Mexico: Catalino's Letters, 2000

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Mexico: Catalino’s Letters was inspired by letters that photographer Stephan Köhler received between 1987 and 1994 from a friend named Catalino in rural Tekit, in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. In the first volume, we read about dying bees, a dying son, the devastation of Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. The second volume contains news of happier events: fiestas, processions, bullfights. The excerpted letters are not captions but prompts for the murky and mysterious photographs that follow. The two volumes are meant to be viewed together, perhaps to convey a sense of both the changeability (weather) and rootedness (customs) of Mexican life. It’s an idea reflected in the book’s paper, which Köhler created by hand in Gifu, Japan. Made from the mulberry tree, it looks fragile but is sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of darkroom printing, which requires the paper to be treated with photosensitive chemicals, dried, exposed to the negative image, and then soaked in multiple liquids to develop the image. The paper’s translucency means that the photos appear in reverse when you turn the page.

Mexico: Catalino's Letters
Artist Life
born 1960
Accession Number
William P. Kosmas, London, England (d. 2017); Estate of William P. Kosmas, Minneapolis; given to MIA, 2018.
Curator Approved

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