7 Places to Photograph Around Mexico City
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Mexico City is a funny place to photograph. It doesn’t quite have the small town charm of a place like Merida but it’s also not quite on the other end of the spectrum. There are few skyline views or crazy vistas.
The first 2 days in Mexico City, Eli and I found ourselves feeling underwhelmed. All the recommendations we received for the trip were extraordinarily enthusiastic. The emails we got were all caps with lots of exclamation points. A few folks may have even uttered the words “best food city in the world”. It gave us unrealistic expectations.
It took 2 days but our expectations recalibrated. Once I stopped expecting every stop to be a trip through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, I had a great time. Eli and I are going back to Mexico City at the end of 2019 as a stop through on our way to Oaxaca. We’ll probably be back a bunch over the next couple of years so I’m sure my list of spots to visit and photograph will grow but for now, here’s what I’ve got:
Oddly some people insisted that we visit Zócalo and others vehemently recommended we skip it. It’s the main square in Mexico City. The square itself is somewhat challenging to photograph. It’s large and open without any obvious ideal angles. That said, it’s a great space to try out a range of shots.
Prior to our trip, I did a bunch of research (as usual) and this post office popped up in a handful of articles on architecture. It wasn’t highly recommended and there’s not much to do there but it’s beautiful. Additionally, it’s right by the Palacio de Bellas Artes so you can stop in here and then make your way over to the cultural center.
There is no way to describe the Soumaya Museum without sounding slightly foolish. It looks like a building that was built with melted candle wax and covered in snakeskin. I don’t know, that’s the best I’ve got. The museum houses the personal collection of Carlos Slim and is the sort of delightful absurdity that can only happen when a ridiculously wealthy person decides to do whatever they want without regard for normality or convention. That might sound like critiscm but I intend it as a compliment. Anyway, the building is beautiful and fascinating to photograph. Also head across the walkway outside the museum and stop at Museo Jumex. It had several interesting shows when I stopped in and the terrace views of Soumaya Museum are great.
Anywhere around La Condesa
The Soumaya Museum is in Polanco, the wealthiest Mexico City neighborhood. While Polanco is nice, it also feels incredibly generic. It could be a ritzy area in any urban area of South East Asia or America. There’s a Louis Vuitton store and a Burberry store and it looks like any other Louis Vuitton or Burberry store. It feels no different than if I take the train up 15 minutes to the frou-frou bit of Chicago and what’s the point of traveling if you’re just going to do something you could do at home. Anyway, La Condesa is also a wealthy enclave of Mexico City but it feels distinct. There are lush boulevard walkways that seem to have attracted every dog owner in Mexico City.
On a total side note, one day I shot La Condesa with my 40mm lens and felt like I couldn’t quite capture anything the way I wanted because everything felt too tight. After that I only went out with my 24-70mm and shot wide. On our last day, I insisted on stopping at El Moro, the churro place, and in walked a photographer with a Canon 1D X and a 70-200mm lens. I am not slick or subtle. I left this poor man be for the entire 10 minute period it took him to eat his vanilla ice cream churro sandwich but after that I pelted him with about a million questions about what he was shooting and why he picked his particular gear set up. Turned out he was a photo journalist so the zoom allowed him to capture things without having to be in the mix.
Anywhere around the Historic Center of Mexico City
If you go to Zócalo, be sure to meander beyond the square. During the afternoon, the Historic Center can definitely become a bit overwhelmingly touristy but the area is incredible first thing in the morning.
The National Palace
Go to The National Palace to see the Diego River murals. They are incredible and awe inspiring. I can not imagine how many backaches must have occurred in the process of painting them. Anyway, add extra time to explore beyond the murals. There are additional galleries that are far less crowded and tons of picturesque corridors.
The House of Tiles
I’m including this because I didn’t see it on a single list and it’s a stunning building. It looks like it belongs in a Wes Anderson film.
Almost Done and Done
Eli and I skipped several bits of Mexico City that I fully intend to explore on future visits such as the Teotihuacan and Xochimilco. My guess is that these are also incredible and amazing spots to photograph but since I haven’t seen them yet, I’m not adding them to my list.