There’s an extraordinarily thin line between Dorian Ulises López Macías’s personal and commissioned work. In the former, he focuses on capturing true Mexican culture and the country’s queer community. When he’s commissioned for a product or editorial shoot, he keeps to this mission by casting Mexican models to pose in front of local backdrops. He tells Alex Kahl about the people he's captured and about the steadily improving attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community in Mexico.
Mexican photographer Dorian Ulises López Macías started working in fashion eight years ago. Having studied graphic design, he worked in publishing as a junior designer before becoming the creative director at ELLE. He soon saw the lack of opportunities for Mexican models and how little representation there was for Mexican identity in that world. “There was and still is a tendency in the Mexican fashion industry to seek these European or American aesthetics, as if Mexico isn’t worthy of fashion images, which seems absurd to me,” he says. “I live in Mexico, I speak Spanish, I love the people who live in my country, I understand and identify with them. I love its gastronomy, its music. Why not make use of it?”
Read the stories behind the photos...
FOURTH TRANSFORMATION, with Magdaleno Delgado
I was at the local festival of Tepetlaoxtoc, a municipality in the State of Mexico, and I was amazed by the shapes the dancers’ skirts made as they moved. That image stayed in my mind. I imagined Magdaleno Delgado, a model from Guadalajara, in Mexican folk skirts infused with contemporary fashion. I told my producer Carlos Castellanos about the idea, and we recruited the stylist Ricardo Arenas. All I knew was that I wanted skirts and dancing, but little by little we built this series.
One day I accompanied Ricardo Arenas to the historic center of the city to look for shoes and blouses, and as we crossed the plinth I said to him, “what if we take the photos here?” His eyes lit up. Magdaleno isn’t only beautiful, but has such a fantastically expressive body. Everything was perfect that day, and these resulting photos were shown by Chiara Nonino in Vogue Italy.
FANCY LUPE, with Alan Balthazar
These photos were taken as publicity for a play, Fancy Lupe, by the Mexican playwright Pepe Romero. The model was Alan Balthazar, and Nayeli de Alba did the wonderful styling. These photos are especially important to me because of what came next. That day Alan vanished while I was taking photos of him; within a few weeks he had died. A great loss for the artistic community of my country.
TIME, SPACE AND EXISTENCE, with Brian Fontana
This photo is part of a series titled Time, Space and Existence, in which I explore the world young Mexicans live in. Brian’s beauty drove me crazy. I wrote to see if I could take some photos of him in his own clothes at home and he accepted. He’s part of the young queer community in the fashion industry in Mexico City.
With that, Dorian started to incorporate the streets of Mexico into his own photography work, which has grown from a hobby to a fully-fledged career in a short space of time. “It’s exciting and noisy, immensely beautiful and rich,” he says. He sourced local models with the help of small modelling agencies like Güerx and In The Park Management. He even stopped people who caught his eye on the street and asked them to model, casting faces and bodies that fell more in line with his own way of seeing fashion and his country.
Every shoot or project starts with something or someone grabbing Dorian’s attention, and then he often works with his ever-growing family of collaborators and creatives to make the photos as good as they can be. “I’ve met so many talented people who have the desire to explore things as I do,” he says. “Make up artists, hair stylists, fashion stylists, producers, assistants, models. Together, we take the path that seems to me to be the most suitable to explore and I attack with the lens.” In every shot, fantastic hair and make-up and brilliant outfits leap out of Dorian’s photos, from bright, beautifully exaggerated dresses to lace tops and couture heels.
Much of Dorian’s photography explores the queer community in the country, and for him this community is a cemented part of Mexico’s personality. Attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community in Mexico have evolved rapidly in recent years, and Dorian agrees that policies are particularly forward-thinking in Mexico City.
“But we should remember that Mexico in general is a Catholic and macho country, and even in Mexico City with its population of almost nine million, there are only a few spots where you can find the respect and freedom to express your sexuality freely,” he admits. He puts this largely down to the generational gap, as much of the younger generations don’t place as much importance on catholicism as their parents might have done. “New generations will change things even more, but this can only be achieved by education, something that is still not guaranteed in my country,” he adds.
As with any place, there is still work to be done to improve attitudes towards more diverse communities, but Dorian hopes his work can help, as he puts images of lesser represented groups into the public eye. “Visibility is the key, although that might be a little uncomfortable for some people,” he says. “It is important to make ourselves visible; I believe that when people see us we won’t seem so strange and they will end up accepting us and then respecting us and someday see members of the LGBTQ commmunity as equals. There’s still a long way to go.”
Just as he’s a part of the Mexican community, Dorian is also a part of the queer community, and identifying with his subjects allows him to do them justice in his photographs. He often feels like he’s photographing members of his own family on his shoots. “I know what it’s like to grow up with parents who listen to the moralistic doctrine of the church and limit our freedom. In Mexico, like many other parts of the world, our LGBTQ community grew while we were very isolated, and we’ve ended up becoming the family that we never had at home,” he says.
Read the stories behind the photos...
CONSTRUCTION, with Mito del Desierto
I knew Mito while he was a waiter at an inn that I went to regularly. He’s an experimental musician. Thin but with strong bones, a beautiful face. One day I approached him and proposed that we take some photos, and he gave me his number. Years passed, and he even stopped working at the restaurant where I met him, but I still had a strip of paper with his phone number taped to one of the walls of my apartment. When we were looking for a model for this story I remembered him, and this was the result.
SANCHEZ KANE SUPER ESTRELLA, with Carlos Erich and Carlos Erich
These photos were taken together with my great friend Bárbara Sánchez Kane and the fantastic stylist Raúl Castilla. I found these twins on Instagram and cast them as the models. It’s curious, because they’re not only identical but even have the same name.
LATITUDE: 19 ° 15'23.4 "N 99 ° 05'14.0" W, with Michaell
These photos were commissioned by Atmos magazine. They sought out creators from around the world to interpret the meaning of latitude through the language of fashion. My references for this story were Los Panzudos y Mercedarios: people dressed in traditional costumes to show their devotion to the Virgin of Mercy. Disguises are a symbol of sin: the thicker the disguise and the more terrifying the mask, the more serious the person's sins. I wanted to recreate these characters using clothes from local designers, in the context of the dying Xochimilco lake, which has been an important emblematic seal of the indigenous culture and traditions of the region, inviting reflection on cultural and environmental abandonment.
Dorian loves every person he photographs, and he has an innate ability and a yearning to capture people’s true personalities, wherever they’re from, and however they identify. He puts it down to being a human first, but he seems to have a level of empathy and love for people that’s beyond the norm in society, and there’s a few possible explanations for this.
“I think and I feel. When I see a Mexican I am seeing myself, I am confronting my own taboos. Perhaps I see a reflection of myself in each person whose picture I take,” he says. From the tone of Dorian’s voice, he seems to be coming to some realizations about himself at this exact moment, and seeing his role as a photographer in a slightly new light.
“Yes, perhaps that is what my job is all about: celebrating what is human, and how can I not celebrate that? That’s why I want to emphasise that what interests me most is showing them as they are... like a flower that you can’t stop looking at because of its infinite beauty.”