Chasing golden hour, Charlotte Ellis captures Oaxaca’s tribute to the Virgin of Guadalupe

Whether shooting editorials or travel photography, Charlotte is mostly watching where the light falls.

11 January 2023

At age 16, Charlotte Ellis began assisting with lighting on shoots in London. It’s hard to track exactly how some interests grow but, in the case of Charlotte, this early fascination with light has swelled into a full on fixation.

Whether it’s a commercial, fashion project or a personal travel series, Charlotte’s portfolio has since been centred around this “obsession” with light. In December 2021, the photographer booked a solo flight to Oaxaca, Mexico with two cameras and a light metre strapped to her neck. With the intention to photograph her surroundings, she would wait for “hours on certain streets where the light was perfect”, she tells us. “There is such a beauty of travelling alone, honing in on your craft and focusing so clearly on exactly what you’re photographing.” The photos taken during this time period are for a series Charlotte shot across Mexico, which include a specific collection of images showing Oaxaca’s Virgin of Guadalupe celebration – a religious tribute which marks the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Mexico on 12 December, 1531.


Charlotte Ellis: Celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe (Copyright © Charlotte Ellis, 2021)

Charlotte explains that, every year for the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Catholics make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. “In Oaxaca, these children were casting a nod to the tradition, by dressing in cultural traditional dress and celebrating the Catholic pilgrimage that comes around every Christmas time.” With Catholicism practised by over three quarters of the total population in Mexico (Mexico’s 2020 census revealed approximately 78 percent of the population identifies as Catholic), Charlotte explains that “it felt necessary to photograph a religious festival to represent this country”.

According to Charlotte, the images taken during the Virgin of Guadalupe celebration feature a complementary presentation of her three interests: light, colour and movement. “What drew me to photograph this particular festival was the colours in the outfits, the movements in the dance and the atmosphere that the festival created.” She also outlines that a search for lighting plays into the documentation and became a focal point that she folds into the scenes. “The light was setting for the day and the golden hour hues from the sun [were] softly setting through the trees," she says.

Though travelling alone informs a significant portion of her work, Charlotte technically works across multiple areas, including fashion and commercial – recently working on editorials for Vogue and Metal Magazine. Though personal and commercial work can often be framed in antithesis, Charlotte sees it as the opposite. “I try to approach all of them the same”, Charlotte says.

Ultimately, “how people interact and move their bodies” is the inspiration that extends across all strains of her practice. She adds: “I think the travel work and the candid unplannedness that you get from everyday surroundings is what fundamentally inspires the way I approach the rest of my work.”

GalleryCharlotte Ellis: Celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe (Copyright © Charlotte Ellis, 2021)

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Charlotte Ellis: Celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe (Copyright © Charlotte Ellis, 2021)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.

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