by Erik García
The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University recently celebrated noted Latin American photographer Rodrigo Moya (b. 1934) with the first retrospective and publication of his work in the United States. Rodrigo Moya: Photography and Conscience/Fotografía y conciencia, features over 90 images from Moya’s career, with much of the content focusing on the various political developments in Latin America during the 1950s and 1960s. The artist gave a talk at the gallery on November 15, 2015, during which he gave an overview of his life and work.
Despite Moya’s initial intent of becoming an engineer, the combination of his indifference to the math courses at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and growing interest in the volatile social and political climate in Latin America led him to begin his photographic career in 1955.
Moya’s work can be divided between portraiture of various famous characters of the era (Che Guevera, Celia Cruz, Gabriel García Márquez, David Alfaro Siquieros), and anonymous unstaged shots. As noted by Moya’s wife Susan Flaherty, contrast in his work can be seen from the more formal compositions tied to various journalistic assignments versus the street photography that came from his curiosity and tendency to walk as much as possible.
Despite producing the iconic images “Guerillas in the Mist” and “Melancholy Che” during the first phase of his career, Moya’s displeasure for the self-censorship that much of the Mexican press employed in the 1960s led to his retirement from photojournalism. Subsequently, the second phase of Moya’s career can be summarized in the photographic and written compositions he created for the magazine Técnica Pesquera, which he founded and edited from 1968-1991. These images portray the small fishing village where he lived, its inhabitants, and the natural world.
Throughout the presentation, Moya discussed his work in relation to that of other photographers held by the Wittliff Collections, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Nacho López, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, and Tina Modotti.
Moya ended his presentation by acknowledging the third phase of his career, which began in 1999 through the reexamination of his archives. The renewed interest and celebration of his work can be recognized in the two years of planning that went into the book, published by UT Press and edited by David Coleman, as well as the exhibition curated by Carla Ellard. The exhibition is also part of FOTOSEPTIEMBRE USA, the annual international photography festival based in San Antonio, Texas.
Also present at the event were Susan Flaherty, who translated during the talk; and historian Ariel Arnal, who wrote the of the essay included in the book. Arnal joined Moya for a Q&A and book signing for guests after the talk.
“Rodrigo Moya: Photography and Conscience/Fotografia y conciencia” is on view through July 3, 2016 at the Wittliff Gallery at Texas State University, San Marcos Texas.