Alejandro Cartagena

born 1977 in the Dominican Republic
Lives and works in Mexico

The five-part project Suburbia Mexicana explores the relation between Mexico’s urban centres and the suburbs haphazardly built around them. It examines the ways in which explosive growth has altered the landscape and affected the lives of each region’s residents. In Fragmented Cities, Alejandro Cartagena documented the serial construction of hundreds of thousands of low-income houses on the outskirts of Monterrey. After photographing these new suburban landscapes, he returned to many of the inhabited housing complexes and learned of the many misfortunes that the new dwellers were facing, the ecological impact these developments were having, and the growing distance between the well-urbanized city and these new, fragmented cities in the peripheries. The complex relation between high- and low-income urbanization models is also addressed in the series Carpoolers. Shot as a typology of sorts, we see labourers piled into open truck beds moving from the suburbs to San Pedro Garza García, one of the wealthiest communities of Latin America. There they will build sprawling mansions, dig swimming pools, and pave private drives. Divested of their individuality through Cartagena’s clinical approach, and con- flated with so many other implements of labour, the men confined to these shallow boxes become almost interchangeable. This tactic is knowingly employed by Cartagena to point to the invisibility of the working class in a society that increasingly values material wealth and is governed by leaders who continue to turn over land for development without a clear path forward. Consequently, Mexico has become a chaotic place to inhabit, both in the city and in these suburbs. Cartagena’s commitment as a photographer is not to denounce our need for a household, but rather to point out the inevitable struggle we face following the ideals of a capitalistic system while striving for fairer cities in which to live.

© Alejandro Cartagena