In his influential article “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” anthropologist Clifford Geertz proved that you can glean deep insights about a culture based on its vital rituals. I’ve always been fascinated by the nooks and crannies of culture, the periphery and the near-extinct. This fascination is what led me to Mexico City and the dying occupation of the Organillero.
The life of the Organillero is not an easy one, cranking the handle of the organ hour after hour in the blazing heat, hat in hand. For some, organ grinders are a nostalgia for times gone. For others they represent times best forgotten. However, no one will deny they are the soundtrack of Mexico City’s vibrant street corners.
There is, of course, an implied contract between subject and photographer. The subject looks to the photographer for direction and confirmation to relieve themselves of their natural discomfort. However, when a language barrier enhances instead of alleviates that discomfort something happens. The subjects turn inward, retreating into their own world. You can see it in the eyes of these organ grinders and I feel these portraits perfectly capture that inward reflection. There is a gravity present because of it. The contract is broken and they become more themselves. Language barriers and cultural division erodes and you begin to foster a deeper connection and understanding.