograph the death rites that the area is famous for. The Torajans spend a lifetime saving money to be used after their deaths to finance lavish funerals, sometimes attended by as many as a thousand people. These celebrations can last a few days or go on for as long as two weeks, with as many as a hundred water buffalo slaughtered. The friendly and hospitable Torajan people consider it an honor to have foreigners at their celebrations and often welcome them as guests.

Armed with my camera gear, a lot of film, and cigarettes as a gift, my guide and I started off for the festival. He helped me find the place and provided an introduction to the host family. We entered the compound of temporary bamboo housing, constructed just for the occasion, and signed our names in the guest book.

Most tourists and guides spend a couple of hours at the celebrations, but I spent the entire day, and returned, without the guide, for the next four days. On the third day, the appointed executioners sacrificed the water buffalo. By this time I was no longer sitting safely in the visitor's compound, but was photographing an injured animal, who lurched at me, his blood spattering my camera lens. On the fifth day, the family took the body of the deceased woman through the rice paddies, five kilometers away, to the burial ground. By that time the family had accepted me as an honored guest, and I accompanied the spirited procession, photographing the entourage every stage of the way."

Please contact Mary Altier at 831-684-1340 or photos@maryaltier.com if you are interested in purchasing any of the stories above and would like to read more.


Mary Altier

Photographing the People of the Indian Sub-Continent, by Mary Altier
Published: Photolife (of Canada)

" 'We'll go to the river to meet the Bonda women, who will be walking down from their villages in the hills,' instructed our guide Babali. 'Every week they come to town to sell their homemade brew in the market place. You can photograph the women, as long as I have negotiated a price with them, but don't photograph the men. They're always drunk on market day and, since they're armed with bows and arrows, they and can be very dangerous.'

This was our introduction to the Northeastern State of Orissa, one of India's tribal areas, where we not only photographed the Bonda, but several other tribal groups as well. The women of one of these groups, the Kutia Kondh, tattoo their beautiful heart shaped faces with geometric designs. They are not as violent as the Bonda and photographing them was a pleasure. While with them, we also photographed a new born baby wearing kohl eye liner and a yellow paste covering his small body in an attempt to lighten his dark skin. In one village, Babali arranged a lively impromptu dance, in which all of the women gyrated in a circular motion to the beat of a traditional drum.

On this trip, my focus was to photograph a few of the nearly 100 of the indigenous groups, numbering 70 million people, whose ancestors were living on Indian soil before the Aryans or the Dravidians got there. These groups, called "Adavasi," live much as they have for several thousand years. Today India's swelling population continues to demand more land, putting pressure on the unskilled agrarian tribes. Lack of health care and education have also contributed to the endangerment of many of the groups, whose numbers are shrinking dramatically.

Please contact Mary Altier at 831-684-1340 or photos@maryaltier.com if you are interested in purchasing any of the stories above and would like to read more.


 


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