The Essence of Mexico Project is the culmination of a life-long obsession with Mexico, which I feel very privileged to have been able to realize. The project has allowed me to spend the last 11 years doing what I love best - experiencing, appreciating and photographing vanishing traditional art and the folkways of an extraordinary people who have spent generations living on the edge of a marginal existence and making the best of it, in their quest for balance and continuity. Thanks to the generous contributions of patrons and friends, I believe that I have succeeded in creating a unique, historical collection of photography that presents the aesthetic style, or "essence", of each culture photographed. Now the time has come to share these images with the world.
Phase II of the Essence of Mexico Project plans to open this collection of over 40,000 images for research and exhibition. The images will be described in a detailed collection guide, facilitating research by making the images searchable by geographic location, festival name and type, season, date, and many other ethnographically and artistically descriptive keywords. Scholars and aficionados of indigenous Mexican culture alike will be able to confidently browse and search the collection using this guide as a tool for context and understanding. As there is currently no written description attached to the images, this guide will serve as the foundation for all future research in the collection.
At a later date, once the crucial first step of describing the collection has been taken, a web site will be created to encourage world-wide access, and a program put in place to travel the numerous already existing exhibitions of my work. There are plans for a photography-driven book introducing the project, utilizing 100-150 of the collection’s most compelling photographs with enough anthropological embellishment to explain the imagery, together with personal reminiscences of experiences and stories. Ultimately, this book will be followed by a series of four more, one on each season of the Mexican ceremonial calendar —spring, summer, fall and winter. There is sufficient material for books on Easters, Dias de Muertos, indigenous spirituality, danzas, ephemeral festival art, and more. My plan is to continue to photograph festivals appropriate to further developing the archive, while helping realize Phase II of the project, as outlined more specifically in the proposal.
I am gratified that the collection will be shared by the San Antonio Museum of Art’s recently founded, Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art, which will hold a selection of the most aesthetic, "publishable" images, that will be catalogued as a guide or key to the collection’s main archive, which will be held at The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas, Austin, where it will be available for scholarly research.
Because of its high research value, the University of Texas at Austin Development Office selected the Essence of Mexico collection for special attention at its March 2002 gala celebration. It was featured in a special brochure produced for the occasion.
The images in the collection provide a unique insight into the last vestiges of ritualistic cultural activity, encompassing all of the cultures in Mexico, preserving cultural clues that can be traced back to the dawn of agriculture. Captured during a specific time frame, they create a point of reference and will make possible the opportunity to look back into time, to perhaps help understand the present; or simply to appreciate the art and beauty, as I do.
In closing, I would like to thank God and all of the angels in heaven for channeling my life into this direction, making all of this possible, plus those loyal friends and allies who helped God do it. Although the collection has already spawned ten major international museum exhibitions, the opportunities presented by these images will not be fully realized until the collection’s images can be shared and properly placed in ethnographic and contemporary art fields, as outlined in the accompanying Phase II proposal. I would greatly appreciate your participation in helping to achieve these goals.