Racial Profiling is a portrait series you’re doing with Mex and the City, where you aim to showcase the diversity of contemporary Mexican identity. How did this project come about?
The project started when I was living in NYC (now I’m based in Mexico City). I was contacted by Marina Garcia-Vasquez from Mex and the City; she saw my work on a blog and got in touch with me. The funny thing was that when we got together to talk about the project, we realized we had met in Mexico City some months before. Marina told me about an idea she had about doing portraits of Mexicans living in New York as way to talk about the diversity of race rather than just stereotypes.
You’ve shot over 100 portraits over the past 5 years for this project. How did you choose the people involved?
We did it as a collaboration between Mex and the City and me. We started with people that were closer to us. From there we started asking friends who they thought should be part of it, doing research, etc. I think Racial Profiling is not about the most successful guys in town, but about interesting people in general.
How and why was the title “Racial Profiling” chosen?
When we first met in NY, we talked about how we always got the “you don’t look Mexican” from people when they realized we were Mexican. That’s something that bothers me all the time. First of all, because it’s not like all Mexicans (or any other race or nationality) look the same, and second, because they say it as if it was something to be proud of (not looking Mexican).
A lot of your work has to do with the creation of identity and appearance. Why is this project personally important to you and how has it affected your life?
It made look at things from a very different perspective. I have lived in Mexico City almost all my life, so when I moved to NY it was shocking to learn how much people assumed stuff about my life just because I’m Mexican. Sometimes I feel like this is a project that shouldn’t exist since it’s obvious that you cannot judge someone based on race, but then I had to understand that not everyone is aware of that. Another thing I like about the project is that it’s about Mexicans, but it’s also a sample of a micro universe that relates to everyone.
Mex and the City is in the process of turning this project into a book (and looking for funding via Kickstarter!). What are your hopes for the book?
I hope we can get the funding to do it so the project becomes something bigger and more relevant. Hopefully we will have a place in history through the great document that is a book.