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
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Sunday 12noon - 6pm
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