Mexico’s murder rate went up 16% in the first half of 2018, a grim statistic that suggested this year would be the bloodiest in the country’s history. Time magazine approximated that someone was killed every 15 minutes in May. Where I live in Mexico has the reputation of being a safe haven. In travel around the country, I have seldom been in danger, yet I worry about personal safety. Reconciling my daily life with the headlines I see in the “prensa amarilla” leads to thoughts that I’m living in a fantastical bubble while a war rages closer than I want to believe.
While I recognize that I am not a target of the violence between rival criminal cartels, that sense of unease provided the idea for this project. I thought of looking over my shoulder on a quiet street in a strange town, and noticed Mexicans doing the same as I would pass in the street. I sensed a certain vigilance, and started to photograph scenes that seemed to signify something other than what was depicted. I didn’t want to photograph blatant violence. I wanted the photos themselves, and the relationships between pictures, to suggest that something was awry, that something lay beneath the surface. Mexico blends beauty with the sinister, joy with despair, and mystery with the mundane. It’s those contradictions that interest me- and make me uncomfortable.
Andrew Sullivan has worked as a photographer in Kenya, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. His work has been published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the United States Olympic Committee, and many publications around the world. He has exhibited at Universidad Veracruzana, and other galleries in Mexico, Italy, and the United States. Based in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, he uses photography as a tool for trying to understand daily life. He believes that photography can investigate truths in a way no other medium can.