How did we allow that to happen?
Who are we?
Who have we become?
- Pablo Ortiz Monasterio
It has been three years since 43 students from a rural teaching college in Ayotzinapa disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico, as they were on their way to Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of the 1968 Tlateloco Massacre. Ever since the morning that photographer Pablo Ortiz Monasterio read the news of the abduction, he has been in shock and has wondered how he could keep the memory of these 43 students and work towards a world in which an event like this could never happen again. The shock of this tragedy and the evident complicity of authorities in the students’ disappearance has made Monasterio question who we are and how we got to this point. In Monasterio’s recent series Desaparecen? the artist delved into this tragedy and shone a light on the mark left on Mexico by the 43 missing students.
When thinking of how to help preserve the memory of the 43 students, Pablo said, “I decided to use the tools I have in terms of conveying ideas through photography to talk about this.” With photographs that he had already taken, Monasterio searched for images that conveyed the pain, sorrow and anger that was felt throughout Mexico, hoping to find the emotions existing in the subtext of his photographs.
When working with his photographs he came across an image with a glass tabletop tied to large green slabs of wood. The lines moving across the composition reminded him of the notebooks with printed green lines from when he was in a young student in school. Just as he would write across these lines as a student, he began writing the numbers counting up to 43 across the photograph - each number representing an Ayotzinapa student who was abducted and disappeared in September of 2014.
With this method in mind, Monasterio began to write 1 through 43 across many of his photographs, embedding their mark in the visual landscape while showing that the tragedy of Ayotzinapa exists within a wider context.
With the photographs from the series, Monasterio created a book as well as a portfolio of prints. With the portfolio, Monasterio is able to subsidize his book, which is sold at an affordable price so that memory of the 43 students can reach as wide an audience as possible.
Written by Zoe Lemelson.