Images of wanderlust

"Have camera, will travel.At least that's what island photographer Ellen Briggs hopes for in the coming years.New areas, new people, inspiration - I always take more photographs when I'm travelling, says Briggs, who was introduced to the art of the camera - and wanderlust - with the Girl Scouts in her native Massachusetts.She joined the troop because they were going to New York on a propeller plane. Later, with the same group, she took her first photography class. Someone had a good camera, a black and white, Briggs recalls, and we took each other's pictures, messing with light and that kind of thing.Colorful Oaxaca, her present show, features the market stalls, ruins and people of south-central Mexico. It reminded me of an Italian hillside town, she says. Except it's Mexican. It felt like you were in a really faraway land - a place where people live in mud huts and cook over fires.Getting the shots sometimes proved more difficult than simply travelling.It's against the spiritual beliefs of the indigenous people there to have their pictures taken, she says, so you have to talk to them, buy something from them. Briggs, however, prefers candid shots. They look more natural, you can see people's faces, the lines, she says. But for those, I had to be sneaky.Though no altercations arose from her photography, someone threw fruit at Seattle gallery owner Malcolm Edwards, her companion on the journey.Briggs has lived in the Seattle area for 22 years, and on Bainbridge Island for nine. I like ocean places, she says. And it's kind of like my hometown, Hingam, in Massachusetts. It's friendly - it's my home.An administrative assistant at Harborview Medical Center, she cites her workplace as an influence on her photography. It's a really good hospital, and there are people from all over the world, she says. We get a lot of poor, needy people with major problems, and they're a diverse group of people.Briggs has taken pictures with the same Nikkormat camera for 25 years, and even though she says equipment doesn't make the photographer, she still dreams of new lenses and a new camera. As you become more successful, then you can buy another camera, she says.* * * * *Colorful Oaxaca will run at Seattle's Underground Gallery through September. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. "

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