As she walked the coastline of Mazunte, a small beach town in Oaxaca, Mexico, photographer Alexandra von Fuerst began to see more than just sand beneath her feet. The result—in her words, not just a nesting ground for sea turtles but “water’s transfiguration of nature engraved in the sands”—made her question the fundamental roles of global ecosystems (and the footprints certain species can leave behind).
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS BY ALEXANDRA VON FUERST
“The coast of Mazunte (Oaxaca, Mexico) is nowadays recognized as a nesting site of sea turtles, but it’s been a center of sea turtle and sea life exploitation since the 1970s. During that time, a slaughterhouse was built in Mazunte making the town completely dependent on the trade of turtle meat, eggs (considered to be an aphrodisiac), and bones. This massacre lasted around 30 years leading to a global decline in the world’s turtle population; approximately 30,000 animals per year were butchered. Eventually, the idea of ecotourism based on sea turtles began over the same years through Pesquera Industrial Oaxaca, which proposed an alternative to raise and release the sea turtles instead. Nowadays, a cooperation between the National Mexican Turtle Center and the National Program of Sea Turtles, is currently involved in successful development initiatives to create an integration between the care for the natural spaces and the growth and support of the local communities.
“Unaware of the facts at the time of shooting, I began to wonder about the history of the land while editing the images, as my attention got caught by the ‘traces of the souls which had been imprinted into the nature I was observing. Feeling close to William Blake’s phrase, ‘To see a world in a grain of sand,’ the photographs are water’s transfiguration of nature engraved in the sands of Mazunte. In my eyes, the phantom of a historical past blends into the the pure beauty of the sea and its fundamental role for existence.”—Alexandra von Fuerst
“Leftovers” by Alexandra von Fuerst was photographed in March 2019 on the coast of Mazunte, Oaxaca in Mexico.