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This Photographer Captures the True Identity of Dia De Los Muertos

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A tip to aspiring photographers from documentarian Nicole Franco: Before you shoot, be there first.

“Oftentimes I don’t photograph right away,” she says. “I kind of just try and immerse myself, and I think of the way it’s affecting all of my senses: Collect all those sensations and incorporate that when I’m shooting.”

Feeling and absorbing the scene that she seeks to capture informs her first move. Like the archer who sees the arrow hit its mark before ever releasing it from its notch, Franco lets the moment wash over her: Both its permanent fixtures and its transient details.

“When I photograph Dia de Los Muertos, I’m looking to identify a sense of place,” she explains. “It’s visually really beautiful and stunning, with flowers and how they’re decorated. You really get a sense of identity.”

For that reason, while everyone’s got their own style, Franco likes to shoot light. You might think it’s because it makes it easier to explore a broader span of the city’s nuance, but the real reason is to make her more of a person when she engages with a stranger, rather than a distracting collection of gadgets. And isn’t connecting people why you wanted to make art and explore the world in the first place? That’s what this holiday preserves: The fate that unites us all, and the life that connects us on the way there.