I am a photographer of the streets of Mexico City. About three years ago, on my walks, while looking, I started seeing these walls with disintegrating, deteriorating posters of all sorts.They had always been a part of the cityscape, so maybe it was that they began insinuating themselves into my view. There was some inexplicable attraction drawing me towards their visual confusion. I was intrigued by the process that was occurring on the walls and by the serendipitous confluence of the disorder. I liked the idea of subverting the original intention of all the commercial messages announcing tech products, music concerts, etc., by riffing on their ephemeral qualities. But I was also intrigued by the process that was occurring inside myself. Why were these seemingly unsightly walls calling to me, why was I reacting to them and where was the attraction leading? I began photographing them with my iPhone—and in a very conscious manner, i.e. looking for some kind of balance of shapes and color and a composition that maybe resolved the inherent visual chaos. I was thinking too of the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi that speaks to the beauty in impermanence and imperfection. And lastly, after looking at a bunch that I had photographed, the undeniable presence of ’time’ represented by the degradation of the materials. And they are just so lovely to my way of thinking and seeing.

Then the virus hit Mexico in March 2020 and I wasn’t able to photograph on the streets like I was accustomed to doing. I couldn’t go out, so I went in. The absence from the street with a camera was somewhat intentional. I was not blocked, artistically. It was like the pandemic gave me the opportunity to come up for air. It let me stop and ask myself some important questions about ‘why I photograph?’, ‘what it is that attracts me to an image of whatever sort enough to attempt to photograph it?’ and ‘what is the meaning I am looking for in doing so?’. I wanted to ask myself, what exactly are the forces or emotions that make me walk, look and begin the process of seeing and  photographing? Put simply, what are the reasons for doing what I do?

I had these images of the walls in an archive and began going through them to see if I could figure out what was going on. In March of this year, when I felt safe enough to return to the street, I continued the search.

For the moment, the working title of the series is ‘Moultings’, which has to do with what is happening on the walls and in the final work, and also what I feel I have been going through during this pandemic. A change of skin or feathers is always natural, but this is pretty radical for me. Introspection during the last year and a half fueled the need to do all this and try something new. It has been pretty organic, so I like that too. I didn’t really have a concept at the start that I wanted to fulfill, I just started to work and play with the images.

‘Moulting’ — like a snake sheds old skin for something new down below, I too am shedding or getting rid of an accumulated exterior and looking down below. Throwing off the well worn skin of old ways and conventions in my photography. And obviously an inherent questioning about what I was doing before is involved. But it’s important to note that I still go to the street to express what I’m feeling and thinking. But I had had enough of the chaos of the streets of Mexico City. I was looking for something beautiful.

The images have ruptures and breaks to show a little bit of what is below the surface. And what is behind the top layer. There’s also a sense of a tearing of the social fabric and more importantly my personal psychological make up.

Just to mention again it’s a very organic process. These are images that I made while walking around the streets of Mexico City. Found images on the walls of the streets. So in a certain sense they still are documentary photographs but I feel that they are more a mix of fact and fiction. Interior documentary if you will. The process is very intimate and personal, but maybe resonates on a universal plane also. I don’t know.

But nevertheless the street continues to be the place that inspires and teaches me. It’s the place where I see myself.

“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” ~Susan Sontag


Keith Dannemiller

Wilson, NC

July 8, 2021


Keith Dannemiller graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee with a B.A. in Organic Chemistry.  In 1976, after four years in San Francisco, he moved to Austin, Texas where he worked for The Texas Observer, Third Coast and Texas Monthly magazines. In 1987 he decided to live and work in México as a photojournalist affiliated first with Black Star and later with Saba Press Photos.

Today, independently, he pursues various visual projects that involve social problems in current day Mexico such as immigration, the informal economy and the intersection of religious and social movements. His book, Callegrafía, is a selection of black and white images from the Historic Center district of Mexico City. He is currently working on a project in Wilson, NC entitled Homesweet, Homeland, which will open there in March 2022.
Twitter: @KDannemiller
Facebook: keith.dannemiller

IG: keithdannemiller

Mexico, DF