2022 — Mexico
About this series
Gemma Mávil left her home in 2011 for a job interview and never returned. Through “Letters to Gemma” I explore this woman’s absence, by immersing myself in her world in Mexico, documenting the places she once inhabited, the poetry she wrote, the flowers she grew and the sad memory of her desire to live. Throughout this series I use the self-portrait as a prism into Gemma’s intimate world, suspended in time, as her life was suspended at the moment she disappeared. In telling her story and that of her family, I reflect on the unbearable pain that surrounds the thousands of people in Mexico who have suddenly vanished. The growing toll of victims is more than just a number. It is made up of individuals with stolen life stories. According to the federal database in Mexico one person disappears every 2 hours.
I walked by your door, that remains open waiting for you to enter smiling, as if anything had happened, a delay on the bus, a meeting with a friend, or you just lost track of time reading a book, as you liked to do. As if these years had not eaten the walls and turned off all the lights in the house. But today, only I arrived.
You were my age when your dreams were destroyed, and since I heard your story, I am afraid that someone will turn off mine, and if today I disappear, knowing your story they would read mine, because I inhabit your spaces, I recognized and embraced the tired eyes of your parents and I cried your interrupted story.
Your kindness, the religious union with your mother, the flowers you cultivated, your connection with the water, and the sad memory of your desire to live, will always be painfully breathed in these spaces and I, without knowing you, do not stop feeling you.
By Mariceu Erthal
Mariceu Erthal is a photographer born and based in Mexico, she uses documentary photography as a bridge to reflect and question humanitarian issues that cross the Latin American territory. Her line of work mixes image and writing to reflect on social, political and autobiographical issues.
She is one of the Eugene Smith Memorial Found 2020 grant recipient and her work has been published in National Geographic, Bloomberg, The Guardian, Le Monde, WHO, Witness by World Press Photo, among others. She was selected by World Press Photo’s 6×6 Global Talent Program (2019), and also was selected for the New York Times portfolio review (2020 and 2022).