101 Tragedies of Enrique Metinidesby: Enrique Metinides
All images: From 101 Tragedies of Enrique Metinides (Aperture, 2012) © Enrique Metinides, courtesy 212berlin.
An exhibition of these and other images from 101 Tragedies will be on view at Aperture Gallery in New York, February 20 through March 23.
IN 1944, THE 10-YEAR-OLD Enrique Metinides received from his parents a gift that would define much of the rest of his trajectory through life: a Brownie box camera. The family lived in a Mexico City apartment near a particularly dangerous intersection, and young Enrique began to use this present to document the traffic accidents that regularly occurred on the street outside. Before long, the childhood hobby launched him on a career unique among Mexican photographers. As a fledgling photojournalist Metinides soon began to work with the legendary tabloid publisher (and photographer in his own right) Antonio “El Indio” Velazquez, who introduced him to the world of the daily press. Still a youth, he sold some of his work to Alarma!, the no-holds-barred tabloid specializing in tales of crime and tragedy that Velazquez founded in 1950. This was the start of what would prove to be a career of nearly five decades for Metinides, until he was unceremoniously dismissed from La Prensa in 1997 in the wake of a change in ownership.
Metinides worked for the Mexico City tabloid La Prensa for most of his long career, though he also published in specialty periodicals such as Crimen, Nota roja, and Guerra al Crimen. Improbably, following his retirement, he has successfully remade himself into an art photographer, exhibiting internationally the same body of work that he previously published in the Mexican tabloids. This transformation took place over a matter of years; first the tireless photography historian and curator Alfonso Morales organized a retrospective exhibition with Mauricio Ortiz at the National University’s museum, the Museo Universitario de Artes y Ciencias, or MUAC. The accompanying catalog, El teatro de los hechos, was the first monograph devoted to Metinides’s work. From that point on his career transformation has been meteoric — a journalist swept up into the upper reaches of the art world’s stratosphere, negotiating his way as best he can. Shortly after the MUAC show he signed with a prestigious Mexico City gallery, Kurimanzutto, which in turn arranged for solo shows in London and New York, and sales to the Museums of Modern Art in New York and San Francisco. Here in Los Angeles, Blum and Poe gave him a solo show in 2006. That same year, The New York Times called his debut at Chelsea’s Anton Kern Gallery one of the best shows of the year. More shows and catalogs followed, and now, with a monograph from Aperture and a traveling retrospective, Metinides has assured his place in the canon of great photographers.
Reviewing Metinides’s unorthodox professional metamorphosis, and after an extended engagement with both the photographer and his archive, the editor of 101 Tragedies, Trisha Ziff, writes that she wondered what she “could possibly add to the mix, which has not already been said.” She decided “to move away from the historical and analytical,” and to create instead, with Metinides, “a book which would be almost like...