Text excerpts and photographs from: River of Traps: A Village Life, by William deBuys and Alex Harris
April 2009 interview with Alex Harris and William deBuys about River of Traps
Photographers are made by their subjects, and the best subjects have the quality of being self-possessed without being self-conscious. They know how to “be themselves.”
The photographer says, “just be yourself.” And you think, “Easy for you to say.” But you don’t say it because the lens is pointed at you. Your mind begins to race: Is your hair in your face? Your fly zipped? Is your mouth in the same pout that has plagued you in every photograph all your life? It’s either the pout or the smirk. Quick. Decide!
Jacobo never had to decide. He had a gift few people share. He had the ability to project aspects of himself, to wear naturally the smile or squint that fit the situation. The quality he had went beyond being photogenic. It was an instinct for self-projection, a presence, a centeredness. It was much the same quality that attracted us to him as a person. And it allowed him to look into a camera without defensiveness.