Piedras Negras, Coahuila, March 1999
Every picture tells a story, but sometimes a picture has a backstory. During my first visit across the border to Mexico, I stopped in the beautiful city of Piedras Negras, across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass.
I'm used to people asking me what I'm doing, photographing insignificant ephemera. In Texas, I usually get a long drawn-out "Yep.....Right.....Uh huh." Trust me, Hank Hill is alive and well there.
Mexicans tend to be a bit more upfront. For example, I was standing in the town plaza in Villa Union, about fifty miles inside the border, and this guy pulls up next to me and says, "Hey! You're white!" It was hilarious, because he was as gregarious as you'd ever want to meet; he just got to the point more directly (you don't see white tourists beyond the border towns in Coahuila much).
Back to this photo: It was taken outside an auto repair garage and car wash. As I was stooping to snap the picture with my Ricoh KR-5, one of the mechanics on duty asks me, "What are you taking a picture of?"
Instead of giving my usual sarcastic answer (I tend not to be droll when a guest in someone else's country), I replied, "I'm shooting the gravel. That chain and broken bits of glass are really interesting."
His response made me laugh out loud, as he told his co-worker, in English, "See that? He's taking a picture of the gravel."
"Huh? The gravel?"
"Yeah, he's taking a picture of the fucking gravel, man!"
God, I miss Mexico!