Yahoo! News Photo Staff

'Mexico: Between Life and Death' — photographs by Harvey Stein

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“I go as a wanderer, photographing in a country often strange to me. I hear words not known, see things I don’t understand, view acts of kindness and violence, smell new odors and taste new foods; I walk down small, unfamiliar cobblestone streets. I react and photograph intuitively. When in Mexico, I am dizzy with new experiences and free to go anywhere and to do anything. The feeling is of endless possibilities. My limitations are my only restraint.”  — Harvey Stein

*****

Renowned American photographer Harvey Stein’s fascination with Mexico began when he was a teenager. Compared to the mundane surroundings of his youth in Pittsburgh, Mexico seemed a mysterious and ambiguous place that was nearby, yet so far away. As a child, Stein was haunted by the notion of death and that someday he would no longer exist. He discovered by reading books about Mexico that the Mexican people viewed death as a natural part of life that should be celebrated. This made Mexico very comforting and special to him.

When he became a professional photographer, Stein knew that his photography was the perfect way to immerse himself in Mexico — to partake in ceremonies, meet the people, and express his interest and love of the country. During 14 trips between 1993 and 2010, Stein photographed in Mexico, primarily in small towns and villages, and mostly during festivals (Day of the Dead, Easter, Independence Day) that highlight the country’s unique relationship to death, myth, ritual and religion.

“Mexico: Between Life and Death“ shows fragments of what Mexico is — a country of incredible contrasts and contradictions. Mexico is about piercing light and deep shadow, of stillness and quick explosiveness, of massive tradition and creeping progress, of great religious belief but with corruption as a way of life. It is a land of ritual and legend, of vibrant life and dancing skeletons, and where old age is revered despite the fact that half of the population is under 20 years old.

Although Stein has always lived in the U.S., his emotional life and mind have been oriented toward Mexico for most of his life, and that relationship continues to this day. He says: “The images reflect my personal, passionate and intimate feelings about Mexico. So if the images are dark, intense, not all so lovely, so be it. It is only one person’s vision. As Eugene Smith, probably the greatest photojournalist of the 20th century, once said of photographing Pittsburgh, ‘It’s only a rumor of the place.'”

Stein is a professional photographer, teacher, author and curator based in New York City. He teaches at the International Center of Photography and is the director of photography at the Umbrella Arts gallery in the East Village in Manhattan. He has been a member of the faculty of the School of Visual Arts, the New School and the Rochester Institute of Technology, among other institutions. He is a recipient of a Creative Arts Public Service (CAPS) fellowship and numerous artist-in-residency grants, and “Mexico: Between Life and Death” (Kehrer Verlag) is his eighth photo book. Others include: “Parallels: A Look at Twins,” E.P. Dutton (1978); “Coney Island,” W.W. Norton, Inc. (1998); “Coney Island: 40 Years, 1970-2010,” Schiffer (2011); “Harlem Street Portraits,” Schiffer (2013); and “Briefly Seen: New York Street Life,” Schiffer (2015). Stein’s photographs have been published in major periodicals worldwide, including the New Yorker, Time, Esquire, Smithsonian, the New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, ARTnews, New York Magazine and Der Spiegel, to name a few, and in the major photo magazines, including Black & White magazine (cover), Shutterbug, Popular Photography, American Photo, PDN, Rangefinder Magazine, Photo Metro and fotoMAGAZIN (Germany).

Stein’s photographs have been widely exhibited in the United States and Europe — 83 one-person and over 165 group shows to date.  His photographs are in more than 57 permanent collections, including the George Eastman Museum, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Brooklyn Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the International Center of Photography, the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh), the Portland (Ore.) Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, Musée de la photographie à Charleroi (Belgium), the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the New-York Historical Society, among others. His work is in many corporate collections, including those of Johnson & Johnson, Hewlett-Packard, Barclays and Credit Suisse. He is represented by Sous Les Etoiles Gallery, New York City.

“Mexico: Between Life and Death,” by Harvey Stein (Kehrer Verlag), book talk and signing Oct. 3, 2018, 6 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., here.

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Boy in skeleton costume waving stick, Etla, 2001. (© Harvey Stein from the book “<em>Mexico: Between Life and Death,”</em> published by Kehrer Verlag)


Woman outside window, San Miguel de Allende, 1995.(© Harvey Stein from the book “<em>Mexico: Between Life and Death,”</em> published by Kehrer Verlag)


Profile of man with sombrero, Zitácuaro, 2007. (© Harvey Stein from the book “<em>Mexico: Between Life and Death,”</em> published by Kehrer Verlag)


Woman, man and child looking up, San Miguel de Allende, 1993. (© Harvey Stein from the book “<em>Mexico: Between Life and Death,”</em> published by Kehrer Verlag)


Explosion, San Miguel de Allende, 2008. (© Harvey Stein from the book “<em>Mexico: Between Life and Death,”</em> published by Kehrer Verlag)


Youth pointing gun, Mexico City, 1997. (© Harvey Stein from the book “<em>Mexico: Between Life and Death,”</em> published by Kehrer Verlag)


Holding Jesus, Taxco, 2003. (© Harvey Stein from the book “<em>Mexico: Between Life and Death,”</em> published by Kehrer Verlag)


Effigies and police, San Miguel de Allende, 1999. (© Harvey Stein from the book “<em>Mexico: Between Life and Death,”</em> published by Kehrer Verlag)


Man with Hitler book, Mexico City, 2000. (© Harvey Stein from the book “<em>Mexico: Between Life and Death,”</em> published by Kehrer Verlag)


Man with face in shadow, San Miguel de Allende, 1997. (© Harvey Stein from the book “<em>Mexico: Between Life and Death,”</em> published by Kehrer Verlag)


Man with huge carton on his back, San Miguel de Allende, 1995. (© Harvey Stein from the book “<em>Mexico: Between Life and Death,”</em> published by Kehrer Verlag)


Hooded man holding pole, night, Querétaro, 2007. (© Harvey Stein from the book “<em>Mexico: Between Life and Death,”</em> published by Kehrer Verlag)


Book cover of ‘Mexico Between Life and Death,’ by Harvey Stein: man in president fox mask and sombrero, Etla, 2001. (© Harvey Stein from the book “<em>Mexico: Between Life and Death,”</em> published by Kehrer Verlag)