Luis Antonio Rojas

6x6 North and Central America Talent: Luis Antonio Rojas, Mexico

“The photography of Luis Antonio Rojas emerges from the everyday and takes us to unheard reflections. From its beginnings, he has stood out for its proximity to the people he portrays and his pictorial compositions. [...] Rojas carries out commissions for different international newspapers in his home country and at the same time elaborates projects with a unique perspective on issues widely covered by the media. These works are marked by the permanent search of divergent techniques, tools and ways of showing other points of view.” - Mariceu Erthal García, Mexico, documentary and visual storyteller, and 6x6 nominator.

Luis Antonio Rojas is a Mexican documentary photographer and a National Geographic Explorer. While he was studying Civil Engineering, he published his first body of work focusing on the social inequality that happened a few kilometers from his university in Mexico City, leading to his project The Last Peasants.

The Last Peasants

The Carmona family lives in a rural microcosm in the middle of a concrete giant. They are the last farmers of Santa Fe, the neighborhood planned by the government in the 1980s to represent progress and modernity in Mexico City. Gerardo is the youngest of nine children, and the only one who stayed to work his parents’ land against developers. Today, the immense gray bridge, protected from the Carmona family by a four-meter-high concrete wall, surrounds their mud-brick house. On one side there is corn and a few cows, on the other, a residential development with a golf course and luxurious condos. Struggling with accumulated debts of almost 7,000 USD, the Carmona's way of life is slowly being buried. Soon, Gerardo will have to find another job, another way of living, and will lose the land that has belonged to his family for generations.

The project shows a family struggling against a vision of development in Latin America that has abandoned and excluded them. They materialize the clash between tradition and modernity, social classes and the price of progress.
Aerial view of the highway that separates the land of the Carmona family from the residential development Bosques de Santa Fe in Mexico City, on 27 July 2017.
Gerardo Carmona has breakfast with his mother Socorro Gutierrez in Santa Fe, Mexico City, on 2 September 2017.
Gerardo Carmona ties a bull beside the wall that protects the bridge and a luxurious residential development in Santa Fe, Mexico City, on 24 August 2017.
Emiliano Carmona rests in his living room on 24 May 2017. He later passed away due to prostate cancer. He refused to go to a hospital to die outside his family's land.

Amidst Us

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked in Mexico City with a Holga, a plastic camera first made in the 1980s whose plastic lens and imperfect seams made the film blurred in sections and unpredictably streaked with light. Before the quarantine started, I bought 17 rolls of film. They would have to last for months until businesses reopened.

The images of sickness came to Mexico before the virus itself. The pictures were lurid, sharp, and necessary because they informed us about the virus’s spread. But I wanted to take film images whose unpredictable defects would reflect our confusion in this uncertain moment. Thinking about how people have carried on in spite of the current limitations helped me work on my own, knowing that I had only one switch to adjust the light on cloudy days and a rudimentary focus system. When I rode around the city on my motorcycle in April, I realized that the virus had already spread far beyond the hospitals; it had entered people’s consciousness, making them fearful of each other and even of the air.

Doing this black-and-white series has not alleviated the overwhelming sense of consequence, but seeing each image emerge from the chemicals hidden in my laundry room helped me think about what we’re living through. Now, in my apartment, looking at the count of over 30,000 deaths nationwide, we are waiting for whatever may come.” - Luis Antonio Rojas. 
Smoke billows out of Nezahualcóyotl's public cemetery crematorium, managing bodies infected with COVID-19, in the metropolitan area of Mexico City, on 16 May 2020.
View of an empty street in Ecatepec, on the outskirts of Mexico City, on 17 April 2020. COVID-19 cases spread from the center of the city towards the most vulnerable municipalities in its margins.
Blanca Estela Ortiz (46) and Alejandra Medina (33), nurses working in the 20 de Noviembre Hospital's COVID-19 section, pose for a portrait after receiving flowers for their work outside the hospital, in Mexico City, on 21 April 2020.
A figure of ‘Santa Muerte,’ the saint who personifies death, lays inside an altar wearing a bridal gown and a face mask in Mexico City's Doctores neighborhood on 14 April 2020.