Self-Portraits

México Tenochtitlán
by Francisco Mata Rosas


 

One of the greatest pleasures my craft has given me is, without a doubt, the experience of the streets, our popular culture fed by a sense of belonging, tradition, imposition, history, resistance, violence, love of the land, solidarity, malice, music, sensuality, hopes and fears; to experience the street is to observe, listen, feel, smell and share… in order, finally, to photograph.

 

For 25 years, the camera has been my excuse and my accomplice in walking the city, and the vehicle that has made it possible for me to relate to my own people; taking photographs for me has been an act of understanding, since the desire to express myself soon became the need to see and hear. For many weekends I left my women; the street called to me with its movement and its sounds, it captivated me. So I came to know barrios that it would have been difficult to visit by other means; I joined in rites, I attended dances, I shared food and drink, I was moved by the acts of faith that previously seemed inexplicable and unnecessary to me, I understood the need for love, friendship and solidarity as the fuel of life but, above all, it became clear to me that I belong to something and am from a specific place. Sometimes they asked me why I took pictures, and I didn’t know what to answer; I just said because I liked being there, and that is one of the things that is clearest to me. I also understood that this is really a city of cities, a sum of contrasts and contradictions, of diverse elements that are violently pounded together in the enormous molcajete (stone mortar) formed by Mexico’s central basin. Over these years, I have frequently discovered parallels between the representations within the fiestas and daily life in Mexico City, I saw the relationship between political acts and religious expressions, I linked urban landscapes with moods, I found explanations for what is collective in the individual, I tried to understand the internal mechanism that keeps coexistence going in this city, and I claimed something that already belonged to me: a sense of humor and irony that are part of our reality. In these barrios, at these fiestas, on these streets, I often ran right into what I had already seen, and I recognized in the midst of the messiness and the visual chaos pre-Hispanic, colonial and contemporary art, all one has to do is isolate it. Most of the time, I felt limited by the medium I had chosen —photography—but, on the other hand, I recognized its virtues of synthesis, dramatization, and most of all, metaphor.

 

I also understood that the city is too vast to be contained or photographed in its entirety. When this certainty became a part of my work, my anguish and my pretensions decreased: I no longer wanted to broadly document the traditions, I no longer worried about offering a definitive testimony regarding Mexico City in the final stretch of the 20th century; I just wanted to be there, to be a part of those cycles, reconfirm my liking for popular expressions, for friendship, for the chaos and the order that are created on the fiesta days, for the truces made between the rough barrios and, above all, I just wanted to do my work well, to photograph for me, for my wife, for my family, and for my friends.

 

Photography has never been my goal, nor has the piece of paper containing it: rather it has been and is a path that has made it possible for me to be there and therefore become. Photography has made me share and converse, it has taught me to be patient, intolerant when necessary and tolerant by conviction; it has shown me the beauty of the heterogeneous and diverse, it has let me try to be a better person.

 

Borges said he published his books to stop correcting his texts; I do not publish this with the desire to stop walking or because I think it is complete, but because I believe it is time to show it, to talk about it, to share it and to celebrate.

 

Francisco Mata

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"México Tenochtitlán" by Francisco Mata Rosas. Flash Version.
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