New East Digital Archive

Hungarian photographer Adél Koleszár turns her lens to the mass graves of Mexico’s drug wars

25 September 2019
Interview: Nadia Beard

Hungarian photographer Adél Koleszár has been living and working in Mexico for the last 10 years, shooting and teaching photography in open workshops. In her photo series wov, she embarks on journey to document the mass graves of Mexico’s drug wars, the mental and physical consequences of the violation of land and life, and the women still searching for their loved ones.

Adél Koleszár is a photographer taking part in the Futures Platform, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

I think my European heritage has brought to my work the need to work very hard, and taught me that, no matter how tough the subject matter you’re dealing with is, you need to present it with both a personal and professional vision. There’s a tradition to try and approach something beyond yourself, I think my European heritage gave me this.

I’m inspired by sharing information and creating understanding, being able to share more personal faiths and stories on topics which we mostly know only from the news. I’m also inspired by the people I work with. Even though many of them haven’t had great access to education and to things that make life comfortable, they are incredibly wise and know how to find happiness and faith no matter what their circumstances.

The question of how current events in Europe have influenced my work is a difficult one. I think as Europeans we have a strong cultural heritage, but now have less and less power to maintain the old Europe. In my work I have got some very harsh political movements and personal stories up close — what colonisation, wars in the pursuit of money, of power, of natural resources, have caused. When I see people who don’t have the ability to leave their country, even though their life is tough or dangerous, it really affects my photography and my perception of life in general. European photography has affected my work inasmuch as we have access to stories which we feel strongly about, and that we are motivated to share something beyond ourselves, to make something visible which might otherwise not be obvious, to create a unique vision with photographic language.

In this picture [above], you can see a very strange, ominous land. It was taken close to the entrance of one of the biggest mass graves in Latin America. A woman who’d been looking for her child who disappeared as part of the land and drug wars, told me: “you know, the sun rises every day. If you have any problems you still shall smile at life.” I guess you can learn a lot during fieldwork.

I think photography has increasingly been treated as a science or something made in a laboratory. It’s become an activity where we use our minds more than our hearts. There are “recipes” on how to create successful work, but I believe memorable work cannot be achieved without true experiences.

I’m motivated by different aspects of life. I find it interesting how individuals see things from such different perspectives based on their cultural and emotional background. This helps me to confront my own demons. It’s like my therapy and gives meaning to my existence.

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