Mexico Notebook: Q&A with Claudia Arechiga

© Claudia Arechiga

Hannah FrieserJaime Permuth and I have begun a collaboration to explore contemporary photography in Mexico. We're looking at trends and how they relate to traditions; events, institutions and venues; as well as pursuing conversations with curators, academics, gallerists and photographers on what's happening currently. This collaborative project will feature a variety of types of posts including interviews, book reviews, published letters, portfolios of images and more.

Hannah Frieser is a curator, photographer and book artist and former Executive Director of Light Work. Jaime Permuth is a Guatemalan photographer living and working in New York City and a Faculty Member at the School of Visual Arts.

We have been collaborating with the photographer Alejandro Cartagena as part of this project. Cartagena has overseen and executed a series of short interviews with photographers from Mexico that will be published over the coming weeks.

Today we continue this series with an interview of Claudia Arechiga by Cartagena. A statement on the work presented written by Arechiga and a biography of Cartagena follow the interview.

Other posts in this series include:
Q&A with Nahatan Navarro
Contemporary Photography in Oaxaca
Q&A with Aglae Cortés
Q&A with Maria José Sesma
Interview with César Rodríguez
Q&A with Nora Gómez
Q&A with Melba Arellano
Q&A with Jorge Taboada

© Claudia Arechiga

This interview is presented first in English translation, then followed by the Spanish original.

Alejandro Cartagena: Where do you live and what you do?

Claudia Arechiga
: I live in Mexico City and I work in photojournalism.

AC: How did you get started in photography?

CA: I started in 2001, studying a Diploma in Photography at the Cabañas Cultural Institute of the City of Guadalajara.

© Claudia Arechiga

AC: When and what made you start considering producing photographic work to explore your personal concerns?

CA: When I realized that working for the media was just a job and had the opportunity to express my ideas making personal projects on topics of my interest.

AC: Tell us about some of your projects and the themes you approach through the images we are presenting.

CA: This is a project I developed during daily media assignments for the company I work for. For me it was interesting to have a personal vision of a newsworthy event and propose a different view of what is expected of an event of this kind.

AC: How do you think about the history of Mexican photography in your work?

CA: I'm not sure if I believe that the history of Mexican photography influences my images in a conscious way, but there are certainly many Mexican photographers photographers whose work I admire, such as Graciela Iturbide, Maya Goded or Enrique Metinides.

© Claudia Arechiga

AC: Do you believe that there is any relationship in subject matter, form or any other aspect between photography in Mexico and the rest of Latin America?

CA: Yes, I think that there are common themes such as violence, impunity from punishment and political issues. I think that photographers have the ability to provide a critique and a perspective on current issues. Although we are accustomed to the terrible things that happen, we must not stop making images that cause an impact, that move people, that generate change.

AC: What are the issues being addressed both in contemporary photography in Mexico and outside of Mexico that interest you?

CA: I am interested in topics that generate reflection, when the "other" is able to identify or feel they belong, when there is a connection with the viewer, and when it generates a thought process or a critique. I believe personal and documentary photography generate this type of connection.

© Claudia Arechiga

© Claudia Arechiga

AC: What do you feel benefits you or is a problem with being based in Mexico?

CA: Honestly I feel fortunate to work as a photographer and live in Mexico, but it has their pros and cons. I work as a photojournalist in a national newspaper, but to work on your personal projects and live from them, that, I think, is not so easy. I believe that there is still a lack support for production and visual creation.

AC: Anything you'd like to say about contemporary photography in general?

CA: Contemporary photography opens up new ways of seeing and understanding the image, in a less narrow-minded way, where the photographer can use different resources to generate a conversation, and in which the person looking should be willing to open themselves up and look and understand from a different perspective.

© Claudia Arechiga

Spanish original / Texto original en español

Alejandro Cartagena: ¿Dónde vives y a qué te dedicas?

Claudia Arechiga: Vivo en la Ciudad de México y me dedico al fotoperiodismo.

AC: ¿Cómo te iniciaste en la fotografía?

CA: Inicié en el 2001, estudiando un Diplomado en Fotografía en el Instituto Cultural Cabañas de la Ciudad de Guadalajara. 

AC: ¿Cuándo y que te hizo empezar a considerar producir trabajo fotográfico que explorara tus inquietudes personales?

CA: Cuando me di cuenta de que trabajar para un medio, era solo un trabajo, y que tenía la posibilidad de expresar mis ideas haciendo proyectos personales sobre temas de mi interés.

© Claudia Arechiga

© Claudia Arechiga

AC: Platícanos un poco de tus proyectos y los temas que abordas en las imágenes que estamos presentando.

CA: Este es un proyecto que realicé durante las asignaciones diarias para el medio en que trabajo. Para mi fue interesante poder tener una visión personal de un evento que es noticioso y proponer una mirada diferente de lo que se espera de un acontecimiento de esa índole.

AC: ¿De qué manera consideras la historia de la fotografía Mexicana en tu obra?

CA: No se si la historia de la fotografía mexicana influya en mis imágenes de una manera consciente, pero sin duda hay muchos fotógrafos y fotógrafas mexicanas de quienes admiro su trabajo, como Graciela IturbideMaya Goded o Enrique Metinides

© Claudia Arechiga

© Claudia Arechiga

AC: ¿Encuentras alguna relación de temas, forma o cualquier otro aspecto entre la fotografía en México y la del resto de America Latina?

CA: Yo creo que si hay temas comunes como la violencia, la impunidad, las cuestiones políticas. Considero que los fotógrafos tenemos la posibilidad de ofrecer una crítica y de una posición ante los temas actuales. Aunque estemos acostumbrados a las cosas terribles que suceden, no debemos dejar de hacer imágenes que causen algún impacto, que muevan, que generen cambio. 

AC: ¿Cuáles son los temas qué están siendo tratados en la fotografía contemporánea en México y también afuera de México que te interesen?

CA: Me interesan los temas que generen reflexión, donde el otro se pueda identificar o sentir atraído, donde haya una conexión con el espectador, y que este pueda generar un proceso de pensamiento o una critica. Creo que la fotografía de autor o la documental generan esta conexión.

© Claudia Arechiga

AC: ¿Qué sientes te beneficia o problematiza producir desde México?

CA: Honestamente me siento afortunada de trabajar como fotógrafa y vivir de ello, pero tiene sus pros y contras. Yo trabajo como fotoperiodista en un periódico de circulación nacional, pero para trabajar en tus proyectos personales y vivir de ello, eso considero ya no es tan sencillo, creo que aun falta apoyo para la producción y creación visual.

AC: ¿Algo que quisieras comentar sobre la fotografía contemporánea en general?

CA: La fotografía contemporánea abre nuevas formas de ver y entender la imagen, menos cuadrada, donde el fotógrafo puede utilizar diferentes recursos para generar un discurso, y donde el que mira debe tener la disposición para abrirse y mirar y entender desde una perspectiva diferente.

Statement on the work presented by Claudia Arechiga
During daily assignments for the media company for which I work, I make images on the side and at the same time that the company would never publish. With these images I make my own version of reality, I move my eyes, I approach things in a different way, looking for the suspended moment, instead of the decisive moment so searched for in press photography. I opt for pictures with a poetic effect, a vision where we can not afford to judge what is and what is not.

Durante las asignaciones diarias encomendadas por el medio en que laboro, hago paralelamente imágenes que dicho medio jamás publicaría. Con estas imágenes hago mi propia versión de la realidad, desplazo mi mirada,  me aproximo de una manera diferente, busco el instante suspendido, en lugar del instante decisivo tan buscado por la fotografía de prensa. Opto por imágenes con un efecto poético, una visión donde no podemos permitirnos juzgar lo que es y lo que no es.


Alejandro Cartagena lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico. His projects employ landscape and portraiture as a means to examine social, urban and environmental issues in the Latin-American region.

His work has been exhibited internationally in festivals like CONTACT in Toronto, The FIF in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, GuatePhoto festival in Guatemala City, FOTOFEST in Houston and UNSEEN by FOAM in Amsterdam among others. Alejandro's work has been published internationally in magazines and newspapers such as Newsweek, Le Monde, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times Lens Blog, PDN, The New Yorker, and Wallpaper among others. His book Suburbia Mexicana was published by Photolucida and Daylight books in 2011.

He has received the Photolucida Critical Mass book award, the SNCA-CONACULTA grant for Mexican artists, the Premio IILA-Fotografia 2012 award in Rome, the Street Photography Award in London and a POYi reportage award of excellence, the Lente Latino award in Chile, the award Salon de la Fotografia from the Fototeca de Nuevo Leon in Mexico among other awards. He has been named a FOAM magazine Talent and one of PDN Magazine's 30 emerging photographers. He has also been a finalist for the Aperture Portfolio award, the Photoespaña Descubrimientos award, the FOAM Paul Huff award and has been nominated for the CENTER Santa Fe photography prize.

His work is in many private and public collections. He is currently represented by Circuit Gallery in Toronto, Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles and Galería Patricia Conde in Mexico City.