Brian L Frank October 13, 2010Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Mexico.
Gerardo, Tepito, Mexico City 2008
Brian L Frank (b.1979, USA) studied photojournalism at San Francisco State University. During an extended break from school, he drove an old VW Beetle across Mexico, landing in Mexico City, where he lived and worked until August 2009. Based in San Francisco again, he continues to work in Mexico as well as Southern California. He was recently awarded the 2010 Global Vision Award by POYi for “Downstream: The Death of the Colorado,” and the 2009 NPPA Domestic News Picture Story of the year for “La Guerra Mexicana.” A frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal, his work has appeared in Esquire, Newsweek, TIME, Le Monde, Photo District News, The New York Times and many other publications. His archive is syndicated through Redux Pictures, New York.
About the Photograph:
“This photograph of Gerardo was the way I gained access to Mexico City’s infamous barrio Tepito. I found myself fascinated with Tepito not because it was one of the toughest neighborhoods in Latin America, but because I was fascinated with the worship of La Santa Muerte “Saint Death”, a hybrid form of ancient Aztec and Catholic death worship. In recent years Santa Muerte has grown from a fringe practice mostly followed by those involved with the crime culture, to a mainstream movement with thousands of worshipers. The most famous altar for La Santa Muerte is in Tepito.
“I met Gerardo in front of this very altar. It was the first day I was attempting to explore Tepito and the guide I had with me was using drugs and attempting to get money from me. I knew that I would need to find another guide, or make friends in the community quickly, or I would eventually be in danger from my own guide. I saw Gerardo standing in front of the altar holding his child tenderly in his arms. The contrast of Gerardo’s jailhouse tattoos to this obvious tenderness towards his child is what drew me to him. I did not want to make images that fed stereotypes of “Mexican gangsters,” I wanted to show people that many involved in this drug war and violence in Mexico were human too. To me, the picture of Gerardo did all of this.I made Gerardo a print and agreed to meet him the next week in the same place with a copy. He loved the image and from that day forward, whenever I wanted to explore Tepito with my camera, all I had to do was call Gerardo and let the folks on the street see that I was him, which allowed me a certain level of safety and acceptance.”