Friday, January 12, 2007

Enrique Metinides - Mexico’s Weegee

Enrique Metinides photographed his first dead body before he was 12. It was as if he had caught a fever, because after that he couldn’t stop. For years while he slept he kept his radio in Mexico City tuned to emergency stations so that he could be awakened by the latest news of disaster. He would often throw on his clothes and rush into the night to see yet another car wreck or fire or murder.

He found a cornucopia of gore: suicides, jumpers, accidental electrocutions and exploding gas tanks. (In that case petty thieves drove off from the pumps with the hose still inside their car.) We feel somehow we shouldn’t gawk. But how can we not?

So we do. We stare at the mangled corpses and at the crowds who stare back into Mr. Metinides’s camera, which means they stare at us. The cycle of voyeurism is complete.

Mexico’s Weegee, as he’s often called, Mr. Metinides, now 72, worked from the 1940s into the early ’90s, when he retired. His métier was Mexico City’s “nota roja,” the grisly pages. He shot for pulp magazines and mostly for the newspaper La Prensa, making visual sense out of urban mayhem and life’s general unpredictability.
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