Mind Scraps: Beauty and the Beauty

Alone in Stud Photographer’s room, I was caught up in an internet trance – a phenomenon common to my generation. Catching up on emails, editing photos, writing, skyping with friends, and facebooking all at once. Stud Photog had gone out… for what, I wasn’t sure. My plan was to head to Playa del Carmen (about 1 ½ hours away) that night. I had been in contact with a photography agency there and was eager to meet them and explore any work opportunity that might exist. Still, I had plans to return to Cancun the next afternoon in order to be involved in Stud Photog’s personal photo project he had organized. Then, I would return to Playa del Carmen once again in the evening….

Her form was slender and elegant. Smooth, caramel-colored skin with springy spiral curls toppling over smoky café-colored eyes that shimmered with just a hint of green. She was beautiful… and yet didn’t seem to really know. Smiling brightly, she introduced herself with an unassuming air. The French woman with a notably Arabic background would be Stud Photographer’s next couchie. I was being replaced so soon!

…When beautiful women encounter other beautiful women the insecurities and jealousies can start crackling like oil in a hot pan in milliseconds. Women naturally want to be princesses. They want to revel in the limelight. If another beauty is around… that threatens their chance to shine… or so they often think. Many women experience these feelings and that’s why it can often be hard for women to unite in pure friendship. If women do act as “friends,” the friendship is often inundated with secret jealousies and insecurities. I know this because I’ve felt it many times. I felt it within me personally. I felt it directed toward me from other women. It doesn’t help that society continually tries to pit women against women. “Be more beautiful than her” the subliminal messages say in ad campaigns. “There’s only room for one beauty, so do whatever it takes to be her!”

As I encountered this theme time and again in life, I started to feel a nagging loneliness. It seemed I had as many male friends as there were stars in the sky, yet a true female friend seemed to be the most rare find. A female friend that I felt loved me sincerely, celebrated who I was and supported me no matter what. And I her in return. In fact, for a significant while my step-mom was the only woman I considered to be a true female friend. But she couldn’t come romping the world with me in my travels. I began expressing to her how much I longed for a true female friend!

I started to meditate and pray, inviting a deeper female friendship into my life. And, with this heart plea, slowly my approach toward women began to transform. Before, I admit, the internal commentary when meeting another beautiful woman went something like: ‘Oh no! She’s beautiful. Warning! What are her flaws? Find her flaws to make yourself feel better! Ah there. I have a better this. Or a better that. Yeah, um, I’m more beautiful.’ or ‘Oh no! She’s so beautiful! Way more beautiful than me! Ugh, compared to her I’m disgusting. Ugh, I feel horrible about myself!’

But little by little the internal commentary from before was becoming dominated by a new appreciative and welcoming approach. Slowly my thoughts transformed with each encounter until the internal commentary went something like: ‘Wow. What a beautiful smile. Look at how her eyes sparkle. She’s so generous.’

Since this transformation I’ve found the female friendship I was longing for. In addition to my step-mom, I now have two absolutely dear friends in Guatemala and two in Chihuahua, MX. Here in Cancun I’m meeting yet more absolutely stunning women…

When the French Beauty walked in, I felt the old commentary sharply poke and prod me, trying to pull me back into my old mental routine of insecurities and jealousies. To me, she was that beautiful. But I didn’t let the old ways win. The annoying nag simply fueled me to find yet more than the obvious beauty about her. Stud Photog had to take off for the gym, so I was left with the French Beauty alone. Having found a comfortable rhythm with Stud Photog’s family I took the role of sub-host with honor and showed the French Beauty where she could leave her things and where she could bathe after her long bus ride.

I already had plans to meet up with local couchies that afternoon and I invited her to join me. She obliged. She was new to Couchsurfing I found out. I got excited, explaining to her that I had met many of my closest friends through CS over the years. I then began raving about the wonderful people I had already met here in Cancun as we navigated our way to the homemade ceviche gathering.

That evening a confusing exchange of miscommunication about transportation resulted in me staying another night in Cancun, instead of heading to Playa del Carmen. Oh well, I was already planning to return for the afternoon photo shoot anyway. I could crash with another CSer – The Protector – in Cancun since the French Beauty would be taking my place at Stud Photog’s. (I’ll be writing about The Protector soon…)

The next morning, French Beauty and I decided to head to the beach before the afternoon photo shoot. Unfortunately, a rare gale was sweeping like sheets across the beach. The sand became trillions of tiny airborne pellets that attacked every little crevice of our bodies. Our hair fiercely whipped our faces. Our sun dresses threatened to strangle us. “Aaaaah! Let’s gooooo!” The French Beauty pleaded in one of her charmingly goofy voices. We had quickly found a joyful comfort around each other and were already acting like two little girls who had been friends for life, utterly reveling in the marvels of the world together.

When we mounted the public bus, French Beauty was surprised to find one of her former French students on board. French Beauty had been living much further south in Tapachula, MX offering French lessons to high school and university students. Now, she was hitting some of Mexico’s gems before heading back to France. The Riveria Maya was her last stop before returning to Europe.

The former student was a part of a big, spring break/vacation tour group being directed by Traveo. As French Beauty reveled in encountering her former student here in Cancun, a representative of Traveo began chatting with me. When I had explained that I had come to Cancun to stay in the Riveria Maya region for awhile, that I was a photographer and journalist and that I was looking for work, the representative handed me his card. “We need a woman like you,” he said. “Contact me.” Wow! Sweet! It was most random, but I had a strange feeling that something would come of it… (stay tuned)

During the afternoon photo shoot, Stud Photographer proved to be yet more studly. This young 19-year-old managed to summon 12 captivating women to house to be his photographic muses for the next few hours. Fearless, he directed each of us; compelling us to show him more than what’s on the outside… so that he might capture it and digitally freeze it… forever. I know grown men that wouldn’t be able to manage that many women at once. Impressive.

By the end of that night, the unknowingly beautiful French Beauty had charmed me into joining her to la Isla Mujeres – a tropical Caribbean island about an hour’s ferry ride from Cancun. We rushed out the door after the photo shoot to catch the late evening ferry…

View the Flickr album by clicking here.

Artistic Fun with Chihuahua Pulso

I took some portraits of a group of punk-emo youngen’s here in Chihuahua, MX. The photos were edited to a solid, clean white background so that the group might create a collage of themselves. I went ahead and made a collage of my friend, David – he has really helped me out here in Chihuahua and had asked me to take the photos, so I obliged.

To view photos of the entire group click here.

Raw Enough to Feel Mexico

After listening to more than 25 interviews, I’ve finally submitted what was originally a 2,400 word article that I then slashed to 990 words about the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon to an online client. The client wanted no more than 600 words. Ack! We’ll see if they slash it even more. I feel it’s already so stripped. Next, I will be tackling my own personal account of everything I’ve been experiencing here in Chihuahua.

In the meantime, enjoy this piece from Deborah Bezanis, one of the runners who participated in this year’s ultra:

Traveling alone is traveling raw. That’s why I like it. No commentary among companions dilutes the effects. If you go to Mexico and you speak English with your traveling partner, you remark on perceptions through a predictable lens. Rare is the companion whose company is so astute as to leave room for the street to seep in unfiltered…

Surrounding a race like this, one that requires togetherness for several days in order to pre-hike the course in two parts, to eat and room together, people loosen their expectations, relax into the nature of coordination by word-of-mouth, and the kind of playful, wrinkled appearance of people deep in rural travel. We are all astonished by the place we see and by the people who are welcoming us with curiosity and so much festivity. We are grateful, even humbled, by their actual warmth, and sometimes by their relative poverty. We struggle to communicate in Spanish, but often settle for gestures of amiability meant to bridge the language gap with friendship.

Unconcerned with all the activity, dogs sleep in the road, on the irregular sidewalks, anywhere at all; doors to the Restaurante Plaza, race headquarters, swing day and night; groups of gorgeous Tarahumara runners, legs and faces smooth and dark as mahogany, arrive at intervals from different canyons ready to eat, sleep, and especially to run; municipal officials and police begin to mill and organize; in the restaurant courtyard, musicians stash an accordion or tuba in a corner below a trailing vine or take up a guitar at the end of a long tableful of food produced in the tiny, constantly churning kitchen, from which vegetarians and carnivoires alike are sated for the equivalent of four dollars a plate. All the town is out along the main street, gathering in front of single-story rectangles that are homes and small shops, each with a door, with a window, and nearly each one a bright color much faded by weather.

Back at home, reading the book, Born to Run had reminded me of the potent experience of the 2007 race week, of North American ultra-runners, some of them elite and world-class, with local, rural Mestizos and indigenous Tarahumara, ditching the class and race distinctions to run and celebrate and respect one another. This was a rare and wonderful experience. It was especially moving during the disgrace of a Bush-Cheney administration back home, the perpetual genocides of the Middle East and Africa, the triple scourge of globalization, cartels and immigration laws on Mexican people.

Race Director, Micah True, coined a saying at the pre-race proceedings that year: “While all around they are making war, here we are making peace.” It happened. The sensation took up residence in my life and has never left. Having searched for hours on end exclusively for a small trail race in a remote and beautiful location, sensing an essentially unique experience, I’d found much more than imagined…

Much more. Click here to read on.

Introducing Mind Scraps

I keep coming back to this idea of posting every day. Still working on making it stick. I tend to have two posting seasons: flood season and dry season. Ha. But, after discovering the journal entries from my first trip abroad in Italy (which I just published in Unearthing Firsts), I am once again inspired to make another go. As a professional writer who hopes to one day publish a book I really should commit myself to writing at least scraps of my daily thoughts and experiences. Even if there are days where I’m offline, I need to commit to jotting something down and posting when I regain internet access. These little so-called scraps are just too invaluable. They bring old, nearly-forgotten memories back to life. They reveal how much one has changed… or, perhaps, hasn’t. And, writing helps sort my own thoughts.

Thus, I’d like to present:

Mind Scraps
Daily notes from the life of Laura McNamara.

I’ve hit a slump in living out my own professed philosophies. I’m dishing out the advice… but, at this life juncture, can I really say I’m living it?

I am the risk-taker. I am the free-spirit. I am the go-getter. I embody the essence of can.

Yet, right now, I don’t feel I’m living up to these personas I’ve developed for myself, these traits that I claim. I’m feeling bound, trapped, limited.

After spending eight months in Central America, I came back to a weakened American economy. The endeavor to find any real stable work has, thus far, been fruitless. In my frustration, I’ve begun to open myself to terms I know I don’t want. Letting the economy force my hand so to speak. Strike one. I should not be settling for anything less than what I desire from life. I should not be selling myself short. Up until today, I was near ready to.

With little resources, I’ve succumbed myself to waiting. Strike two. To wait is against everything I believe in. Of course, I’ve been actively pursuing leads for work, sending out applications and portfolios – in every which direction it feels like. But, as of yet, nothing solid has materialized. So… I wait? Ack! No!

To forge on would mean more risk than ever since I have no disposable income right now and certain bills to pay. But I’m the risk-taker am I not? Is this not one of my featured quotes on Facebook?

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” -Steve Jobs Continue reading “Introducing Mind Scraps”

Tuning Pegs

*This photo is the rare example that falls under the classification of photo art rather than a pure photograph. Normally, I adhere to strict editing standards with my photography, merely fine tuning (no pun intended) details such as contrast and the occasional lens dust. However, sometimes a subject I’ve photographed inspires me to experiment further. Photographs that have been manipulated beyond photographic standards will be always be clearly marked as photo art.

Bend the imagination just a pinch and you gain new perspectives on the everyday cityscapes that surround you. This structure can be found in Kansas City, MO. Some call them the UFO Towers. I see futuristic guitar tuning pegs.

Limited Edition Photograph
Only 30 photographic reproductions of this image are available.

5×7: $20.00
8×10: $30.00
11×14: $42.00
16×20: $55.00

*additional shipping fees apply
**more sizes available upon request

All purchase transactions will take place through PayPal. Please email me to make your order.

Click here to learn more about my high-quality photographic prints.

I Am Maya



Sometimes it is simplicity that speaks loudest. One Maya woman and a simple yellow wall says it all.

I consider this capture to be my signature photograph for Guatemala. It most certainly represents much of what drew me back to the “Land of Eternal Spring” after that first visit in November and December of 2008. I was blessed enough to spend another seven months in Guate during 2009. This image and others like it are branded upon my heart – my beloved Guatemala still calls to me. I am certain that our affair is not over.

5×7: $10.00
8×10: $20.00
11×14: $32.00
16×20: $45.00

*additional shipping fees apply
**more sizes available upon request

All purchase transactions will take place through PayPal. Please email me to make your order.

Click here to learn more about my high-quality photographic prints.