Archives for category: Museo Nacional de San Carlos

A metaphor, this title is not. Indeed, on the evening of the final (outdoor) show, a mere hour before the exhibition was due to open – and in the same minute that the participants arrived to see their mounted photographs – the skies gave way; Nature took a deep breath and blew over Mexico City a series of tornadoes, the first in all its written history. I hear you ponder, But why had no preparations been made for rain in a climate-dependant exhibition? I ask myself the same, often. The sun had beamed down on us for two weeks, and when the clouds began to gather on that fateful day, and I inquired with the museum into a Plan B in the likely case of rain, in all their unbreakable Mexican optismism, they simply rationalised that, “It won’t rain”.

Oh, but how it rained!

Panic stricken, I saved our precious photographs from the elements and tearfully announced to the expectant particpants that the show was off, for the museum had no space for us inside. Faces fell, indignant voices were raised, and I confess to you, faceless reader, I broke down.

Luckily for me, I had two best pals with heads tightly screwed to their shoulders to pick up the debris of the exhibition. Foamboards and frames were hauled inside and reconstructed in the childrens’ workshop, Claire Atri’s trained eye measured the layout and nailed the frames, Sophie James quickly went about documenting the scene, and thanks to her initiative, I have photographic evidence of the event. In its own adhoc way, our exhibition had its charm and drew in visitors from another event at the museum – and the show did go on…

Before the storm: me and my specially built outdoor mounting frames – the bane of my life for an intense two weeks.

Claire saves my day: last minute remount of exhibition indoors

The event saved and in full swing.

Triptych of the park they slept in by 12 year old Yadira and 13 year old Fabiola, mounted indoors.

That’s not all. This will be my last blog entry posted from Mexico and I write it far from the smog and cacophony of its City’s concrete horizons. My nine months amongst the young inhabitants of its bridges, sewers and plazas are up, and so I came to end my Mexico days in the warm climes and cactus deserts of San Luis Potosí. However, I would not be so remiss as to say goodbye without one last look into the lives and perceptions of those aforementioned young people.

In my last two weeks working with Casa Alianza Mexico, I was approached by a friend of Miguel Ángel’s, a gentle, smiling boy named Edwin. He’d been wondering about these cameras he’d seen his friend with, and inquired into whether he too could take some photographs. I was, of course, happy of a volunteer and after a quick chat about what he would like to photograph about life on the steet (drugs, money and food), the last camera was handed over. In the stretch of two weeks that he had that camera, Edwin helped me paint the foamboards and brought me jugs of juice from the office during those long, hot afternoons of monotonous painting in the playground. It was he and Miguel Ángel, my two trusty street vagabonds, who saw it through to the end with me. Miguel Ángel contributed extensively to this blog, disappearing for lengths of time but never straying far from his word. True to this form, they both arrived at 6pm sharp to the exhibition opening night, despite the rain and tornadoes. I was only sorry that I couldn’t deliver to them the recognition that they deserved. Still, this blog is here, they have the address and I know they regularly check it.

For the forseeable future of the Street Children Photography Project, London calls for a January exhibition, and I am positive that geographic and economic distances will surely attract the exposure and recognition that all the photographs (and photographers) deserve.

Gallery? Check. Tequila sponser? Check. Rain? Double check. As any seasoned Londoner knows, we are always, always prepared for that.


Metro Hidalgo is the setting for much of Mexico City’s under-age prostitution (mostly gay). It is where Edwin and Miguel Ángel work and play, and where Casa Alianza is based.


Sleeping grounds: Miguel Ángel in foreground, Edwin in back.


The street outreach team often takes street children on day trips and excursions to distract them from drugs and get them interested in the wider world. This was taken on a trip to the zoo that Edwin joined.

The verb ‘to sniff glue’ in Mexican Spanish is ‘monearse’. Andrés, in this picture, is doing exactly that. Most street children are to be found like this from the moment of waking to when they sleep. It’s a full time occupation.


Food at a street taco stand


Edwin’s self-portrait

Change raised from begging and lying across glass shards…

And its rewards, in bottled, sticky inhalant form.


For anyone in Mexico City on Friday, 1st June, 2012, and who would like to come to the opening event of Transitions exhibition, please contact me for guest list entry. The event will take place from 6pm in the Patio Rojo of the Museo Nacional de San Carlos.

And for all those reading at home (and beyond!), I invite you to read the exhibition statement, presented below in both in the English and Spanish versions.

Transitions was, initially, a photography project about street children in Mexico City, some living in the homes of Casa Alianza and some still on the street but making regular contact with the foundation. The idea was always to teach them what I knew about photography, in the hope that it would help them to communicate their lives and find self expression using a visual medium. However, as the project progressed, less and less it became about street children as I began to see that this title had connotations too negative and did not fit with the participants’ photography. These teenagers’ visions were not limited to the experiences of the streets, or the experiences that had led them to the home, for what struck me above all else was the sense of overcoming I saw in their pictures, a sense of moving forward from the old life into a new era.

It was at this point that I decided the project was not about street children, but about the universal experiences of adolescence and change, in this case in the context of one of the world’s largest urban sprawls. The young photographers of this exhibition are undergoing complex periods of personal transition, whilst denied the stabilities offered by a nuclear family and home, and acceptance in the general community. This exhibition is proof of the participants overcoming past rejections, rising above the limitations imposed upon them by society and exposing a part of themselves to the wider public. Every photograph represents these psychological transitions, in which there are revealed the physical transitions also: from street to society, from prostitution to school, from biological family to a chosen family, from drugs to sobriety.

From the twenty or so disposable cameras that I handed out to teenagers on the streets to document what they wished of their lives, two were returned to me. Both these boys had already lived in Casa Alianza and were both to return soon after they’d delivered me the cameras. In another five cases of boys on the street, I spent an afternoon with them, a street educator from Casa Alianza and my own digital SLR camera, teaching the boys how to use it. Of these five, I only ever saw one again. He is still on the street washing windscreens but his best picture is displayed here; he had an outstanding eye for the right moment. Given the chance, his capabilities reach well beyond scraping the filth off a car front.

Of the teenagers living at Casa Alianza, we carried out an eleven-week intensive course in which they learnt how to use a professional camera, and in which we carried out various activities encouraging them to think about how they could express themselves via imagery instead of words. Over the weeks the participants began to open up, and as a result their photography began to tap into intimate corners of themselves: revelations of their secret places of solitude and reflection, the methods they employ to help them reflect, preparations for an independent and stable life, their interpretations of what liberty is or what luxury means to them; objects that had been carried with them through thick and thin and skills they had acquired from the families from which they had been separated.

Behind every photograph lies the story of an individual. The exhibition is not about the grim, hopeless life of the streets, nor is it about a happily-ever-after ending in a stable home. It is about the in-between and the difficulties that lie in changing one’s life in a society that is apathetic towards those who fall behind; it is about the universal experience of readjusting, reinventing, overcoming and creating a personal transition.

  Transiciones era, inicialmente, un proyecto fotográfico sobre los niños de la calle en la Ciudad de México, algunos que estaban viviendo en los hogares de Casa Alianza, y otros que estaban en las calles pero en contacto continuo con la fundación. Siempre estaba la idea de enseñarles lo que sabía de la fotografía, con una visión que les ayudaría a comunicar parte de sus vidas y descubrir una auto-expresión por un medio de lo visual. Sin embargo, durante el progreso del proyecto empecé a ver que este título tenía connotaciones muy negativas y que no iba de acuerdo con las fotografías de los participantes. Ahora no se trata de los niños de la calle; las visiones de estos jóvenes no estaban limitadas a sus experiencias en la calle, o las experiencias que les habían conducido al hogar; se me ocurrió sobre todo que sus fotografías revelaban una intención de superación – un sentido de moverse desde una etapa de la vida hacia una nueva.

  Fue en este momento que decidí que el proyecto no trataba de los niños de la calle, sino de las experiencias universales de la adolescencia y el cambio. En este caso, estas transiciones se ubican en el contexto de una de las extensiones urbanas más descontroladas del mundo. Los fotógrafos jóvenes de esta exposición están experimentando periodos complejos de transiciones personales y al mismo tiempo no tienen acceso a los servicios básicos y de bienestar: una casa, familia nuclear y la aceptación de la comunidad. Esta exposición es un testimonio de que los participantes pueden superar rechazos pasados, sobrepasar las limitaciones que les ha impuesto la sociedad y que han adquirido la confianza para exponer una parte de sí mismos al público. Cada fotografía representa estas transiciones psicológicas, en las cuales también se revelan las transiciones físicas: de la calle a la sociedad, de la prostitución a la escuela, de la familia biológica a la familia elegida, de las drogas a la sobriedad.

  De unas veinte cámaras desechables que regalé a jóvenes de la calle me devolvieron dos. Los dos chicos que cumplieron con el taller ya habían vivido en el hogar de Casa Alianza y regresarían ahí poco tiempo después de haberme entregado las cámaras. Hubo cinco ocasiones más con chicos de la calle donde yo y los educadores de Casa Alianza pasamos una tarde con ellos en la ciudad y les enseñé cómo usar mi cámara digital profesional. De los cinco chicos, sólo volví a ver a uno. Aun se queda en la calle limpiando parabrisas, pero su mejor fotografía está expuesta aquí; tenía un ojo excepcional para capturar el momento perfecto. Con suerte, sus capacidades rebasan por mucho quitar la mugre de los coches.

  Para los jóvenes en Casa Alianza, llevamos a cabo un curso intensivo de once semanas en el que aprendieron cómo usar una cámara profesional. Realizamos varias actividades para fomentar el desarrollo de cómo se podían expresar por medio de las imágenes en vez de palabras. Durante esas semanas los participantes empezaban a abrirse y, como resultado, su fotografía empezó a acceder a partes más íntimas: revelaciones de sus lugares secretos, soledad y reflexión, sus métodos que emplean para hacer esas reflexiones, sus planes para una vida independiente y estable, sus interpretaciones de la libertad o lo que es el lujo para ellos; los objetos que han sido parte de su vida, y las enseñanzas aprendidas con las familias de las que fueron separados.

   Detrás de cada fotografía se halla una historia individual. La exposición no trata de la vida dura y desesperada en las calles, ni trata de un final feliz. Trata de el paso y las dificultades que se encuentran para integrase en una sociedad que se muestra apática con ellos; se trata de la experiencia universal de reajustarse, reinventarse, superarse y crear las transiciones personales.