Interview: Anna Fishkin and Tulum Mexico
by Daniel Haim
Have you ever looked at a photograph and simply said “This cannot be real” this is what you’ll say when you’ll see Anna’s landscape pieces. William Albert Allard said “You’ve got to push yourself harder. You’ve got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You’ve got to take the tools you have and probe deeper.“Anna Fishkin ventured down to Tulum, Mexico to witness illustrated sunsets and manages to capture the capacity of pigments to a photograph describing the true natural beauties that will certainly knock you out unconscious.
Fishkin began professional photography just three ago in Chicago. Although it was a hobby of hers since college, it was not always the main focus in life. For many years she worked as a graphic designer and ran a tiny company which churned out corporate web design work and also identities for smaller personal clients.
Growing up in Minsk, Belarus is where everything began for her – she says “I became a designer, since I was very young. I used to do a lot of drawing and illustration. I even illustrated a very academic archeology book once, back when I studied at the University of Wisconsin.. “
Anna recently released an Arts & Photography Book ‘Sunset: Tulumn, Mexico (11″x13″). You can order yours today at Blurb.com. Click here to find out more.
Anna Fishkin in Her Own Words
“My family moved to the States in 1989, when I was thirteen. It was during the big wave of Soviet Jewish refugee migration, right before the Berlin Wall came down and Soviet Union fell apart. I was a very impressionable kid, and the whole refugee experience completely blasted me out of my normal psychological development. As part of the immigration protocol for Soviet Jews during that time, before coming to the States, we lived in Vienna and then Rome for six months. It was my first experience of the West and I remember loving Italy so much, that when we first arrived to Chicago in the middle of November, I started crying and didn’t stop for probably a year! I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere or understand anything about my environment, so I ended up dissociating myself from many aspects of this huge transition.
I attended a dance school as a child in Minsk. I remember always performing on stage and also in the streets of Minsk during important Soviet holidays and festivals. Stage life, dance and music were such a huge part of my childhood! I also remember very clearly my blind grandfather, a WW2 veteran, who lost his eyes in a mine explosion, and who taught me how to tell time when I was little by ‘reading’ the huge grandfather’s clock in his down town apartment with his hands.
The photography connection actually occurred because three years ago I started shooting a lot of behind-the-scene type of photo-coverage at various film and video shoots in Chicago. It just randomly happened because at the time my ex-husband started his own film and video production company, and I would just show up on locations at various commercial and corporate shoots he did and cover whatever was happening. So, I guess you could say I started out by doing very much documentary and also occupational-style photography. I was lucky to be able to get up close to all kinds of interesting people and personalities and capture them in action. Chefs, winemakers, musicians, DJs, athletes, artists. We would use the photos for PR purposes and I always received great feedback, which encouraged me to keep shooting.”
Daniel: Do you enjoy what you do for a living?
Anna: I love what I do for a living, especially now that I get to use my skills to help the development of this amazing eco-community with global consciousness. It’s amazing just to be a witness and to have the opportunity to record all the wonderful things happening here. Most importantly, for the first time in my life I feel like I am contributing to something I want to see happen in the rest of the world as well. Even if my work creates just a tiny ripple effect of awareness wherever it is seen, I will be satisfied. And I thank you so much for helping me make that happen!!!
Daniel: Growing up in Belarus and ended up in Mexico, how did all of this happen?
Anna: I came to Mexico on a whim following an old dream – to live in my favorite spot by the Caribbean, in a very special Mayan town called Tulum. That’s when I started doing sunset photos. Away from commercial life of all the big cities I always lived in, in Mexico I started to really look at nature and noticed a multitude of new subtle patterns all around me. I was blown away by how much I saw in this newly-discovered simplicity. It was amazing to me how beautiful and ever-changing the sky was – such wealth of different colors, textures, moods and light observed in just the sky alone! Every evening I was waiting with my camera to see what the sky would do next. To be honest, I was completely shocked to find out how much natural beauty was blocked away from me when I lived my urban life with all its conveniences…
Daniel: Where did this interest for the Spanish life begin, and do you speak the Español?
Anna: My interest in everything Spanish began very early in life and in the most unlikely of locations. But unfortunately it was a long time ago and now I remember very little Spanish, so I’m starting to learn it again here in Mexico almost from scratch.
Daniel: Have you been living in Mexico all by yourself or do you have a family there?
Anna: I’m here by myself, but I do have some history with this part of Mexico. It all started innocently enough because eight years ago I came to Playa del Carmen for vacation with my two best friends and ended up adopting a dog! He was a beautiful black labrador mix puppy, whom I brought to Chicago in the middle of winter, pretty much straight from the beach. This is so politically incorrect, but we always joke that my dog Miguel was a ’smuggled’ Mexican immigrant *Anna smiles* He was totally legal, of course! He had all his shots and medical exams before crossing the border.
After everything I’ve been through in my life, living in Mexico has been such an amazing opportunity to learn about myself and my relationship with the planet as a whole. It’s hard to do that when you live in the big city and take for granted the reality of our connection with the Earth and all the natural elements from which we originate. And since Mexico is still very much a developing country, it’s like a frontier for all kinds of new developments. It’s a great place to come if you want to reinvent or test yourself, especially now in the face of the growing global environmental crisis. Tulum in particular is a truly unique town because it’s growing right in the jungle and in collaboration with nature. This place is all about ecological, sustainable lifestyle and all the locals ardently support it. And when I say locals, it’s really people from all over the world who love this area and want to see it prosper, but without destroying it in the process, as usually happens with globalization. Frankly, sometimes I feel like I’m in the middle of the movie Avatar. Seriously though, I think initially Tulum began to develop in this direction because of the area’s popularity with Mexican and global creative community, because of numerous film, advertising and magazine shoots that take place here. And since visitors of this kind tend to be of certain level of consciousness in terms of global issues, hotels and business owners in Tulum cater to people generally interested in sustainable lifestyle. I remember always coming here for vacation and meeting architects, designers, photographers, filmmakers, etc. And now I guess I’m one of them…
During high season in the winter and spring, Tulum transforms into a mecca for artists and musicians from all over the world, who come here to share their talents with visitors and locals alike. There are flamenco performances, salsa dancing nights, theater workshops and bands of all kind playing everywhere. There are yoga retreats, eco-workshops and mayan spas all over the place. Also, the electronic music scene is quite nice because many djs from the UK and Ibiza come to play at clubs in Playa del Carmen and stop by Tulum venues as well, often just playing small parties because they’re friends with hotel owners. For the most part, there are no televisions or loud advertising in sight, and the boutique hotels and houses along the beach are solar-powered. People are very much aware of where they get their electricity, water and other conveniences, and welcome nature into their lives. Instead of television, people use internet to be connected to the world-at-large and social networking sites like Facebook are absolutely invaluable! And this is what makes Tulum so special – this international community of people who appreciate technology, art, design, music, and who hold a deep regard for nature, individuality and inner balance. I guess people who wind up here are just looking to make the world a better place with the understanding that this positive change starts from within.