Photography: These ladies are all for burning

Pilar Fernandez's image shows Senora Linares standing beside not only three generations of her descendents but also a tribe of Judases. These huge figures are part of a custom as mystifying to others as the British habit of annually burning a guy. Mexicans make a pyre of papier mache versions of the man who betrayed Christ, to burn on Easter Sunday. Someone has to feed the flames and the Linares dynasty, who have taken over an entire street behind the capital's central market, construct traditional skeletons, devils and biblical characters alongside a fresh generation of newer imports: Dracula, Batman, a boxer and a hybrid beast known as an alebrije. Old Senora Linares, in her pink pinny and pinned- back hair, with her folded arms and earnest expression, is engaged in discussing the day's work, or perhaps the day's prices with her daughters.

Pilar Fernandez took up photographing her home country in the 1960s, and has covered subjects as diverse as illegal immigrants in the US, the legends of the Virgin of Guadeloupe, the mountain shamans, and Aids in a Mexican prison. She has made her own the principle of having the framed image as a lead to query what happens just outside of it. Literally so, where the papier mache and the pyrotechnics reach beyond the frame: here a reclining rooftop Judas, or the dangling feet of another point to the Linares's storage problems, but also to a hive of activity just out of sight. The metaphysical dimensions need not be laboured, but death and resurrection, like festivals, are an undeniable part of Mexican mythology.

Another of Pilar Fernandez's exhibits is a coffin, upholstered in purple satin and frilled with lace, originally constructed for exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997. Its centrepiece is a photo she took of Comandante Marcos, leader of the Chiapas insurrection, characteristically masked by his balaclava from which his pipe protrudes. In England, arguably only Andy Capp or Churchill come with such inseparable props. It's the only black-and-white portrait among those of his supporters, Maya and Lacondan Mexicans in brilliant-coloured clothes, bearing livid yellow xempazuchitl blooms to decorate cemeteries. Celebrations and sacrifices are the order of the day, for as the rings of images ripple out from the centre, the human and dynamic becomes abstract and ethereal. Pyrotechnics, which accompany all public feast days, here become the extension of the rebels' guns, while fairground shooting alleys point back at Marcos, the target. Further down, even the wealthy disporting themselves in the mud of a local spa are reminiscent of the lower depths, whilst the outer edges of the crucifix/ coffin are hemmed with the cherubs so beloved of the extravagant Mexican baroque known as churrigueresco.

On the opposite wall and into the Metro bar are the Bolivian portraits of a young Canadian photographer, Marj Clayton. Having got herself adopted into a mining family, she also adopted the time-tried technique pioneered by the German photographer, Hans Namuth, in Guatemala in the 1940s. This is to invite each member of the community to bring something dear to them to the image: a hat, a broom, many instruments, a sickle or a hairbrush, even a Bible with a blonde Christ on the cover are on proud display. The intimacy of her relationship with these Aymara-speaking mountain people, among whom she lived for a year in 1995, is evident in the directness of their eye- contact with the photographer. Shot in black-and-white and under-exposed in their processing, emphasising a heavy black surround blotting out a background, they are reminiscent of those earlier stark portraits taken by the Peruvian mine- worker Martin Chambi.

Latin America's awful human-rights record needs no rehearsing. John Sayles's Men with Guns, the film chosen to launch the ninth Latin American Film Festival at the Metro, tells of the horrors still perpetrated by armed forces in rural Guatemala. Inspired by a book by the Guatemalan/ US writer Francisco Goldman (the prizewinning Night of the White Chickens) it also uses the haunting iconographic photographs of Luis Gonzalez Palma alongside its credits and titles. Both are artists who have earned their laurels on an international circuit, Goldman living in New York and Gonzalez Palma based in Paris. The juncture of culture and politics is also sadly the divide between the home country and effective professional exile.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living