31,000 is a lot of portraits, especially when you realize the significance of the number.
Diego Huerta and project partner Daniela Gutiérrez have compiled this number of portraits in order to represent the over 31,000 people killed throughout the ongoing drug wars in Mexico during the last four years. They have titled the project 31K Portraits for Peace (Retratos por la Paz). The portraits themselves took over 6 months to collect, as Huerta and Gutiérrez traveled to all 32 states in Mexico and several major U.S. cities in search of participants to sit for a portrait holding a blue origami dove.
The images on display at Mexic-Arte Museum fill the gallery and spill out onto 5th street in a celebratory rather than somber fashion. Portraiture is an incredible story-teller and in this case, each portrait is telling the viewer a hopeful and tender story about the war that is taking place across the border.
It is awe-inspiring when you realize that this is only phase one of the project for Huerta and Gutiérrez, who haven’t stopped at photography and communing with anyone who will listen as they toured Mexico and the United States. Now, they plan to return to all 32 states in order to create street installations of the portaits. Many have already been hung just across the Texas/Mexico border in Matamoros and the state often associated with drug violence in the media, Chihuahua.
Many visitors to Austin over the next several weeks will be reveling in the musical excess that is SXSW. As you scramble from one live show to the next, I urge you to stop and take a look at the portraits hanging outside on at the intersections of Congress and 5th streets. Take a break from the aural over-stimulation and visit this visually rewarding and inspiring exhibition at the Mexic-Arte Museum.
31K Portraits for Peace is up until April 1, 2012.