Living Threads is a project whose purpose is to document via contemporary portraiture the traditional dress and people who use it in the villages of Oaxaca, Mexico. At present count there are some 75 communities or regions in Oaxaca that use distinctive, village or region specific fashion…ie by looking at the way a person is dressed, you can tell where they are from.
While traditional dress is alive and well in some areas (Notable the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and among the villages of the Triqui ethnic group) in the vast majority of Oaxacan villages the use of community fashion will likely disappear within the next 20 years as the last grandmothers who still wear their village “flags” on their backs pass away.
Now is an excellent time to document the bearers of these flags, the villages are reasonable accessible via a growing network of roads, and there are still many villages where at least a few grandmothers dress the old way.
My hope is that by creating this visual archive it will raise people’s awareness of these people and their ways, and that awareness will somehow make a difference. Its intended reach is both those of us who don’t live in rural Oaxaca as well as people in rural Oaxaca. The ultimate goal for this project is that the images be published (already lined up in the US through Thrums books), become integrated into a beautiful website accessible to all that shows where each and every village is and what the traditional dress is like there, and that the portraits become part of a traveling exhibit. (Wanna help with any of this, send me a note!)
I am Eric Mindling, an American who has lived in Oaxaca since 1992, working extensively in traditional communities throughout the state since then. My day job is running a tour business called Traditions Mexico that creates unique journeys into the traditional world of Southern Mexico. My weekend job is making photographs. The Living Threads project marries my two personal passions, the rooted cultures of rural Mexico and photography.