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Andrew Quilty: Mexicans

It was with some trepidation that photographer Andrew Quilty crossed the Mexican border for the first time, hoping to get beyond clichéd assumptions brought on by gruesome media coverage, xenophobia and the geopolitics of the United States.
“It’s a symptom of fear the world over – that we fear what we don’t know,” he explains, “I wanted to discover for myself.”*
Between October 2009 and February 2010 Quilty and his uncle – an Australian ex pat who has been living in Mexico for over a decade – embarked on a four-month road trip spanning 15,000kms and 22 states.

They slept in yards, on string hammocks, and worked out the following day’s course over beer, tequila and the smell of Cuban cigarettes.

The 31 images that result make up Mexicans, which shows at Maunsell Wickes at Barry Stern Galleries as part of the Head On Photo Festival from May 17-29, 2011.

“My motivations were just like any other traveller’s – to look and to learn, to taste and smell and hear a new place,” he said. “I’d like to think that as a photographer though, I was able to see rather than just look.” 

If Mexicans is essentially a travel journal, it is one made by a specially trained eye, turned away from tourist traps and honed in on the map’s isolated areas.

His acute observations exploit the vibrant palette of Mexico in film without disturbing the daily rhythms and recreation of its people.

Mexico is a land rich and proud in culture, of people true to their roots yet equally impressionable, people who use their feet and their hands in a pre-industrialised fashion, who sit and watch, who walk rather than drive, who truly retire in old age, who fix and mend rather than dispose of, whose kindred are absolutely family and whose fascination and admiration for their northern neighbours is curiously apparent but who, when all is said and done, are Mexicans; inimitable and unique.*

Mexicans officially opens on Tuesday 17 May, 6-8 pm and is on show until June 29.
Barry Stern Gallery 19 Glenmore Rd, Paddington, Sydney

* Extracts from the introduction of Mexicans, a limited edition book that accompanies the series.

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Image detail: Gary Ramage