Early March in Tultepec, Mexico, means one thing… explosions. Lots and lots of beautiful, bursting, colorful, whirring and sizzling explosions.
Tultepec is where most of Mexico’s fireworks manufacturers are, and this time each year, they let the whole world know it at their pyrotechnics festival, where they set off a ludicrous amount of fireworks. A parade of toritos — fabricated bulls rigged with explosives — send showers of sparks and fountains of fire screeching through the air as locals dance in swirling storms of light.
When photographer Florian Rainer first read about Tultepec’s hazardous celebration of beautiful explosions, he knew he had to go. He braved the fire in 2014 and captured the madness over seven intense hours in a series he calls Fuego. His photos are so vivid, you can feel the heat on your face.
If you want to make the journey yourself, don’t miss a chance to learn from Florian’s experience. Check out his amazing shots and read our exclusive interview below.
Did you make any special preparations so that you would be equipped to handle all of the fireworks?
No. I knew I needed old clothes, because I assumed I would have to throw them away afterwards. Additionally, I looked for a hooded sweatshirt to have some protection against the fire — I didn’t consider the firework casings, that kept hitting me on the head though…
What was your photography strategy to approaching this festival?
I just went there, with the aim of getting as close as possible. I was not thinking about doing a long piece about it, I just wanted to focus on the action.
What was it like being there once all of the fireworks were in full force?
Well, coming from Europe where safety and security is one of the highest values, I found myself in another world. I could never imagine something like this happening back home. People get burnt but they don’t care — they know that the wounds will heal soon or later.
Were there any surprises or things you didn’t expect?
Coping with the movement of the masses proved to be the hardest part. People are running towards the bulls, jumping and shouting, and once the bulls get set on fire they run away. Not being the strongest individual, I had to find a way to photograph the action and at the same time avoid getting run over. That proved to be the hardest part but, having collected extensive mosh pit experience over the years, I managed.
What was your most memorable moment from this experience?
The moment when it was all over at dawn, I sat down with a young Mexican, and we were both sad that it was over — after seven intense hours or so. The ground was turned black by all the explosions, and was littered with firework casings. We were exhausted but very happy — and still full of adrenaline. We said we would meet the coming year.
Did this spur you to take on other adventures?
In January, I was walking with Ethiopian pilgrims towards Lalibela and produced an extensive travel documentary… [and] I published a book on the European refugee crisis called Fluchtwege (Escapes) which deals with the going-ons in Austria last autumn.
Which photo from Tultepec is your personal favorite?
Probably the one with the people seemingly dancing in stars.
Want to follow in Florian’s footsteps? Tultepec will be popping off for the next couple weeks, March 5-14. If you’re looking for an adventure, there’s still time to make it! Be sure to set your camera to a fast shutter-speed so that all those sparks show up, and share them on PicsArt with the hashtag #Pyrotechnics.