José Antonio Rodríguez, historian, curator and critic in Mexico City, has mounted an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City called Photographers in Mexico 1872-1960. The exhibit opened on May 18 and focuses on the contributions of women photographers.
Importantly, José Antonio has uncovered some original photographic prints by Alice Dixon Le Plongeon archived at the Casa Lamm in Mexico City, and has included them in the exhibit. Along with the prints by Alice, José Antonio has also written a summary of Alice’s work in Yucatán for the exhibit catalog based on his reading of my recent book Yucatán through her eyes.
Below is a translation of part of José Antonio’s article published by Mileneo Online in Spanish. For the full entry go to the Mileneo Online link: José Antonio Rodriguez’ exhibit Photographers in Mexico 1872-1960 at Musuem of Modern Art, Mexico City
In August 1873, a very young London photographer, just 21 years old, crossed the Atlantic from New York to reach the port of Progreso in the Yucatan. Alice Dixon and her husband Augustus Le Plongeon traveled by sea for 17 days. “What a fool I was” she wrote in her memoir, “to come on this damn boat! … Sea very violent. Extremely dizzy. I wish I was dead.” She was an accomplished photographer who had learned the trade from her father. As his assistant at the British Museum she had photographed museum pieces, and at the London Zoo her father had photographed animals in motion. Her reason for coming to Mexico was due mainly to her fascination with pre-Columbian culture which she shared with Augustus. She read John Lloyd Stephens’ Incidents of travel in Yucatan (1843), plus the books of Charles Brasseur [de Bourboug]. Alice and her husband took two years to prepare for their long stay in Mexico that lasted eleven years. Their documentation by means of stereoscopic photography of various Mayan cities, especially Uxmal, was with such care that they created extensive visual maps of the [archaeological] sites they visited. They set up photo studios in the country fairs to photograph the inhabitants and also document the daily lives of the people of Yucatan. Alice took the photos of women in the fields because Augustus was not allowed to accompany them. The Le Plongeons were accused of distorting historical reality by creating a myth of a connection between Atlantis and the Maya, or a link between Egypt and the Mayan world. But if we focus only on those accusations, the fact that their important photographic contribution brought knowledge of the Mayan culture to the world will be lost.