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Photographing to remember

Monday, 02 June 2014 13:48 Written by Angélica Abelleyra    
Medina declares that negatives are an archive of her memory, and struggles daily against the lazy temptation to leave these memories undeveloped in a drawer. For her, photographing involves collecting moments, atmospheres and moods, with which she attempts to draw truth from nothing, and seize what she sees and feels.

First she did so through photojournalism, however, “for reasons that the heart does not understand”, several years ago Medina (Mexico City, 1952) ceased to follow instructions she was given at her job to depict political and social life in Mexico. Now, in addition to giving photography workshops, she uses her camera to capture parts of her house, the purring of her cat Chega, the reflections of light on the sea and the hope in the eyes of her unwell mother.

She was first attracted by Industrial Design, and studied it for a year at the Universidad Iberoamericana. However, she abandoned this subject after moving to Tijuana in the 1970s, and began to cross the border every day to attend the University of San Diego State. Photography then became a means for her to grow.

Separated and with a son, she returned to Mexico City to work in a graphic design company, where she made the coffee. She was unaware of the vast universe of photography, but accepted a job in the National Population Council (CONAPO) and travelled through five states making portraits of communities. However, she felt restricted by the technical skills that she had acquired in San Diego, so to obtain a much-needed humanistic reflection she studied for a semester at the Philosophy and Literature Faculty at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Still unsure what she wished to do, she worked in audiovisual production until she heard about courses given by Nacho López at the Center for Cinematographic Studies, and abandoned her set squares and ploughed all her energy into photography. The teacher was a crucial driving force for her. Medina remembers him always carrying his recorder to give the class, speaking clearly about his profession and inviting students to analyze images, criticize their work and reflect. “Nacho opened my eyes and made me aware that each of us photographs based on what we are, on our prejudices and atavisms. From a critical perspective he encouraged me to learn how photography can help us to understand ourselves as individuals in a society.”

The classes she took with Nacho López between 1983 and 1985 gave her significant experience in the street. Together with her colleagues Andrés Garay, Guillermo Castrejón and Renato Ibarra, Medina took part in competitions and depicted social movements such as those that emerged in Mexico City after the 1985 earthquake. A year later, she was hired by the La Jornada newspaper and there she grew as a photoreporter until 1999, working as a correspondent in Tijuana and several cities in Guerrero.

Photojournalism was a constant learning process for her. “The camera gives you the perfect excuse to be in the midst of events. I felt a great responsibility during those years, as the profession makes you the eyes of the newspaper, a condition of which we are not always aware.” Distanced from this daily job, and in the process of assessing her current situation, Medina is surprised by the interests that now occupy her heart and mind: the sea, light, and portraits of her family, house and pet cat.

Text originally published in La Jornada Semanal (July 20 2003).
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