I grew up in Mexico City, and although I was never mugged, robbed, stabbed, kidnapped, or murdered, there were a lot of newspapers to remind me that a bunch of other people in the city certainly did. There’s a whole genre of publications in Mexico that goes far beyond your usual tabloid fare. They are called “La Nota Roja”, which translates roughly to “The Red Articles” or “The Bloody News.” The most famous example is Alarma!, which is still in print. Each issue is filled with graphic photos and stories of murder victims, people split in two in car crashes, deformed babies, and anything else that involves an excess of flesh and blood in the wrong place. It can sometimes be a little hard to tell which photos are real and which aren’t, but a lot of Mexicans love their Nota Roja.
I was never really into these papers, but one day I ran across a book of photography by Enrique Metinides who shot for a lot of them from the 50s to 70s. He covered the same grisly beat as the rest of his colleagues, but there was something different in his shots–a sense of humanity which helped undercut the exploitative nature of his chosen subjects. I began wondering what kind of person would devote his life to this kind of work and how all the corpses and awfulness must affect his psyche. At the time I was making a short film about a guy obsessed with accidents, and I wanted Metinides to make a cameo in it. He had just had his second heart attack and wasn’t up for doing it, but four years down the road I asked him if I could interview him for VBS and I finally got to meet him.
I set up the camera in his Mexico City apartment, and right as I hit the record button he started talking and didn’t stop for the next four hours. He gave me detailed accounts of some of the most horrific accidents and crimes I’d ever heard of one after the other for the entire afternoon. It was a heavy vibe.