Spotlight: Capturing Mexico From a Personal Perspective

By David Schonauer   Monday April 2, 2018

Juan De La Cruz  sees no needs to make perfect sense of the world.

“I prefer not to make rational what is irrational,” he says.

De La Cruz, who lives in Veracruz, Mexico, was named a winner of the Latin American Fotografia 6  competition for “The Labyrinth,” a complex project in which, as he puts it, “I’ve been capturing and filtering my personal emotions and my life's experiences, the different cultural, political and social nuances of Mexico, searching, finding and recognizing each one of them.”

The work, steeped in mystery, searches for the energy of life in Mexico, often focusing on festivals and celebrations, including the Mexican Day of the Dead, the pilgrimage to the Virgin of Guadalupe and indigenous Totonaca rituals. “His journey of self discovery is inextricably linked to his understanding of Mexico,” noted the Bistro Latino  blog in January.

“I want to find the Mexican lifestyle and find myself in it,” De La Cruz told writer Helen Brown. “When I go to these kinds of festivals, I arrive with my own personal point of view, always questioning each moment, but if I want the magic of these celebrations to reveal itself to me, I need to be part of them, open my mind without question, let myself flow with the energy of the chaos."

De La Cruz is not a full-time professional photographer. Rather, he says, he uses photography as a way to “find out answers about my existence on this earth.”

His path toward photography began in 2004, when he took a workshop in Oaxaca with photographer Ernesto Bazan during the Day of the Dead celebrations. “From then on I started exploring Mexican culture through my emotions and these images have been mostly taken in traditional celebrations in Oaxaca and Veracruz,” he says.

“I’m really taking photos because I love the cinema and, at the same time, I’m Mexican and I like through photography to know my reality and to find out the roots that link me to this Mexican culture.”

In part, the title of the project refers to a landmark of Mexican literature. “In 2007, I found Octavio Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude, reflections that he wrote in 1955 which are still alive among Mexicans now in 2018,” De La Cruz told Bistro Latino. “Afterwards I read other Mexican writers such as Carlos Fuentes and, recently, Juan Rulfo. I have also been inspired by the writing of Garcia Marquez, Jose Saramago and Leonardo Padura. For me, their books convey a very Latin American perspective, which has helped me in moulding my project. Maybe we Mexicans were all born with a degree of questioning, and a sensation of feeling lost.”

“In my images I try to let each moment flow,” he says. “I love to show symbols, conventional elements with a great contextual information that question me on why to accept them. The human element is always important; in it I always see myself and, at the same time, I judge myself. I let the universe unfold and all of sudden in a place I wait for the appropriate moment, which sometimes doesn’t materialize. But when it arrives, wow! I shoot it!"

These days, he says, he often shoots with a Holga camera in medium format and with a Rolleiflex in 35mm format. “In both cameras you cannot control all the settings to get the right exposure, but I like this because from my personal point of view, life is like this: you cannot control it all. At the same time, these cameras let me feel the light,” he says.

“Mexico is a big universe that refuses to cease,” De La Cruz told Bistro Latino. “I know that maybe I will need several lives to fully fathom it,  but really I am not in a hurry, I will try to understand my human condition in this life.”


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