Photographer Carlos Alvarez Montero met Dorian Ulises Lopez Macías when Dorian was working as an editorial art director. Always with camera in hand, it was no surprise to Carlos when Dorian decided to pursue a career in photography.
Fast forward eight years and Dorian has become a household name in Mexico's editorial scene - sharing his definition of MEXICANOS with a global audience.
Recently Carlos and Dorian sat down with Index at Radio Nopal to have a mezcal (or two) and talk about Dorian's work. Below are some highlights from their conversation.
I remember the first time I saw your portraits. The first thing I thought was that they were men you liked, the attraction and desire was very clear.
Yes, the process started a long time ago. I have always described myself as this dog that you take out for a walk and when he sees another dog he wants to throw himself at it. At some point with a camera in hand I said, "I want to take pictures of all the men I feel attracted to.” and it was during that process that I started finding a common denominator in my work.
At some point you created an IG account called @Mexicano. How did the Mexican identity became part of your work?
It all started with me going out and photographing people I felt attracted to, but I only showed the photos to my closest friends and they said, "This is awesome, you have to show it!" but I felt I was too involved in the fashion world to actually do it. Later, these same friends told me that they thought I was creating a very interesting body of work about Mexico and that I should make a book with it, and I finally said, "Yes, they’re right. I will make a book, but how should I name it?" I started thinking about my photography and realized that my interest was focused on what I saw on the streets of Mexico, what I could call Mexican. It seemed important to emphasize the need to think about what we consider beautiful in Mexico.
What do you want to convey as Mexican?
I was just watching the Fronteras video and I remembered how I tried to describe what Mexico or being Mexican means to me through lots of vignettes, from the most obvious idea like showing hats, to all those things that you can only see in Mexico City, all kinds of images, like the concha with beans and cheese that makes reference to the state of Veracruz, or something more obvious like the countryside. The truth is that defining what Mexico is is very complicated; everything we see here is Mexican, everything is Mexico. In a way, what I try to do through fashion is to integrate the way I see Mexico. This is something kind of new, the Mexican fashion industry used to avoid Mexico as a theme.
How do you define your vision of Mexico?
On the one hand, there is a very strong interest in people, in miscegenation, in brown skin, which seduces me a lot. I have integrated all of that into fashion. I try to use Mexican models so that when you see them you can identify with them, especially because we grew up watching TV shows that hid that other side, the side that is us, that is our own family. That side was given little value, or at least not observed with dignity.
Do you think your work has help to change the way people think about Mexico?
I think my work has only been seen by a very small fraction of people. Maybe there are some who ponder on it, but in reality my work is not that massive yet as to change the masses, but what I also see is that there are people I work with that find it hard to integrate my ideas: there is a clash, and in fact maybe many of them prefer to avoid working with me. That's when I think that the transformation is not such, because they are people who are close to me, who can understand the problem, that even say they like my work, but at the end they are not willing to do it.
Of course, the idea that it is cool as long as it is from far away... what brings me to the subject of fetishization and or eroticization of your subjects. Do you think that this happens in your work or that it can be read like that?
No one has ever told me that, but I have thought about it. I actually think it's quite the opposite. It's just seeing them and showing them as they are, the way I see them. For me they seem an incredible success of nature, although on the other hand the fetish exists, but it does not seem problematic to me. On the contrary, I think that if it happens there is a revaluation or appreciation; we are all erotic, we are humans, animals, everything has to do with something sexual. It is normal. It is an invitation to reflect on what we are not seeing and what gives it the value it has.
And what is it that we are not seeing?
In the end the Mexican seeks to ignore all that is around us. I see it because I work in the fashion and creative industries where there is a kind of blindness, not wanting to look around or want to be part of it, like as if what we have is horrible, and many people see it that way. When if you think about it you are really missing out on a something wonderful just by not looking around and not falling in love and not wanting to hang out with the people around you. I have photographed many people, from more Europeanized, brown skin people to indigenous people and they both reject their image. Maybe it should not be my problem, but it is time to reflect on what we have been thinking about being Mexican. It’s very complicated.
A moment ago you mentioned the Fronteras video. Tell me about your process making it.
When Index invited me to the Borders exhibition, I began to think about the meaning of the word “borders”, which is really what divides countries or cultures, but as my work is about Mexico I started thinking about myself and the thought of borders around me, because I might think in one way but that does not mean that other people have to think the same. These frontiers of understanding. At that point, almost everything I was observing was a kind of a border -- from which I observe to the observed. What are the limits to approach someone? That's when I started doing this compilation of videos that I had on my cell phone. Since I’ve had a cell phone that recorded video, I started obsessively recording and recording and recording, I had a lot of videos, so I made a selection that explored those limits between me and the others, between thoughts.
It is heavily charged with desire and eroticism, like your first portraits.
I think that almost all of my work has it. I imagine this is a natural thing and as a photographer I like to capture that energy. I grew up watching a lot of movies, a lot of TV too. There was a time when I watched MTV a lot. I don’t know if you remember those illogical vignettes that MTV had, but in the end of one a photographer portrays things that make sense but that sense is given by all the experiences that they have had in life, so, when I decided to show these vignettes I wanted to reference cinema. That is one of my first loves, but also the way in which I consumed videos and images. The first clip was an intro, and although there is no narrative, I´m trying to make one. The first video is my pregnant sisters´ belly. What you see is her baby kicking. There was the theme of birth, someone that hasn’t been born yet, but it is also a very beautiful belly, maybe a little bit erotically charged…
Would you say that there is any relation between your Uniform videos and Fronteras?
It is the evolution. Everything was mixed without realizing it. In fact, the videos of uniforms were not planned. We planned the photos and since I was making videos of all my sessions I said, "Let's do them and see what comes out." At the end they took a very important role in the project. It was an evolution in a very natural way. The things you already have there start to mix, the people that I’m fascinated by, the fashion, Mexico, the scenarios and the history that I have lived and what I identify myself.
Finally, what inspires you?
Currently the filmmakers that interest me the most are Michael Haneke and Carlos Reygadas. I love Tarantino and Krzysztof Kieślowski. I grew up watching a lot of European cinema. There was something that made a lot of sense to me, the rhythm, the photography, the way drama is approached. Now I'm very obsessed with documentaries. I'm fascinated by the work of Eugenio Polgvosky; The fashion world fascinates and inspire me a lot -- from creative directors or fashion designers, like John Galliano or Demna Gvasalia for Vetements. In photography, Jurgen Teller is amongst the ones I admire the most.
What about the music?
I cannot live without music. Many of the things I have heard through my life have influence my images. When I was a little kid I loved Timbiriche, Lucerito… I´m sure there must be some of that in my work. Sometimes I do portraits and then I think, “WOW! This reminds me Lucerito!” There was a time when Thalía was very important to me. I listened to her all day. Every time she was on TV I recorded her. I was 10. It was kind of like when Lady Gaga came out and everybody went crazy… that was me with Thalía. I loved her clothing, her cadency, her hairstyle… Now I admire Björk a lot, how visual she is.
Find out more about the artists at:
"Uniformes" Vol. 1, es el primero de 4 volúmenes donde Dorian y su equipo usan el uniforme escolar mexicano para sumergirnos en un viaje de experiencias personales, caprichos de la moda y sucesos socio-culturales que han marcado a nuestro país.
Dirección, foto, edición y montaje: Dorian Ulises López Macías
Producción ejecutiva: In The Park Productions y Dorian Ulises López Macías
Productor: Carlos Castellanos
Video: Alexis Rayas y Carlos Castellanos
Modelos: Alan, Aram, Aneken, Din, Isela, La Patrona
Estilismo y casting: Dorian Ulises López Macías y Carlos Castellanos
Maquillaje: Ana G. De V.
Pelo: Erich Clemenz
Asistente estilismo: Merari Janell
Asistente de foto: Saúl Bautista
Asistente general: Ricardo Arenas