First Latin American documentary photographer Agustin Victor Casasola

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the art of photography in Latin America became increasingly popular, particularly among journalists, for whom photographs became an excellent way of illustrating the material presented in articles and reports, and later as an independent source of information. for this, earlier it was necessary to draw quickly and well, which narrowed the circle of professional journalists.

One of the pioneers of photojournalism in Mexico and in Latin America as a whole was Agustín Víctor Casasola (Agustín Víctor Casasola), a Mexican journalist and photographer who initiated a whole dynasty of talented photo reporters.

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(Only 29 photos)


Also Agustin Victor Casasola was the driving force behind one of the world's first professional photo agencies and made a significant contribution to the development of the profession of photojournalist in Mexico.


The archive of documentary photographs collected by him, his sons and grandchildren in the first seven decades of the twentieth century allows us today to feel like witnesses of the events of Mexican history and the life of the society of that time.


It is impossible to remain indifferent to these photographs, because the moments caught on them are unique, as are the emotions imprinted on them by people who cannot recreate even the most talented actors with the same realism.


So, one of the first documentary photographers of all Latin America, Agustin Victor Casasola, was born on July 28, 1874. Having lost his father at the age of six and having managed to get only basic education, from early childhood he began working in typographic and bookbinding workshops, overseeing the art of printing and helping to create newspapers, magazines and books in the Mexican capital.


The involvement of Agustin Victor in the news industry soon led him to the post of reporter in the daily newspaper of Mexico "El Imparsial" (El Imparcial, translated from Spanish - "impartial"), which was the beginning of his brilliant career in journalism.

6. Prostitute during detention

Energetic and restless by nature, Agustin Victor has always been at the forefront of events in the capital and other cities of Mexico. At twenty, he already served as a reporter for all the major Mexican newspapers of the time - El Globo, El Popular, El Universal, El Tiempo, while continuing his collaboration with El Imparcial.

7. Prostitute during detention

Agustin Victor Casasola decided to take up the camera in 1900, when the art of photography in Latin America experienced its first period of flowering. The policy of strict censorship of the then dictatorial regime of Porfirio Díaz (Porfirio Díaz) often prevented journalists from expressing their true opinions.


The photos also provided Casasole with an excellent opportunity to transmit the necessary information about the real state of affairs in the country in the simplest and most direct way and served as a figurative reinforcement of his articles and reports. Soon, the photograph grows out of the way to illustrate articles in his main professional interest and passion throughout his life.

9. The work of criminologists

Thanks to his outstanding professional and leadership qualities, Agustin Victor managed to organize around himself also his fellow photographers and reporters,thus making a huge contribution to the development of photojournalism in the region. In 1903, when he was already recognized as a photographer, he founded the Mexican Association of Journalists in Mexico City, and in 1911, the Society of Press Photographers.

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The beginning of the 20th century was marked for Mexico by a series of events that radically influenced its subsequent history and had a tremendous impact on the development of other Latin American countries — a bourgeois-democratic revolution broke out in the country. In 1910, after the dictator Porfirio Díaz secured himself another victory in presidential elections far from democracy, a mass uprising began against Mexico in his reign.


As a result, the 35-year dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz was overthrown, and the country was led by the leader of the democratic opposition, Francisco Madero. However, there were still a large number of supporters of the old regime in the country, and discontent with Madera’s policy was already brewing, causing Mexico to be plunged into a ten-year civil war, which turned out to be one of the bloodiest wars of its kind in the history of mankind.


The Mexican revolution of 1910-1920 became one of the most resonant socio-political events in the history of the Latin American continent of the early twentieth century, all stages of the revolutionary struggle were widely covered by both local and foreign press. Being in the center of events, Agustin Victor Casasola managed to capture on film and preserve the memory of this tragic page of Mexican history.


In 1912, Agustin Victor Casasola founded one of the world's first professional photo agencies in Mexico, which provided photo services to newspapers, magazines and individuals under the motto: "I have or I will take the photo that you need."


His brother, Miguel Casasola, and later his sons, Gustavo, Ismael and Agustin Junior, who decided to follow in his father’s footsteps, joined the agency’s photojournalist. It was they who continued the work of Agustin Victor Casasola, after his death in March 1938.


Over time, this photo agency has become very popular, has expanded significantly and began to be called the Mexican agency of photo information (Agencia Mexicana de Información Fotográfica). In addition to their own photos, Casasola often used the services of other photographers,and even purchased materials from foreign agencies and some amateur photographers for sale in print and their own collections.


Thus, over seventy years of activity, a huge archive of photographs and negatives was formed by three generations of the Casasol family, covering all the main actors and all key events in the life of the Mexican state in the first half of the 20th century, beginning with the dictatorial regime of Porfirio Díaz and ending with the advent of modern and post-revolutionary changes of Mexican society.


The deep black and white photographs, taken and collected by the Casasola dynasty, tell the story of Mexico’s past events with incredible vivacity and realism, giving the opportunity to look at the witness with all the turmoil and drama of the revolutionary time.


The veil of faces, the fog of bodies speak of many things, without saying a word, just being present in the whirlwind of revolutionary events.


The photographs depict the main political figures, revolutionary leaders, soldiers, as well as just scenes from the life of Mexican peasants and workers.In particular, the photographs include dictator Porfirio Díaz, who replaced him with the representative of the liberal forces Francisco Madera, the military leader of the southern regions of the country Emiliano Zapata (including even on the day of his murder) and the charismatic leader of the northern regions of Pancho Villa.


Among the photographs of the revolutionary period, a series of photographs of women in times of revolutionary struggle — the so-called soldaderas — is of particular interest. They were women who worked together with the revolutionary forces and often directly participated in hostilities like future women fighters during the war for the independence of Israel.


One of the photographs captures a woman who has received the nickname “exterminator” and is known for helping the mortally wounded soldiers on the battlefield die a quicker and more painless death.


One of the most striking photographs of the archive is a snapshot of Fortino Samano (Fortino Samano) - Mexican revolutionary and military commander of the army Emiliano Zapata - a few seconds before the shooting, which occurred in 1917. Samano stands waiting for the bullets that will stop his heartbeat forever.


Having put his hands in the pockets of his trousers and finishing his last cigar in his life, he defiantly looks at his executioners. This is the view of a person who clearly understands why he lived and for what he dies, there is no fear of death in him, only the mood to accept her worthily. According to legend, he himself gave the signal to start his own execution.


A significant part of the photographs of the archive are portraits, especially group ones. They feel the subtle use of space, postures, relationships between individuals, aspects of lighting, which clearly confirm the skill of representatives of the Casasol family as portrait painters.


Photographic material collected by the family of Mexican photojournalists was systematized and organized by Miguel and Gustavo Casasola. As a result of their painstaking work, they published: “The History of the Mexican Revolution in Photos”, containing about twelve thousand photographs and first published in 1940, “The Six Epochs of Mexican History in Photos” in seven volumes, the first of which was published in 1962 m year; “The Photographic Annals of the Military History of Mexico”, published in 1973, the “Biographical Collection of Gustavo Casasola” of 1975.


Also, the Photo Archive of Casasol was founded, which, since 1966, was under the responsibility of Agustin Casasol the Younger, but due to difficulties associated with its storage, the family had to sell the archive to the state in 1976. Since that time, a rich photographic material consisting of almost half a million photographs and negatives has become part of the documentary heritage of the Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia) and is now stored under the arches of the ancient Franciscan monastery in Pachuca - location of the National Photo Library of Mexico (Fototeca) Nacional).


Without a doubt, the Casasola family archive is the richest photo inheritance that allows you to understand the history and society of Mexico in the first half of the twentieth century. Photographs of the archive serve as invaluable material and inspiration for many historians, journalists, writers, filmmakers and all connoisseurs of documentary photography.


The Government of Mexico has repeatedly organized exhibitions of photographs from the Casasola archive in different countries of the world in order to reveal the key events of Mexican history and society to citizens of other countries.

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