Enrique Metinides: death passed through his lens

What photographer red note, that afternoon his job was to capture the tragedy of a crash in Mexico City, but he did not. He dropped the camera, put his hands between the hot irons of the vehicle and extracted a child to take him to the nearest ambulance. The moment sums up who Enrique Metinides (1934-2022) was, the photojournalist Mexican who died yesterday, transcended the pages of the newspapers to reach the most important museums and galleries in the world. What was once a Photography tabloid in the press either Alarmunder his gaze became a artwork.

The borders were not a problem for this Mexican of Greek origin. There were many latitudes that surrendered to their daily postcards of Mexico City: a crash over Gabriel Mancera, a gas leak at Bondojito, a shootout at Del Valle. Everything went through his lens: bank robberies, fires, crimes of passion, serial killers… It was not for nothing that director Trisha Ziff baptized him as The man who saw too much in its documentary film from 2015.

Although his job was to portray tragedy, Enrique Metinides always sought respect for the protagonists of his Photographsan ethical lesson that should never be forgotten, say experts consulted by The Sun of Mexico.

“Enrique Metinides knew how to humanize death, make it less painful with his frames,” says photojournalist Pedro Valtierra, founder of the Cuartoscuro agency, in an interview. “He was the greatest of all photographers red note in Mexico and Latin America”.

lover of the films gangster and collector of toy emergency vehicles, Metinides worked in the Mexican media for more than six decades. Valtierra remembers when she worked with him in The Sun of Mexicoin 1977.

“He had a very particular style, he was a very serious person, with an enormous capacity to see the tragedy from another point of view. He applied very rigorous frames in violent scenes. Even in the midst of chaos, he always knew how to control his shots, ”recalls Valtierra.

indiscreet lens

The morgues, hospitals and public ministries were the home of this photographer who saw his first corpse when he was nine years old and was about to die 19 times. There were not a few occasions when he photographed fires in the middle of the flames or got his hands dirty to try to make the bodies come out as dignified as possible, often without a single drop of blood or in compositions that bordered on the artistic, as happened with his famous Photography of a woman’s corpse under a utility pole.

“Metinides was an autodidact. He never had an academic training. He was made in the street under a talent and a style that differentiated him from the others. Perhaps he took very bloody photographs, but he did not present them in the newsroom. Instead of those images, he proposed others that were more contextual, compositionally more attractive. That was one of the great attributes of the press when Metidines worked there. That respect for the people he portrayed made him transcend outside the conjuncture to reach international exhibitions, ”says the photojournalist Ulises Castellanos, who has covered historical moments such as the EZLN uprising.

In his time, Metinides said, human tragedy was captured; he also complained that the authorities no longer allow reporting the scene of the crime.

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In the early 2000s, The child, as he was known in the guild, received a call from abroad. The voice on the other end of the phone asked how big his set was. He let out a laugh. “All my images are real,” he replied. Months later, he had his first international solo exhibition at the Fair Royal College in London.

“In Europe they couldn’t believe that there were photographs like this in Mexico, that so much coverage was given to the red note,” recalls Castellanos. “The death of Metinides seals an era. With him ends an era of red note photography. Metinides represented the second half of the 20th century: the golden age of this genre, when no one took offense at it.”