Alejandro Cartagena’s long-term photographic study focuses on the expanding suburbs outside of his home in Monterrey, Mexico. Wandering around the region for over five years, Cartagena was originally drawn to the infrastructure sprouting up in the hills seemingly overnight. These prefab, cookie-cutter, single family homes were emblematic of an expanding middle class but also of a creeping encroachment upon the natural landscape.
Alejandro Cartagena, Fragmented Cities, Santa Catarina, 2008
Photographing with a large format camera, Cartagena aesthetically references the topographic surveys of the American West undertaken by photographers such as Carleton Watkins, Timothy O’Sullivan and William Henry Jackson. Spurred by curiosity, economics and notions of “manifest destiny” these photographers recorded the majestic West before it became subjugated to the needs of private interests and expanding population. Jackson’s photographs, in fact, were an inspiration behind the creation of Yellowstone National Park (America’s first) in 1872.
The stark contrast in Cartagena’s photograph is suggestive of his intent. In the image, a parade of identical concrete-block housing units march unrelentingly towards a magnificent peak. This progress, if we are to call it that, will inevitably contribute to the forces eroding the grand rock-face of nature, in Mexico and beyond.
Michael Itkoff is a photographer, writer, and a founding editor of Daylight
Magazine, which recently co-published the book Suburbia Mexicana (2011).
He recently contributed one of his own photographs from the series Street
Portraits to our 2011 Benefit Auction.