Carlos Jaramillo documents the characters and atmosphere of a traditional Mexican charrería
The photographer tells us about his process, inspiration and personal connection to the charrería: “I was interested to see how I’d fit into the culture."
- Ayla Angelos
- 21 April 2022
Curiosity is what drove the making of Tierra del Sol, a new photography book by Carlos Jaramillo that documents the charrería – a traditional sport of Mexico. Initially used by herders to manage livestock from different estates, nowadays the charrería is practice more for play, not too dissimilar from the American rodeo where cowboys skilfully prance, rope and ride around on their cattle. For those involved in charrería, the riders typically show off their abilities on foot or on horseback, dressed in traditional costume and adorned in saddles and spurs; male herders would wear a hat named charro, while women would wear a shawl called char.
“I’ve never once been to a charrería,” explains Carlos, whose mum is Mexican and has always lived in Mexican communities in the US. “I was interested to see how I’d fit into the culture, but I quickly realised that I was an outsider, even though I speak Spanish and am half Mexican.” Despite feeling on the edge, Carlos was drawn to the energy of the charrería – it’s an important part of Mexican culture and Carlos wanted to celebrate it through his imagery. “I really loved the scene and was amazed at their dedication to preserve the sport and pass the traditions to younger generations”
As such, he worked with writer Sam Vasquez – who originally introduced him to the charrería tradition – and asked him to write a piece about the culture and sport. Published in the book itself, it’s an informative piece of writing that teaches its readers about the charrería, “rather than simply relying on photos,” adds Carlos. Sam also owns his own ranch and horses outside of LA, near Avocado Heights. With initial plans to go on a horseback ride and take some pictures of Sam around the area, the idea soon changed and Carlos was directed to a nearby charrería event in Pico Rivera. “I was only planning on going there for one day,” he recalls, with his Mamiya 645 camera in tow. “But after the first day, I realised how rich this experience was, and I decided to photograph the entire event – five full days straight.”
The plan was to photograph as many people as possible, painting a wide – and honest – depiction of those who attend a charrería. This includes men, women, the spectators and the sports players of all ages, typically hailing from the West Coast and Mexico, and often of Mexican descent. Interestingly, Carlos became most captivated by the younger generation. “I became really intrigued in their interest in the sport and how they interacted with it,” he explains. “I was also really interested in their fashion and how they dressed when they weren’t competing. To them, the charro lifestyle is what’s fashionable and cool, so I really tried to showcase that attitude and style.”
Doing just that, Tierra del Sol – published by Pomegranate Press – presents his subjects in an array of circumstances, from the poses in front of a silky backdrop to those caught in mid-ride. This merging of staged and candid is a delectable touch from the photographer; it shows a duality – both the deep-rooted history of a sport that’s been around for decades, and the fun to be had during one of the events. Carlos’ signature vibrant style is a perfect match for the subject matter, where sunlight seeps into the frame and saturation is ramped up high. This painterly aesthetic can be seen throughout, but most prominent in an image he took while experimenting with his camera [pictured below]. Playing with slow shutter photographs, Carlos had no control over the composition and wasn’t able to preview the image due to it being shot on film. “But I had a vision for how I wanted it to look, so I was excited to see some frames come out the way I wanted.” Another picture [above] sees a dad and daughter who, at first, Carlos thought were a couple. “When I spoke to [the dad] to send him the photograph, he informed me that it was his daughter. I liked how the photograph completely changed for me once he told me that.”
Although Sam’s text provides a necessary insight into the charrería history, there’s something to say about the type of photography that needn’t have words to tell the audience of their meaning. Carlos’ pictures enable the audience to pick up on the small nuances of his subjects and the culture they are embedded in – the smaller things that might typically go amiss to an untrained eye. “I’m hoping that the audience learns a bit more about this part of Mexican culture and the charrería tradition,” he says. “I didn’t know anything about it until I spent time there, so my goal is to share my experience through my photographs.”
GalleryCarlos Jaramillo: Tierra del Sol (Copyright © Carlos Jaramillo, 2022)
Carlos Jaramillo: Tierra del Sol (Copyright © Carlos Jaramillo, 2022)
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.