New York Photo Review
Volume 4 Issue 10 February 26 to March 5, 2013

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

Fascination with the Other
Rodrigo Moya
“Ojos Bien Abierto”(Eyes Wide Open)
Ed Barnas
Che Melancolico, Cuba,
1964 by Rodrigo Moya. Source:
Rodrigo Moya, "Che Melancolico, Cuba, 1964"

Ojos Bien Abiertos” (eyes wide open) is an appropriate title for a collection of images by a photographer/journalist active in the 50’s and 60’s. Heavily influenced by Evans, Smith, and Lange (as well as Italian Neo-Realist Cinema), Mexican photographer Rodrigo Moya brought a documentary approach to his work as a magazine photographer. Not constricted by the daily deadlines of a newspaper, he was able to devote more time to the stories he covered and engage in street photography as well. However, in 1967, he decided to leave photography and concentrate on literature. Not until thirty years later, after a bout with cancer, did Moya reconsider his photographic work and review his negatives in a new light.

There is the fascination with the “other”. But it is not in the sense of a foreign “exotic” other; rather it is of the other as a conscious reflection of the self. I am reminded of a verse from Jose Marti: “Con los pobres de la tierra, quiero yo mi suerte echar,…” (“With the poor of the Earth I want to cast my fate”). The empathy in these portraits and the physical closeness is evident, particularly in the portraits of children. (In interviews Moya has noted being moved by Robert Capa’s words, “If your picture isn’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”)

While offering the perspective of Latin America rather than Europe or the US, Moya’s work fits neatly within the realm of the “concerned photographer”. The three dozen 16 x 20 prints on display are not a comprehensive overview of his work but a selection of variations on several themes. Though the majority are portraits of the poor and working class, there are a some portraits of notable figures (Che, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros).

 Vagón de carga (Freight Wagon), El Trenecito series by Rodrigo Moya. Source:
Rodrigo Moya, "Vagón de carga (Freight Wagon), El Trenecito series" 1966

Alongside these are several straight photojournalistic images (guerillas in the jungle, a burning bus before a monument to the revolution). One of these is a particularly prescient environmental image of dust clouds in Mexico City in 1957. Images of the Mexican railways form another interesting subgroup. A potent icon in photographs from the Mexican revolution, the rail system was going into decline at this time. While some locomotives were pulled out of retirement for use in films, it was still a major means of transport for many and the El Trenecito series provides a formally composed self-contained sequence of images of train travel. One of these photographs - hands through the slats of a freight car (Vagon de Carga) – exemplifies the way a caption can affect the reading of a single photograph: placed in Mexico (or the US of the 30’s), a viewer would see it is a simple means of transport for the poor; if captioned in Germany in the 40’s, a viewer would read it quite differently.

Rodrigo Moya
“Ojos Bien Abierto”(Eyes Wide Open)

145 E 57th St. 3rd Fl
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Thursday, January 10 to
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Hours: Tues - Sat, 10 to 5

Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
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