The Other Side of Paradise: Discovering the Everyday on Isla Holbox, Mexico
There's a rich, inland world behind the five-star hotels and photo-op beaches
19 February, 2020
If Tulum is Coachella then Isla Holbox is Mexico's Glastonbury. You can still find the beautiful white-sand beaches, palm trees and blue sea, but it is a little rougher around the edges. For me, it is this untouched charm that makes the island a joy to photograph.
We arrive by ferry in the middle of the night and are met by a man in a golf buggy, the most common mode of transport on the island. He takes us up the dirt track roads, past the bars and taquerias on the main strip, to our hotel. It is very dark, streets are lit by a few scattered orange lamps, but I am already scoping out photo locations.
I'm drawn to colour and realism - I want people to see the places I visit as they really are, not how Instagram would lead you to believe. For me, this set of photos represents the Holbox we experienced, which is quite different to the photos we found researching online.
You only need to walk a block inland from the beach behind all the five-star hotels and you're in a completely different environment. Parents taking their children to school, friends meeting for tlayudas and endless construction sites; it would seem this island is set for great change in the future.
I have 20 rolls of film but after only a few hours I'm Googling photo labs on the mainland to find out where I can pick up more. Even though it's off season, the continual blue sky, beautiful tropical plants and colourful houses make for a photographer's dream.
This island is undeniably a tropical paradise but scratch the surface and you find a small, tight-knit community, going about their everyday lives among the pastel-coloured palette they call home.