Gender, Number and Persons: A Photo Essay on Diversity
25 Feb 2007
Diversity is the presence of a wide range of variations in the qualities or attributes under any context of discussion. It is a form of individualism, unique characteristics, values, and beliefs. The photographs that make up this portafolio, "Gender, Number, and Persons", are a selection of fortunate encounters with as many variations in appearance as my need, as a photographer, to assume these "others" as my "other" selves. All these portraits were taken in the streets of Mexico City during the Gay Pride Parade (2003-2006), in informal circumstances and with natural light, where possible indicators of the rejection of uniformity -the dress, attitude, manners and even key expectations of gender identity of my subjects- lie on the sharp frontier between illusion and reality. They exceed, and greatly so, the immediacy of their original express purpose, although the discovery of grace -despite its evident improbability- is the result of long technical experimentation and methodical sensitizing to the potential of the image's content. There is no quest here for the unusual or for the moments in which the fusion of the beautiful and the ridiculous, of the horrible and the marvelous, of the exceptional and the mundane, defines a social sub-stratum, like in traditional "Street Photography". Yet these instants enrich my personal concept of image, which arises from an admiration for photography that understands the categorization of a demimonde as a metaphor for a truth that the majority scorns but secretly returns to time and again.
In this underworld, the definition of gender has expanded, as has the number of the people who make its plurality, although they remain as blind spots in the visual field of others. They are people who have conquered their space at the risk of upsetting the relationship between who they are and who they ought to be, according to others. They are inhabitants of a utopia that is as elusive for ordinary people as is their control of their own instincts. They are the nominative cases without which the diminutive, augmentative and superlative forms may not be understood. Isolated from the parade visual noise by means of a white backdrop improvised on the street, the subjects in these shots allegorize on their bodies the identifying traits of the world to which they aspire, a world that can be conquered only by trespassing the norms of others. Here, the yearning to raise oneself up is as sublime as the impossibility of doing so. This portafolio sought to capture, as an exercise of image decontextualization, a phenomenon that is unrepeatable in its particularities, which is the annual parade of thousands of persons who celebrate their differences by exalting them.
To be above or below aesthetic standards is almost the same as being above or below social norms. To accept that the passage of time will create an imposter in our own face, or disguise what one is inside, means that the deepest identity of each person is to be found only on an illusory plane. Or maybe this is an intriguing aspect of being human, like the uniquely photographic phenomenon of freezing an image that later will make time seem like a succession of disguises of the person. The relevance of the motives, the compositional sensibilities, and the assessment of symbolic attributes would all exempt these photographs from conceptual interpretation if they did not impel reflection on social pressures and on identity that if inhibited grows until it explodes. What the observer of the social aspects gets into the bargain is the bitter aftertaste that deepens the sweetness of being different when being the same has become alienating. Each person is unique, but his numbers are legion when he becomes representative of a group vulnerable to a society that does not recognize its pride.