A German Photographer Captures the World-Class Allure of Mexico’s Theaters and Palaces
Imagine a world still and empty, perfectly beautiful yet eerily quiet. It’s full of grand structures designed and built by men, but not populated by them. This is the world of German photographer Candida Höfer. At least, that’s the fantasy world she imagines, one she has been exquisitely capturing on film for four decades.
In the realm of empty public spaces, Höfer is both a connoisseur and a diligent documentarian. Her long-running practice has taken her to theaters and churches, libraries and palaces, and the interiors of the Uffizi Gallery and Trinity College Dublin—all photographed while empty.
Recently, she trained her lens on the glittering interiors of cities far from the European circuit. In October 2015, Höfer traveled around Mexico, visiting iconic buildings in places like Jalisco, Oaxaca, and Puebla. The resulting photographs are now on display at Galería OMR in Mexico City for a show called “In Mexiko.” In November, the show will move on to a series of national and international venues.
For this recent body of work, Höfer utilized her signature technique: Using only existing light sources, she photographs each space in long exposures from three separate perspectives. She then combines the photographs to produce a single image. The result, whether at the Louvre in Paris or the Palacio de las Bellas Artes in Mexico City, is at once staggeringly grand and surprisingly intimate, as if you, the viewer, wander alone in the magnificent space.
Höfer is quick to point out, however, that she is not an architectural photographer. “An absent visitor is frequently the topic of conversation,” she has said of her work. Although no human subjects are present, their absence lends a certain intrigue to the viewing experience, which blurs the line between public and private space.
The show takes place at a key moment between Mexico and Höfer’s native Germany, two countries that may seem to be worlds apart. Yet Mexico and Germany recently agreed to a “Dual Year,” a binational commission that aims to strengthen cross-cultural programming while promoting Germany in Mexico and, likewise, Mexico in Germany.
Looking at Höfer’s alluring photographs, it’s hard to imagine a photographer more suited to the task. Images in her latest show could double as ads in a travel magazine or promotional material for the national tourism office. The still, hauntingly lovely interiors are every bit as majestic as the great halls you’ll find in Europe.
“Candida Höfer: In Mexiko” is on view at Galería OMR, Mexico City, Sept. 23–Nov. 5, 2016.