medford taylor – mariposas

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Medford Taylor

Mariposas y Michoacán

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Have you ever heard butterflies?  The first time I stood quietly in a mountain forest in the midst of millions of monarch butterflies, their velvet wings beating like the flutter of little orange angels, was for me a spiritual moment.

I traveled to the mountains of central Mexico (Michoacán state) to photograph the winter sanctuaries of the monarch butterfly.  Intrigued by the people and the culture surrounding these mountain sanctuaries, I have expanded this project to include  the entire state of Michoacán.  It is a work in progress and a labor of love.

The monarchs arrive in Michoacán at the end of their incredible 2,000 mile migration from the US and Canada on November 1st : the day the Mexicans celebrate El Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead).  This and the many other religious festivals, such as Semana Santa (Holy Week), are intrinsic to the color and spirit that is Mexico. Mexico for me is like the biggest box of crayons and I’m a kid again. The warmth and quiet dignity of the Mexican people make me happy that we are neighbors and extended family.

Since I began this project, the monarch sanctuaries have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, yet these oyamel fir forests are being decimated by illegal logging.

Migrant workers from Michoacán are returning home from the United States, where there is no work and the border fence gets higher and longer.  It may be time for me to change direction and refocus, but I know that the soft sounds of the monarchs will never leave my soul.


Music: Danza Espanola, Op. 37, H. 142 – XII. Arabesca


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Medford Taylor


85 Responses to “medford taylor – mariposas”

  • JIM…

    this stuff just ain’t perfect ….some people have no problem, others say it runs slow…we just cannot quite figure it out on this one..but, yes yes, if you are seeing it at 8-10 secs, then that is way way too slow…sorry about that…

    cheers, david

  • Medford :)))

    so happy to hear about the copper shop :))…really, this photograph is iconic…as i said, van gogh (not the newphew!), Marquez, Botero, Penn and Solei wrapped up in one luminous moment: serendipitious indeed….when i first open Burn on Sunday night, right before bed, and saw that pic, i literally said ‘holly fuck!’….and then, before Marina could jump into bed, “Zi (her nickname), look at this essay!”…..

    the rest as they say, is history :)))

    muchas gracias to you!


  • Here is the Van Gogh painting that that ‘light bulb’ of yellow reflection above the girl reminded me of….(posted above before the Penn picture)

  • medford,

    good to see you on here amigo!

    the work is great. i think i remember seeing some of this a while ago but like always it stops me dead in my tracks. amazing work. how have you been keeping? good to see this!

  • Delectable.

  • The Picture of the child and flower is really nice, as are a lot of the images here. Struggling with the essay a bit though. Religious iconography, natgeo/discovery channel super saturated imagery, blurry immpressionistic pieces, all in the pot together.
    [ Have you been using Martin Parrs camera for some of these? :) ]
    I Think I would be more comfortable with these surrounded by a written piece, they seem to be carriers of a story, rather than ‘The Story as a Whole”. Does That make sense? I know there is music to the slideshow and an acompanying statement, but I can see these as a part of a full blown mag article with an in depth ‘written ‘ essay to complement them. In that context I think they would fully realise the power they undoubdtably have in them. Hope to see the whole thing in print one day; there it will really shine i think.

  • Rather exquisite. And sunny. Oh so sunny. My brain is smiling.

  • Medford (aka DOG) – this project is stunning! The colors, the feel, the spirit – are beautifully captured. I love this project and can’t wait to see more. My only question is when do I get to join you – we can take the buses and shoot together… ha ha! xo gina (aka Ralph)

  • Dog ( Medford ) to beautiful for words. I love the sequence, the opener, the music and where you took this since the last time we talked. You passed over from an idea to a surreal reality and married the butterflys to the people, religion and the way of life. Proving what i feel everyday we cannot be seperated from the creatures or the land. If we do we die and we are dying.
    I really love this work and I’m so proud of you for digging so deep


  • Yes Nick, “we cannot be seperated from the creatures or the land”. We in the West drive around in cars and by doing so we miss so much; including social interchange between ourselves. I’ve been visiting the Magnum in Motion site quite a lot recently and Medford’s essay immediately reminded me of the work of Larry Towel, not because of a similarity of style but because both seem to have a deep sense of their subjects identity being rooted in the land and its inhabitants (human and non-human).

    A good example of what happens when people have no connection with their environment can be seen in Simon Wheatley’s Inner City Youth; both on this page

    I wonder if the day will ever dawn when the U.S. / Mexico fence will be seen as a way of keeping U.S. citizens out of Mexico?

    I like your work Nick. I know that you Work.

    Best wishes,


  • Mike R..
    You will be surprised how many UScitizens
    flee towards Mexico every day..
    All kinda criminals looking for a
    “free-out of jail” life..
    Why you think the “HOLLYWOOD”
    business moved from NY( beginning of 20th century)..
    so close to border(LA)????
    for the sunshine only??,
    No, not only..
    Sunshine yes but also quick “exit”..
    In case something would go “wrong”..
    Money have no country..
    Yep.. Many Americans go south , with a pocket
    Full of money and a guilty conciousness…

  • Medford, this is nothing short of exotic. It’s such a joy to look through these images and just say “YES!” Thanks for sharing these.



  • Yes Panos, everyone needs a bolt-hole. Here in the U.K. we call it alcohol (laughing). My wife and I have reached the stage of asking each other “Why do we live here?” – especially in Winter. It’s like a perpetual traffic-jam gloomy cold wet Big-Brother CCTV no right turn no left turn fuck-up. Apart from that it’s o.k.

    Good to hear that you enjoyed Seattle!



  • It’s an idea, though. Throw in some screaming toddlers and we’ve really got something there.

  • And in a reply that has absolutely nothing to do with Mexico or monarchs, I should smile more. I hadn’t realized that smiling, or the lack thereof, was in any way a problem for me until a few days ago, when a small child came up to my desk and solemnly asked why I didn’t ever smile. My response to the little tatterdemalion, that I smiled all the time, brought forth a huge collective guffaw from my fellow inmates here at the egregious mold pit. When I asked what so funny, my co-workers, none of whom is ever going to get a Christmas card from me ever again, told me that the little urchin was right: I never smiled.

    In fact, I am apparently famous from one end of this our happy little burg to the other, a span that admittedly does not cover much ground when looked at in the overall topographic scheme of things, for being the sort of grim, unsmiling, humorless ogre who could ruin a rich relative’s funeral just by showing up. This, I said, was nothing more or less than a low and contemptible slander—I am a cheerful sort of fellow, always happy and smiling and up for a good laugh. This statement brought forth a further burst of merriment from many of the co-workers and no few stares of wonder from others, especially those interested in seeing just how personally clueless one human being can be if given half a chance.

    I must say that I found the discrepancy between the public’s apparent view of me and my own self-image more than a little disconcerting. I could not, I thought, be the dull, dour, humorless prig that my co-workers think me, and so I resolved to settle the matter by asking the people who know me best, my family, what they thought of the little munchkin’s libelous accusation.

    Asking my family anything about anything is, I now find, a bad idea. Clearly, a virulent strain of idiocy runs through the family tree like Montezuma’s revenge. To a man, to a woman, to a child, the general consensus of amongst this vile assemblage of congenital dolts was that the runt was right: I am as grim, dour, and unsmiling a wretch as you would ever care to meet. Somehow or other, I have managed to go for fifty years without ever learning that I have all the personal charm of Ebenezer Scrooge before he met the spirits, with this small fillip of difference: everyone agrees that I would have told the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to go kiss my ass. I was stunned. I was shocked. I was mortified to the nth degree. Surely, I thought, there must be someone who sees the happy, smiling me. So I went then to the source of all wisdom and comfort in the Bashmachkin clan: my mom. Surely, my own dear, sweet, beloved mother would protect me from the scummy tide of calumny sweeping about me.

    The interview did not go well, although I must admit that my threatening to have the immigration department deport her if she didn’t see things my way may have contributed to the generally negative tone of the meeting. Mom provoked me, though, what with her agreeing with the rest of the family on the smiling slander. She did do her best to put a positive spin on the bad news—moms are like that—telling me that while I was not the most cheerful person in the world, there were ten of thousands of people even worse than I am, no two ways about it, and there are my many positive qualities: I am kind to children and small animals when I am not actually kicking them, that I am good to the poor when I am not ignoring them, and that I respect the sanctity of other people’s families right up to the point where they want some of my money. Upon hearing my positive qualities stated in what I can only describe as a slightly equivocal manner, almost as if Mom had to rummage through her memory in order to find something nice to say about me, I then threatened the aforementioned deportation proceedings, whereupon my mother told me to go pound salt, an expression most New Yorkers use at least once a day and sometimes twice just for the fun of it.

    So it must be true, after all: I don’t smile. I am a grim and glowering presence who thoroughly frightens small children and depresses anyone who comes in contact with me. I am that little guy in the L’il Abner cartoons, Joe Something or other, who stalked the earth with a perpetually raining storm cloud permanently ensconced over my head. It is official: I am not a happy camper. And then I saw it, I saw opportunity knocking like no one’s business. Yes, I frown more than I smile—from what the family tells me, I last smiled in 1966, but everyone thought I was trying to sneeze and so said, God bless you; I’d always wondered why they did that—but this is not altogether a bad thing, despite the best efforts of modern medical science to convince us otherwise. Modern medical science also tells us that it takes 76 muscles to frown and 14 to smile, and there’s gold in that there difference, folks, gold.

    Yes, my friends, 76 muscles control the human frown, and to this day, no one has come up with a way to frown aerobically. Obviously, it is easier to smile aerobically than it is to frown, but if you spent your day smiling aerobically people would think that you were more than a little strange, and possibly on drugs, whereas aerobic frowning not only works more muscles than smiling, it convinces people that you are a deeply serious and thoughtful person whose opinion about the great issues of the world really matters. I haven’t worked out the details yet, but I’m pretty sure that this one is a moneymaker, even in tough economic times like these. The times may even help me strike it rich; if everyone’s going to be frowning anyway, and they will, they might as well frown and lose weight and feel better about themselves as they stand in the unemployment line. You know, I think I’ve got something there.

  • Medford, great stuff as always.. thanks for the nice moment in my day

  • Pure gold Akaky; perhaps a frown-fit video?

  • Akaky
    Once again.. You’re
    The MAN..

  • nice one medford, really really like it. great use of colour, you’ve made this part of mexico look like a dream world. All the fiesta and colour and butterflies and proud people. makes me wanna go there. A very good unpretentious body of work that wouldnt look out of place in a glossy national geographic. good stuff.


  • Mike I wish we could see an Akaky
    book soon.. Topic: pure pessimism at it’s best..
    Love the guy..

  • Nice job Dog. I really enjoyed your work, next time take me with you.

  • DAVE, where the hell are those images you took of me and my family, when are we gonna see those pics huh?

  • Medford “Dog”

    Ernst Haas in Mexico! Brilliant work from a master in his own right. Even after seeing the rough edits from each of your trips to Mexico I feel as though I have just witnessed fresh new work from an avid Lecia M6 shooter. Digital has changed your approach but not your style. Beautiful images, edit and song my friend.

  • LM, Timing is everything. YOU and the SUSSEX SPANIEL. From one dog to another “oldest and best in the show”. Way to go brother, Tom T.

  • Hello Medford,

    It is magnificent, I would like to be in the photo 18 with these children!! It is so beautiful and unreal, and all these colors are incredible, you gave me the envy to visit this region… thank you!

    all the best, audrey

  • Hi Medford, this is just “lovely”, as I have learned to express in the British way. Seems like you have added a lot of new work from the last time I have seen this, I guess that was a couple of years ago.

    But why are you hiding from us?

    Hugs, Laura.

  • Dear Medford,

    I heard of monarch butterflies from the poem … After that I have dreamt of meeting them someday…Now I finally met them… surprise!!!

    I imagine myth of Michoacán along the winds that monarch butterflies bring …
    Very beautiful …very imaginary …

    I’m happy with your works.
    Thank you so much.


    Great news! I sent the link to Medford’s work out and I’m happy to report that today my friend Tewfic El-Sawy is featuring Medford and burn on his wonderful blog, The Travel Photographer. Take a look.

  • LM,

    This essay is just breathtaking.
    You just keep doing it.
    Don’t stop.
    From a humble amateur but big time fan,


  • Great work Medford! Incredible color….I wish I could have made a trip down there with you.
    Good on ya mate!

  • your ability to showcase the diverse world we live in never ceases to amaze me. sweet t and i both were moved by this photo essay. that is extremly high praise from your ex nephew in law. we are so very proud of you and are thankful to have you in our lives. your owl print from florida 1990 proudly is displayed in our home. thank you. we hope to see more of your art in the near future. g

  • Dog, always a treat watching your work. Down in Oaxaca, Harvey left this morning. I love #3, wanna trade prints?

  • How utterly translucent. Sorry I missed this when it went up. Hey have you you ever read Mariposa Obsidiana by Paz? I finally found a translation. Hurts to have this lovely spanish name and so little spanish…anyway see you in June maybe? Miss you!!

  • I had difficulties in keeping my tears from flowing. This is one of the most amazing set of pictures I have seen in years. The story seems to be perfect as its execution. A beautiful tale around a nature’s wonder, the butterflies, which appear and disappear as they are setting the rhythm for this amazing journey into a different, deep and colourful culture. I have very few words to express my emotions after seen such a piece of work. Please do keep me updated when you finish up the story.
    More-Than-Well Done!!!

  • Medford: You truly are a master of photography. Thank you so much for sharing your gift with us.
    Betty Cavedo Sherrod

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