The origins of Santa Muerte - a religion/cult that has been denounced as satanic by the Mexican Catholic Church - can be dated back hundreds of years. It was developed through a syncretism between indigenous Mesoamerican and Spanish Catholic beliefs and practices. Only in the last decade however has it become more predominant in Mexican society, where many commentators have noted its rise with the killing and violence associated with the war between rival drug cartels and the Mexican Government.
Since 2011 British photographer Angus Fraser made several visits to Mexico, researching, interviewing and documenting Santa Muerte devotees. His work examines the contrast between Western and Mesoamerican perception and acceptance of death. His images include portraits of believers, spiritual leaders, shrines, private and public altars, paraphernalia, prayers, ceremonies, and street gatherings. Making contact with many individuals who originally built and manage the shrines, now considered to be guardians and spiritual leaders of the faith, they gave him access and permission to photograph not only in their places of worship but also in their private homes. He also had access within the prisons, where Santa Muerte has a very strong following amongst the Mexican penitentiary system. As he states: "I was accepted by the cult s following and given unlimited access into a world that is considered macabre, illegal and even satanic by the mass media. Admittedly, along the way I encountered individuals who lived up to the Santa Muerte stereotype that the US and European media have created. But on the whole the hospitality, kindness and warmth I was shown contradicted all the negative perceptions I had read, seen and heard. My aim is to tell their side of the story and in part my own."
Santa Muerte by Angus Fraser is the inaugural publication for the Bar Tur Photobook Award.
Signed copy. Recommended.