Xavier Tavera, born in Mexico City in 1971 and based in Minneapolis since 1996, is a conscientious and thought-provoking photographer who has made compelling portraits of people from all walks of life; however, he is best known for his nuanced portraits of members of the Latino community. These powerful pictures challenge our notions of race, gender, and class by subverting stereotypes and capturing the humor and pathos in identity itself. Viewers who carefully examine these images can expect to question their own assumptions, biases and prejudices.
Tavera is interested in telling a story about the people in his images, in a manner not unsimilar to the work of August Sander, Edward Weston or Diane Arbus. Details of the immediate environment and iconic objects strategically contribute to the narrative. Mining similarly rich terrain as Mexican photographers Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Hector Garcia and Enrique Metinides, Tavera is particularly well-versed at the expressions of Mexicans and Latino-Americans. However, he focuses more broadly on issues related to immigrant culture.
The photographer pays particular attention to compositional elements including textures, decorations, and surfaces. The work is ripe with Baroque imagery, featuring vibrant, highly-saturated colors. That is not to say Tavera’s photographs are overly formalistic or purely decorative. His photographs examine all of these elements and the attendant play of light as a means of expressing the essence of the subject. “Baroque” is not a word Tavera has himself used, but stemming from the original Portugese pérola barroca, or ‘irregular pearl’ it seems to fit his work beautifully- i.e., great beauty can be found in the unique characteristics that constitute each person’s own identity. These irregularities, rather than being seen as flaws or faults, are marks of distinction that imbue each of us with individuality and dignity. Xavier Tavera knows this truth innately, and his photographs celebrate it wordlessly.