Mexico Between Life and Death


Many cutlures believe that on a certain day-Halloween, the Irish Samhain Eve, Mexico’s ‘Dia de los Muertos’-the veil between this world and the next is especially thin.

 --Michael Dirda, writer, book critic

I traveled to Mexico 14 times between 1993 and 2010. I have never been disappointed with what I found; a vibrant, friendly, emotionally available, sometimes raw land where a stranger is looked upon with curiosity and warmth.

I go as a wanderer, photographing in a country often strange to me.  I hear words I cannot comprehend, see things I don’t understand, view acts of kindness and violence, smell new odors and taste new foods; I walk down small cobblestone streets that are unknown to me.  I react and photograph intuitively.  When in Mexico, I am dizzy with new experiences and free to go anywhere and to do anything.  The feeling is of endless possibilities.  I am restrained only by my own limitations. 

I try to pierce the ever-present mysteries of this multifaceted land, to come to some understanding of life and death through Mexico’s special alliance with these subjects, and to reveal my fascination with Mexico’s culture, people and endless incongruities. Especially captivating is to photograph at night, when the shroud of darkness enhances the mystery and ambiguity of lives lived. I have photographed primarily in small towns and villages and mostly during festivals (Day of the Dead, Easter, Independence Day) that highlight the country's unique relationship to death, myth, ritual and religion.

The images show fragments of what Mexico is, a country of incredible contrasts and contradictions. Mexico is about piercing light and deep shadow, of stillness and quick explosiveness, of massive tradition and creeping progress, of great religious belief but with corruption as a way of life. It is a land of pulsating life, a country next to ours yet so far away, a country with more than 50% of its population under 20 years old but where old age is revered. Many of the photographs explore the Mexican's robust attachment to life, and to an acquiescent acceptance of the presence of death.

The hardcover book, to be published by Kehrer Verlag and available Fall 2018, consists of 156 duotone images, beautifully printed, on 176 pages. The price is $45 plus postage. If you would like a signed copy, or have questions about the book, please contact me at hsteinfoto@aol.com.  The book will also be available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine bookstores.