Recently in La Paz, Mexico I saw two different exhibits of photography, one at the Archivo Historico that featured works of Nacho Lopez and the Casasola Photo Agency, and another nearby at the Teatro de la Ciudad where five photographers presented photo essays.
At the Archivo, the exhibit contrasted two styles of photography. One by Nacho Lopez, was entitled “Aqui esta la Vaciladora” (loosely translated as “Here with the Itinerants”). Perhaps the first Mexican photojournalist, López’s work (selected from the 1950’s) shows the everyday life that he preferred to focus on rather than the politicians and social scene that dominated the photography of the day. His exhibit at the Archivo was small and highlighted his work in the pulque bars (named for a local alcoholic brew).
Next to Lopez’s exhibit were selected images from the Casasola Photo Agency, taken from 1900 to 1930. All of these pictures were in the “line ’em up and shoot ’em down” style. Even pictures of revolutionaries were staged as seen here. They are quite the contrast from Lopez’s images where his underlying theme of social criticism is evident.
My discovery of the exhibit at the Teatro de la Ciudad was a visual treat. Called “del Asfalto a la Playa” (From the Asphalt to the Beach), it featured five prominent Mexican photographers, that to be honest, I had never heard of. All have photographed internationally for many years. Two photo essays stood out for me: One by Vida Yovanovich, a Cuban who fled to Mexico during the revolution of 1956, and another by Jose Hernandez-Claire.
Yovanovich’s images were small black and whites that featured everyday items well-used by their owners — a pair of shoes, a sink with a taped light socket over it, a stool, etc. All the pictures were on this theme and the overall effect was an appreciation of Yovanovich’s work, but also a respect for those who used these items.
Jose Hernandez-Claire’s essay was also in black and white — much larger — and featured religious celebrations throughout Mexico. They captured the emotional and physical connection of the participants in the images to their God.
Note to Bob: photo essays are alive and well in Mexico.