Book Review: Sol Y Tierra by Emily Matyas
Given the present political climate in the United States of America, I automatically think of Mr Trump’s border wall obsession when being confronted with the subtitle of “Sol y Tierra” which is, “Views Beyond the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1988-2018.” Photographer Emily Matyas however does not engage in a discussion about border security but shows with a sympathetic eye scenes of what she has encountered when crossing the border between Mexico and the United States in the last 30 years which she has done dozens of times.
The photos in this tome were taken on the Mexican side and not on the U.S.-side. “The story of my travels in Mexico is a love story. An ardent love for a country not my own and people not related to me,” she writes. This love one can feel, I believe, when spending time with her photographs.
Over the years she observed that “the landscape, objects and trajectories of people’s lives change in response to economics, politics, the infiltration of a drug culture, attitudes towards immigration, and environmental challenges.”And, she herself also changed. “I experienced an education in what poverty and wealth means. There is nothing richer than a stranger offering you coffee and a place to sleep, laughter in a foreign language, hot homemade tortillas, a town dance, or the shy smile of a child.” Her photographs illustrate her words perfectly.
Emily Matyas invites us to take part in what she discovered. “Sol y Tierra” is an argument to go out into the world and find out what is there – in order to experience reality as it is and not as you thought (or wanted) it to be. It is the kind of documentary photography I warm to most – pictures, some in black and white, others in colour, taken with an open and respectful attitude.
In her essay entitled “Richness Transcends Stereotypes,” Linda Valdez highlights what is obvious and, because of this, often overlooked. “I can’t tell you what Mexico is. But I know what it isn’t. Mexico is not the bandito in some B movie from 1950s Hollywood. It isn’t any of the more modern stereotypes U.S. Politicians use to dismiss or demonize our southern neighbor.”
Linda Valdez knows what she’s talking about – she grew up middle class in the midwestern United States, fell in love with a man who grew up in rural Mexico, met his folks in Sinaloa and learned a few lessons. Personal experience has always been the best antidote to stereotypes.
Words and pictures have the potential to make you see the world differently. And particularly the words and pictures that express personal transformations.
“Sol y Tierra”is a convincing illustration of empathy.
Sol Y Tierra / Sun and Earth
Views Beyond the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1988-2018
Photographs by Emily Matyas
Foreword by Kirsten Rian
Essays by Linda Valdez, Sergio Anaya, Amparo Wong Molina and Emily Matyas
Published by Daylight books
Emily Matyas is a photographer whose interests combine family relations, culture and psychology. She began her career as a journalist, then moved into fine art. Her work involves intimate settings in Mexico, Romania and the United States. Most of he imagery is figurative, utilizing immediate family, friends and herself. Her portfolio of life in rural Mexico spans over 25 years. She received her MFA in Photography from Arizona State University in 2002. She has taught photography at the college level for several years and led many youth workshops. Her images are widely collected and exhibited.
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