A new photo museum in Mexico City is about a block south of the Cuatro Caminos metro stop at the west end of Line 2. In fact, the museum’s official name is Foto Museo Cuatro Caminos. I only knew about it because The New York Times mention it when it named Mexico City the #1 destination for 2016. Commerce in the form of hundreds of small booths selling street food, cheap jewelry, etc. has grown around the entrance to the metro stop making it hard to spot the museum across a street full of the monumental traffic that a city of 23 million produces. Ruth & I were very lucky to spot FMCC after we instinctively started walking south.
This new museum devoted to photography, a Pedro Meyer project, is in a huge, old warehouse that was first a plastic factory and then Military Engineers no. 77. It has been remodeled into 3 basic, uncluttered galleries to display temporary photo shows. Two were in use. Pedro Meyer has been a professional photographer for 50 years.
Before looking at any photographs, Ruth & I went upstairs to see the workshop/meeting area where I quickly became engrossed in a huge timeline. At its top was the history of Mexico since 1900, in the middle was world history, and the bottom was Mexico City history. Times lines had been covered with clever graffiti, which I suspect was encouraged. I walked toward 2016 passing “Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin 1928” and other significant events. At the end I met Alex Fernandez, a young photographer who was attending a digital photo conference. We laughed together at the graffiti. I pointed out the chalked-in “Obama visits Cuba”, and he translated one for me so that I now know how to say “I lost my virginity” in Spanish.
We went downstairs and I was soon engrossed in the work of Mexican photographer Enrique Metinides. Now 83, Enrique spent his career photographing and collecting pictures of accidents and car wrecks. He was possessed by this subject and mastered the use of a wide-angle lens to capture an entire event graphically in a single frame. His pictures often included spectators. The most horrifying photo of all showed 4 children who had just watched their father shoot and kill their mother and then himself. For more than 50 years Mexican newspapers and magazines bought these photos, but not many of them were seen internationally. Not a creepy tabloid voyeur, Enrique was just a man driven by his subject. He often assisted the injured. A code system he developed is still used by emergency workers.
The other huge show was about the Witkin Brothers. Identical twins, Jerome became a painter and Joel-Peter a photographer. Both were good at visual narrative, but I far preferred the Metinides stuff. This was a matter of personal preference, not artistic judgement. Since both shows will close on June 12th, I talked with Alexa, who seemed to be the only one on the staff who was fluent in English. She told me that the museum had only been opened for a few months so they were still learning. She told me that the next show would combine photography and advertising. This sounds like a terrific idea for an exhibit at a very fine new addition to the museum scene in Mexico City, the Foto Museo at the end of the dark blue, #2 metro line near Quatro Caminos station.