Acclaimed Photographer Gives Book-Signing at Wittliff Collections

Kasandra Garza
News reporter

Taken by Kasandra Garza
Taken by Kasandra Garza

The Wittliff Collections hosted a book-signing event of an acclaimed photographer’s work where he discussed how he found photojournalism, started his own publishing company, and diving into volcanoes.

Rodrigo Moya’s book is the first bilingual retrospective exhibition in the United States about his career and the first English/Spanish book to be published in the world about him and his work.

“We want to share what’s been done, preserve what’s been done and inspire the next generation,” said Lyda Guz, events coordinator for The Wittliff collection.

Moya kicked off the exhibition with a short biography before diving into his career. His wife, Susan Flaherty, assisted as his translator. Moya covered political issues in Latin America and Mexico during the 1950s-1960s, such as the Guatemalan revolution and poverty.

Guz said Moya is a significant photographer because of him being at the right place during scary times concerning the revolution.

“His eye for composition is fantastic but he also captured some amazing stories,” Guz said.  

Moya was born in Columbia. His mother was always taking photographs of their surroundings and never left the house without her camera. When Moya went to college at the University of Mexico, he intended to become a petroleum engineer.

Shortly after realizing he was not happy with this profession, nor did he enjoy the advanced math classes, he left college and soon discovered photography. In 1954, Moya began working for a print publication as a photographer.

“He is very politically motivated. He came from a middle-class artistic family, but he wasn’t interested in that kind of life or photographing that world,” Flaherty said. “He was interested in people that just don’t have a good life and the people on the margins of society.”

Photo taken by Kasandra Garza
Photo taken by Kasandra Garza

Moya described the media in the 50s as being controlled by the government; he felt as if his hands were tied and a silence fell over the Mexican press. Moya said he experienced difficulty in Guatemala and Venezuela while working from the inside aspects of the armed rebellions that shook various countries in Latin America. It was during these tough times when Moya was able to photograph crucial moments in Latin America, such as children running barefoot in the sand because they were poor and soldiers in the jungle.

Over time, he met journalists and writers who would serve as a muse for his artistic formation.

“In this way, I undertook my last flight from journalism and in 1968, took refuge in the risky undertaking of founding a small publishing business,” Moya said.

Moya took photos of well-known artists and lesser known folks in Mexico. Moya’s publication company was focused on fishing and the men of the sea. In 1980, the business collapsed.

The Wittliff Collections was a full house with fans of Moya, students and staff, including Manuel Garcia, an electronic media senior who attended the event on behalf of his photography class.  

“It’s for personal interest, just to learn more about Rodrigo Moya and how photojournalism works,” Garcia said. “My favorite work is the regular picture, there’s a story behind it and you want to know why.”

Moya ended the exhibition with a free book signing. His well-known work can be seen today at The Wittliff Collections.

The Wittliff Collection will continue to host events throughout the rest of the semester. A full schedule can be found online.

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