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The Lucha Libre Fighters

By 11th September 2020 September 13th, 2020 No Comments

Lourdes Grobet

By Ana Safia Munro

Lourdes Grobet is a Mexican photographer most known for her work documenting the vibrant lives of lucha libre fighters both in and out of the ring. Lucha libre meaning “freestyle wrestling” is a distinctly Mexican sport characterised by its theatricality, spectacularly attired masked performers and dramatic choreography. As competitors of a sport rooted in physical strength and aggression, luchadores are often heralded as prototypes of masculinity. In many ways lucha libre is performance art entrenched in masculinity, a spectacle that encapsulates the “machismo” visible in every strata of Mexican culture. In her work Grobet disrupts conventional imagery surrounding luchadores by re-centering her subjects in domestic spaces far removed from the pageantry of the ring. Through casting a feminine gaze on an iconic part of Mexican heritage, Grobet is able to explore the power dynamics and gender roles that are pervasive throughout Mexico.

LL RETRATOS Brazo en concina

An Unseen Side Of Mexican Culture

Since the beginning of her career, Grobet’s work has rallied against conventional discourse. When Grobet started her career in the 1960s, the male-dominated Mexican photography scene largely consisted of tasteful black and white landscapes and staged portraits. Photographers were far more likely to find inspiration abroad in Europe than at home in Mexico. In contrast to her peers, Grobet forged a path for herself by documenting the emerging Mexican pop-culture of the era. In her own words, Grobet describes her work as ‘scoffing at the notion of preciousness.’ Measured against the conventional standards of the time, Grobet’s early work is carnivalesque and ostentatious. Despite this, her success speaks for itself, as her photographs are undeniably compelling and possess an intimate quality that captures a previously unseen side of Mexican culture.

The sensitivity and humour with which Grobet approaches her subjects is apparent in all her portraits. Grobet has described herself as a “bad portraitist” because she likes to show people as they are, rather than how they would like to be. Throughout her wrestling series Grobet shatters the illusion of the all-powerful luchador. In photos ranging from heartfelt to bizarre, Grobet depicts the wrestlers at home playing with their children, out partying, applying their makeup and even performing mass. The images would be mundane if not for the fact the wrestlers often wear their fantastic costumes and masks during their everyday activities. Grobet’s depictions of these well-known public figures are revolutionary as they show both the toughness and the fragility of these men. Lucha libre fighters are well known for characterising a certain type of hyper-masculinity that is all too common in Mexico. Through merging their public personas and their private lives, Grobet does not strip them of their power and masculinity, but rather adds another facet to their identity. She shows her subjects as not just wrestlers, but also as fathers, sons and brothers.

LL FAMILIA Panterasurña

all images © Lourdes Grobet

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