Once a year the people of San Cristóbal de las Casas in Mexico celebrate the feast of the Virgin of Mercy with costumes made to represent their sins. The uglier and more monstrous their mask is, the worse the person’s sins.
Photographer Diego Moreno got the idea for his series Guardians of Memory from Los Panzudos Mercedarios, the creatures who inhabit the neighbourhood of La Merced every 22 September, but also from a more personal experience. He was exposed from a young age to an aunt who had a disease that made her appearance “undesirable” to some. Moreno was intrigued by the costumes people made for the celebration, which reminded him of his aunt. He designed and built each of the costumes photographed.
Moreno, who made the clothing using several metres of cloth, Halloween masks, and huge trailer tyres, told BuzzFeed: “My aunt helped me build the dresses. It was a challenge to leave my comfort zone since most of my photographic production has been from my domestic space and with my family.”
“I was very obsessed with the colour palette of both the spaces and how a character had to be dressed,” he added.
“For me, Los Panzudos Mercedarios have come to represent the inhabitants of my own unconscious and a passage to another realm. They are not real people, I know, but somehow, they provide a framework for understanding the human condition. Perhaps, I can reveal secret truths that are not visible in everyday life. Reflect upon all misunderstood beings, creatures, and marginal things,” Moreno told BuzzFeed.
Moreno told BuzzFeed he relishes the process of imagining his ideal monster and bringing it to life: “It’s like going back to my own childhood; in my case that part is blurred, mutilated, unfinished, by many familiar events. Making use of fiction through photography has allowed me to re-inhabit my childhood and to create a present, to have the opportunity to make use of fantasy as an evolutionary tool.”