Amanda Marsalis brightens up Merida for Conde Nast Traveler UK
When you live in LA, like Amanda Marsalis does, tacos become your default food. Hungry? Only have a minute? Grab a taco. So, when she went to Merida to shoot for CondeNast Traveler UK, she had a familiar experience to hold onto. And it was so, so good. She says, about Merida and their tacos, “It’s just a plethora of amazingness and just absolutely wonderfully delicious.”
Condé Nast Traveler UK put their trust in Amanda, giving her a few specific directions, but mostly saying “Here’s the story: capture the vibe.” She spent her week in Merida chasing that vibe, and piling it in her images. Merida is an old town that has transferred cultural hands so many times it builds a proverbial mosaic that manifests itself in actual mosaics. Cool-tiled entryways sit shaded behind ornate wooden doors opening on to cobblestone courtyards peppered by potted cacti buffeting wading pools against bright pink walls. Amanda explains it’s the kind of place where you could go to, “Have a nice life where everything moves very slowly and everything’s really beautiful.”
But travel photography isn’t just tacos in the hot closeness of a historic Mexican town. Capturing that kind of lugubrious life requires getting to know the town intimately in a very short amount of time. And you do that by talking to the locals. “You spend a lot of time talking to people,” she explains, since they’re the only ones who can tell you where to get the best shots. She’s not a fluent Spanish speaker herself, “but I can understand a lot of it. I know what’s going on, and can figure out how to get myself a Mezcal.” Which is what’s truly important at the end of the day.
Schlepping her camera bags and tripods, running to capture the right location in the right light meant that Amanda was able to catch a glimpse of this city that we should all be so lucky to see. Guided gently by John Powell and Josh Ramos of Urbano Rentals, Amanda was let into private opulence that hides behind the misleading dilapidation that wraps Merida. “What was most exciting was being allowed past those big giant doors and seeing inside peoples’ homes,” Amanda says about her time there, stopping to reflect, “This is unreal.”
Lucky for us, Amanda brought those experiences back with her, inside her camera. The pops of color coating terra cotta and ancient wood deliver us to that historic town tantamount only to sipping sangrita on a Meridan poolside terrace.
Photographing a site like this isn’t the easiest gig, but Amanda says, "I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I feel very blessed and lucky that I’m able to do it."