Decades of Latin American turbulence and beauty through a Mexican photographer’s lens

Placeholder while article actions load

Rodrigo Moya never cared much for school. In 1954, he dropped out of the engineering department at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and started working for the Colombian photographer Guillermo Angulo, who introduced him to a profession that appealed to his real interest: Adventure. When Angulo left for Italy the next year, Moya took over his job at the weekly magazine Impacto.

A new bilingual retrospective of Moya’s work, “Rodrigo Moya: Photography and Conscience/Fotografía y conciencia” (University of Texas Press), is a record of the years that Moya spent fearlessly exploring the world around him. Through the 1950s and ’60s, Moya photographed the most important conflicts in Latin America, including the Cuban Revolution and civil wars in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, as well as the region’s brightest stars of art and culture.

“A common denominator was to penetrate the lives and interests of others, to find out about their work and ways of living,” he said via e-mail.

Moya left news photography in 1967 to start an independent magazine, Técnica Pesquera, where he continued to make photos accompanying articles about Mexican seas and fishermen. These photos of everyday people, like those of guerrilla fighters and celebrities, are masterful. But even as his work is receiving renewed attention and high honors, Moya remains humble.

“I was a documentary photographer and no more. I don’t believe that my work has had an influence on society or changed anything in the world, but more than once it’s saved me and has again become a vital passion in these late years of my existence,” he said.

More In Sight:

In Mexico, teen girls cope with early motherhood

Fruits of wrath: Laboring in the shadow of Mexico’s dramatic land reform

They made the long, rough journey to cross the U.S. border alone. Here are their faces and voices.

Beyond the headlines is a beautiful and vibrant Colombia