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The Photographers' Gallery presents Enrique 'El Nino' Metinides


Preview: Jack Foley

THE Photographers' Gallery is currently presenting one of the first exhibitions to be devoted to the extraordinary work of the Mexican newspaper photographer, Enrique El 'Nino' Metinides, until September 14, 2003.

Born in 1934, his nickname, 'the kid', refers to his outstandingly precocious talent - Metinides published his first front-page photograph at the age of 12.

From the late 1940s to his retirement in 1993, Metinides worked for the Mexican popular press, in particular for the big-selling tabloid La Prensa.

He was a key figure in defining the nota roja, or 'bloody news', a section of the mass media dedicated to violent, tragic or sensationalist real-life events, in which is expressed a distinctively Mexican approach to death, and its representation.

Metinides' lifelong focus has been with the imagery of disaster and destruction, whether as the result of bad luck, human violence, or divine retribution.

His subjects, all witnessed in or around his native Mexico City, include infernos, floods, aeroplane crashes, car crashes, train crashes, bus crashes, murders, accidents and suicides.

It's tempting to characterise Metinides as a 'Mexican' Weegee: and certainly he shares with the older American a sense of the dark drama of human existence; an intuitive aptitude to frame and compose at often point blank range and breakneck speed; and an unerring ability to arrive first at the scene of the crime.

(Weegee tapped into police radio, while Metinides, working simultaneously as a volunteer for the Red Cross, often arrived in an ambulance.)

But where Weegee's best work is confined to one decade in New York - the mid-30s to mid-40s - Metinides' camera sweeps across five decades of life in Mexico City, and accumulates into a richly metaphoric archive of misfortune, vicissitude and vulnerability.

Here, in a huge and hugely populous city, tragedy occurs on a crowded stage. Metinides' photographs capture a very distinctive sense of the human - and even, at times paradoxically, the humourous - dimensions of catastrophe.

His work is characterised by a level of compositional invention very rare in reportage photography. This arises from his early interest in the aesthetics of film noir, as well as a fascination with the spectators, as much as the survivors or victims, as protagonists in the drama of a particular event.

Enrique Metinides continues to live in Mexico City where his attention has turned from photography to video.

From his apartment, equipped with numerous cable and satellite TVs, Metinides sits day and night monitoring the unfolding of world events, and cataloguing different orders of disaster - from hurricanes to suicide bombing - into a rapidly growing archive.

The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated monograph, published by Thomas Dane, kurimanzutto and The Photographers' Gallery, with a foreword by Geoff Dyer, an essay by Néstor García Canclini and an interview by Gabriel Kuri.

The exhibition is supported by Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Mexico.

The photograph shows: Adela Legarreta Rivas is struck by a white Datsun on Avenida Chapultepec.
April 29, 1979

The Photographers' Gallery,
5 & 8 Great Newport Street,
London, WC2H 7HY
Monday - Saturday: 11am - 6pm
Sunday 12noon - 6pm
Telephone: 020 7831 1772
Nearest Tube: Leicester Sq

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