Photographs by Héctor García Text by Juan de la Cabada Designed by Peggy Espinosa
Published by El Fondo de Cultura Economica, Mexico City, 1985. Coleccion Rio de luz 6 (book series). 70 pages, 49 b/w photographs. Print run 3,000 copies.
Rio de luz (“River of Light”) is one of the most important series on Latin American photography ever complied. It started in 1984, and by 1989 twenty volumes had been published. The series was published by El Fondo de Cultura Economica in Mexico City (one of the most important publishing house in Latin America) in the 1980s. It was curated by Pablo Ortiz Monasterio and Pedro Meyer. ”We didn’t speak for a single photographic school or tendency, -wrote Victor Flores Olea, one of the founders, - but it suddenly became clear that what was most interesting and important in Latin American photography was work that expressed the continent’s historical moment”. The books also had a low price which allowed wide distribution.
Escribir con luz includes photographs by Héctor García, text in Spanish by Juan de la Cabada and a note from Diego Rivera (dated 24 August 1955). For Héctor García photography was a tool to bring attention to social injustice in Mexico. The book starts with the portraits of Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros (all three of them were politically committed artists). Black and white pictures (from mid 40s till early 70s) document people, streets, strikes, Mexican culture. The picture on the cover is García’s most reproduced image. It has very extreme grey tones. García intentionally darkened his pictures to achieve more dramatic effect.
Héctor García was born in the Mexico City working class neighborhood of Candelaria de los Patos in 1923. He was orphaned at early age and grow up on the street. In 1942 he went to the United States where he was working at railroad construction but was deported in 1945. Back in Mexico City García started working for several publications which allow him to meet photojournalists and eventually to start taking picture.
By 1958 García was working at Excelsior (one of the most prestigious newspaper at that time). He photographed students marches, documented detention of Demetrio Vallejo (a primary leader of the Mexican railroad strikes of 1958–59) and vallejismo movement. However, Excelsior refused to publish García’s pictures and in response he found a way (with the help of Horacio Quinones) to publish them himself in Ojo, Una Revista Que Ve. The only issue of the magazine came out in September 1959 and all 5,000 copies were sold in one day. It was a remarkable experimental publication: it allowed García to publish all his pictures without any censorship. Many of these photographs, including arrest of Vallejo, protests of railroad workers and clashes with the police, are included in Escribir con luz.
For Héctor García photography became a tool to bring attention to poverty, social injustice and outrages in his native Mexico. He positioned himself on the edge of pure documentary and personal expression. Héctor García was one of the most important Mexican photojournalists.