I have long been fascinated with Mexican photographers, muralist and filmmakers. They seem to share a certain perspective on the world that is unique to their country. Maybe it is an expression of deep cultural roots or possibly a reaction to traumas suffered over the last few hundred years. There is nothing like the destruction of multiple civilizations to change the way you perceive the world. Whatever it is I am drawn to the imagery of Mexico.
At various times I have obsessed about what sort of photographic ‘style’ I should adopt. What constitutes proper technique and the constraints of craft? The answer for me is to stop thinking in terms of limits. Everyone has unique vision. That is literally true because our visual perception is based in DNA and life experience. I can learn from others but I can only express what I see and feel. The same is true for the image makers of Mexico. Still there is something shared in their work.
For many years I have lived in multi-cultural Texas and New Mexico. There are rich experiences to be found in places where people of different backgrounds choose to live together. My roots are shallow in the new world unlike my wife’s family. They have lived in the place now known as Texas for hundreds of years while the flags changed over them. I am influenced by the cultures around me.
I can never see photographically in the way anyone else sees. Let alone the photographers of Mexico. My work may be informed by the work of others but it is unique to me. There is no other way.
The source photograph for this completed work was made nearly eight years ago with my first DSLR a Canon 10D. Many of the photographs shot with that 6MP camera still print well up to 16×20 inches. You have to work a little to get good output in color but black and white output does not require much extra work to get acceptable prints.
This is another of my augmented images. It is composited with several textures in the background and blended into the image of the subject. One of the interesting things I’ve discovered while experimenting with compositing is that a small amount of texture often enhances a sense of depth in portraits. Perhaps the noise introduced by overlaying texture at low opacity somehow makes the human face look more natural. Not sure but it seems to work for me.
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I spotted this man walking around in front of the old Post Office in Luckenbach Texas a while back. He would stop from time to time to strike a pose for the rest of the tourists. It seemed amusing at the time, given that everyone in Luckenbach is projecting some sort of image. He fit right in. The crowd is always a diverse bunch, from well heeled wannabe bikers to outlaw country music enthusiasts and of course tourists.
The dime novel narrative surrounding my subject was already there, all I had to do was make it visible. The text is a combination of sentences I wrote myself and a paragraph from an actual dime novel, The Untamed by Max Brand, published around 1919. Max Brand is surely one of the great marketing names of the twentieth century. Of course given the context of his work it may well have been a reference to a permanent tattoo on a horse. No matter, it is a wonderful name for a western novelist.
The West we know from popular entertainment is a wild exaggeration of larger than life characters and their dastardly or heroic deeds. My subject personified many of those stereotypes at least in my mind. He made a turn of the century dime novel impression of rugged individualism with impeccable style cues.