Photographing Taos Pueblo

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Let me begin by saying that I have mixed feelings about the Taos Pueblo. On the one hand, it is stunningly beautiful and located in an equally beautiful location. The lines and colors of the adobe homes are visually appealing, especially to a photographer. The fact that the inhabitants choose to live without electricity and running water is also impressive and makes a visitor reflect about such a lifestyle. The nearby cemetery with its wooden crosses and church ruin are evocative and remind you of the lengthy history of the pueblo. Add several friendly dogs soaking up the sun, and you have a unique community that is a sharp contrast to nearby Taos, which is pleasant enough, but highly commercialized. I went in mid-September and there were dozens of visitors, so get there when it first opens and shoot the pueblo first and then the cemetery.

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On the other hand, I felt uncomfortable walking through and around the living quarters of the pueblo, and wondered how I would feel if tourists landed in my neighborhood to see how my neighbors and I live. I realize that this is a choice of the tribe, and I respect that, yet I still felt self-conscious. Some areas of the pueblo are off-limits to preserve privacy and the boundaries should be respected.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend a visit to the pueblo. If you're a photographer, first thing in the morning when the pueblo opens to the public is best for good light and a relative absence of visitors, who start spilling out of buses and wandering into your frame by mid-morning. When you pay your admission fee you are reminded that you may not photograph residents without their permission. I chose not to photograph tribe members, but concentrated instead on the adobe homes and the cemetery. Visitors are not permitted to enter the cemetery, but you can get excellent images from outside the adobe fence.

Limits aside, this is a very worthwhile place to visit and photograph, and easily the best reason to make the drive to Taos.