All the Wiser for the Wandering

“Where’s Joe?”
It’s a common question when on a photo shoot with Thrums photographer Joe Coca. While we’re busy interviewing artisans or admiring their textiles, Joe quietly wanders off. Sometimes to the alarm or curiosity of an author, translator, or guide. I’ve learned over many trips with Joe not to worry. He’s just out getting the lay of the land, discovering a sense of place that’s always so important in our books, so important in the lives of the artisans whose stories we share.

Joe wandering in China.

Through his lens, Joe is learning how to frame this new world. And he always comes back, gently resuming his presence, all the wiser for his wandering. Or sometimes just full of a lot of questions! I think the artisans he photographs appreciate his curiosity and his desire to know and understand their place, their community, their lives. It’s one of many qualities in Joe that puts people at ease.

travel advice
Joe having fun with members of the Centers of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco. Photo by Diana Hendrickson.

After working with Joe in Guatemala to photograph her book Rug Money, Mary Anne Wise wrote that Joe has the “ability to shed his corporeal body and then insert himself into the shot without anyone noticing his presence.” It’s true.

Carmen Maldonado Garcia in Chirijquiac, Guatemala. Photo by Joe Coca, from the book Rug Money.

Publisher Linda Ligon spent some time recently, talking with Joe about his approach to new people and place, and got him to reveal some of his favorite photographs in his new book The Human Thread. Cleverly, we made a video of the conversation. Maybe it will inspire a little wandering. Joe would like that.


The Human Thread: Photography of Joe Coca is available at Thrums Books and everywhere fine books are sold.

4 thoughts on “All the Wiser for the Wandering

  1. Carolyn Dille says:

    Wonderful video for an amazing and beautiful book. Amazing for the deep communication of the artisans’ lives and art: The Human Thread, perfect title. Beautiful because it’s a Joe Coca and Linda Ligon book! Remembering the beautiful books we all worked on together, I’ll echo my friend Susan’s words for Joe and Linda: Artist, Visionary, inspiring humans. Thank you for bringing this superb work from many worlds into this world.

  2. susan belsinger says:

    so great to see linda and joe up close and personal! this inspired and creative duo changed my life–7 books together–back in the herbal days! and you are still doing wonderful work; you are both my heroes. thank you for your amazing artistry. joe’s ability to capture whole worlds of stories through his lens in each photo and linda for her visionary work, writing and editing skills.

  3. Deborah Chandler says:

    GREAT video, and good story too! Thanks so much. Looking forward to Joe’s, the book’s, launch party in Fort Collins later this month.

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