Portfolio: Lourdes Grobet


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The Independent Culture

With its blend of high-flying manoeuvres, outlandish costumes and pageantry rooted in ancient culture, lucha libre – aka the raucous world of Mexican wrestling – has been a bedrock of its homeland ever since the silver-masked fighter El Santo stepped into the ring in 1942 and became the sport's first superstar, complete with mask and carefully controlled anonymity.

It is a world that the photographer Lourdes Grobet grew up watching on TV, and which she has been documenting for more than 20 years. "I was a fan of wrestling since I was a child," she explains, "but my father wouldn't let me attend – so becoming a photographer was a way of exploring that world."

What Grobet discovered was that what might appear to be a simple wrestling match was, in fact, a melting pot of indigenous cultural practices, with the ritual of adopting a mask going back as far as the Aztecs. Yet, to her surprise, "There was little published about this important element of Mexican culture."

Her resulting project spans several decades and documents the lives of these luchadores in and out of the ring, including shots of them relaxing at home in scenes of domesticity contrasting wildly with their glittering, shiny outfits. "While their costumes are a reflection of their character, it's their job to be part of a show. And out of the arena, they are just like us."

Sixteen of Grobet's images will be on view at London Mexfest, which runs from Friday to Sunday as part of the Shoreditch Fringe Festival. Visit www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/festival/london-mexfest/