In the world's largest metropolis, Mexico City, the sport of the masses (second only to football) is the passionate and culturally vibrant Mexican wrestling, Lucha Libre. The name literally translates as 'free fighting'. Derived from Greco-Roman wrestling, Lucha Libre dates from the 1930's, developing over decades into a serious, yet theatrical sport whose players are known as 'Luchadores'. The legendary identity of each individual Luchadore is a captivating combination of sport, theatrics, passion and personality. This intertwines with the real person and life behind the mask, creating a dual identity which is jealously guarded like a family secret.
With his collection of over 120 portraits, Malcolm Venville ('Layers' 2003, Spine & Thames and Hudson) intimately observes the complexity of the Luchadore by capturing both the human element and stage persona of each wrestler, through direct uncluttered photography. In 2005, propelled by Andre Breton's remark that Mexico City "...is the last surrealist city in the world", Venville embarked on his personal mission. He chose a style that dealt directly with the enigma of the Luchadore, their elaborate costume design and extraordinary presence.
Using large format film photography and traditional camera techniques in a Mexico City studio, Venville purposefully took each character from the fighting arena to focus directly on their appearance. Beside each wrestler's portrait sits his fighting name, in custom designed typography, along with a revealing quotation carefully chosen from an in-depth interview with the subject. The result is a unique and compelling depiction of the life of a Luchadore - a world normally shrouded in mystery.