Malcolm Lowry’s novel “Under the Volcano” tells the story of a British expatriate in Mexico struggling to reconcile his life amidst the ruins of a failed relationship and delirium tremens. I read this book while photographing In Mexico and subsequently editing those pictures. Parallels between the book and what I saw on the streets appeared over and over. Literary critic William Gass said Lowry was “…constructing a place, not describing one; he is making Mexico for the mind where, strictly speaking, there are no menacing volcanoes, only menacing phrases, where complex chains of concepts traverse our consciousness.”
Mexico's murder rate went up 16% in the first half of 2018, a statistic that suggested that year would be the bloodiest in the country's history. Time magazine approximated that someone was killed every 15 minutes in the month of May.
Where I was based had the reputation of being a safe haven. In travel around the country, I had seldom been in danger, yet I worried about personal safety. Reconciling my daily life with the headlines I saw in the "prensa amarilla," the bloody scandal sheets of Mexican newsstands, led to thoughts that I was living in a fantasy while a war raged closer than I wanted to believe.
While I recognize that I was not a target of the violence between rival criminal cartels, that sense of unease provided the idea for this project. I thought of looking over my shoulder on a quiet street in a strange town, and noticed Mexicans doing the same as I would pass in the street. I sensed a certain vigilance, and started to photograph scenes that seemed to signify something other than what was depicted. I didn't want to photograph violence. I wanted the photos themselves, and the relationships between pictures, to suggest that something was awry, that something lay beneath the surface.
Mexico blends beauty with the sinister, joy with despair, and mystery with the mundane. It's those contradictions that interested me- and made me uncomfortable.