Bar Tur Photobook Award Angus Fraser: Santa Muerte

Art Announcement from United Kingdom. Published by anonymous on Wednesday 29 July 2015.

Bar Tur Photobook Award Angus Fraser: Santa Muerte image

The Photographers’ Gallery in collaboration with Trolley Books and Amnon and Armon Bar-Tur are delighted to announce the publication and launch of Santa Muerte by Angus Fraser (b. 1975, UK) at a special event held at the Gallery, 15 September 2015.

Fraser is the inaugural winner of the Gallery’s Bar Tur Photobook Award, a significant new prize, which offers an emerging photographer the opportunity to work with an independent publisher to produce their first book.

Fraser won on the strength of his documentary project Santa Muerte, which follows members of the Mexican cult of the same name. Meaning Holy Death in Spanish, Santa Muerte is a female folk saint whose origins can be dated back hundreds of years to Aztec rituals mixed with Catholic beliefs and practices. Although denounced by the country’s Catholic Church as satanic, the cult has enjoyed an increase in popularity over the last decade. Many commentators have noted its rise coinciding with the killing and violence associated with the war between rival drug cartels and the Mexican Government.

Since 2011 Fraser has made several visits to Mexico, researching, interviewing and documenting Santa Muerte devotees. His work examines the contrast between Western and Mesoamerican perceptions and acceptance of death. His images include portraits of believers, spiritual leaders, shrines, private and public altars, paraphernalia, prayers, ceremonies, and street gatherings.

The book identifies individuals who at first built and managed Santa Muerte shrines and are now considered by fellow followers to be guardians and spiritual leaders of the faith. Fraser was given access to photograph devotees in their places of worship as well as in their private homes and within prisons where the cult has a strong following.

The resulting photographs have been compiled in three main sequences relating to the three protagonists of the book to form an in-depth and conceptually sustained narrative. Accompanied by an introductory essay from award-winning Mexican filmmaker, Eva Aridjis, the book presents the many versions of Santa Muerte while also celebrating its communal aspect.

Angus Fraser said: “I was accepted by the cult’s following and given unlimited access into a world that is considered macabre, illegal and even satanic by the mass media. Admittedly, along the way I encountered individuals who lived up to the Santa Muerte stereotype that the US and European media have created. But on the whole the hospitality, kindness and warmth I was shown contradicted all the negative perceptions I had read, seen and heard. My aim is to tell their side of the story and in part my own.”

Santa Muerte is due to publish 15 September 2015. Priced at £30 it will be available to purchase from The Photographers’ Gallery, Trolley Books and selected UK and international bookshops. The launch night will feature an in-conversation between Angus Fraser and Director of Trolley Books, Hannah Watson as well as a book signing.