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Monday, August 10, 2009

RIP Marcey Jacobson, Photographer

Marcey Jacobson, Photographer of Mexican Indians, Dies at 97 - Obituary (Obit) -

photo by Marcey Jacobson

Marcey Jacobson, a self-taught photographer from New York City who spent decades in the southern Mexican highlands documenting the lives of the indigenous Indian peoples, died on July 26 in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico, in the state of Chiapas. She was 97.

The cause was heart failure, said a friend, Janet Schwartz.

Ms. Jacobson was eking out a living in New York City doing mechanical drafting when she first visited San Cristóbal in 1956, intending only a short stay. Instead she found a place she called “the solution to everything,” and, with her companion, Janet Marren, a painter, settled there for the rest of her life.

She took up photography with a borrowed Rolleiflex camera. Patiently exploring the colorful city, the central marketplace for the Mayan-speaking Indian villages of the region, she won the trust of the often camera-shy locals and taught herself the craft of making black-and-white pictures from what she saw in its cobblestone streets and muddy byways, in its dramatic landscapes and weather events, and perhaps most of all, in the faces of the inhabitants. Her portraits were haunting.

“She had to read how-to-do books on developing and ask Americans to bring paper and chemicals when they came this way to visit,” Ms. Schwartz wrote in an e-mail message on Wednesday.

The results, about 14,000 negatives produced mostly from the 1960s to the 1980s, describe the local daily life, its mercantile, religious and familial rites, in sensitive detail. They are destined for the Na Bolom Museum in San Cristóbal, Ms. Schwartz said.

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