An an­cient world in fo­cus

Wil­liam M. Frej’s pho­to­graphs of the Maya

Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

Wil­liam M. Frej’s po­etic pho­to­graphs of an­cient Maya cities in south­ern Mex­ico cap­ture the ro­mance of ru­ins. The pho­tos, taken over the past three years, are part of a larger se­ries that re­traces the route of Teobert Maler, an ex­plorer and pi­o­neer pho­tog­ra­pher of the late 1800s. Maler vis­ited hun­dreds of ru­ins in what is now Gu­atemala and the Mex­i­can states of Chi­a­pas, Cam­peche, and Yu­catán. An ex­hi­bi­tion of Frej’s images is on view at Pey­ton Wright Gallery. On the cover is Frej’s 2015 photo Palenque, Chi­a­pas, Mex­ico, which shows a de­tail of a ce­ramic in­cense burner that bears the por­trait of one of the city’s rulers from about A.D. 700.

On July 1, an ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tur­ing Wil­liam M. Frej’s pho­to­graphs of an­cient Maya ru­ins opened at Santa Fe’s Pey­ton Wright Gallery. The show en­com­passes 33 black-and-white pho­to­graphs taken over the past three years at Maya ru­ins in the Mex­i­can states of Chi­a­pas, Yu­catán, and Cam­peche. Frej had the dig­i­tal images pro­cessed as archival chro­mogenic sil­ver halide prints, some of which were then mounted on archival alu­minum. Any­one who has trav­eled to south­ern Mex­ico will rec­og­nize many old friends hang­ing on the walls, like the Temple of the In­scrip­tions at Palenque or the Arch at Labná. But the show is no­table for its many im­pres­sions of ru­ins few tourists have vis­ited, sites such as Hun­tich­mul, Pixoy, Xkank­a­bil, Xkich­mook, and Sabac­ché, the last named for a tree the an­cient Maya used to make black pig­ment. Frej’s pho­tos give a good sense of the scrub rain­for­est that dom­i­nates the Yu­catán Penin­sula, and re­mind us that the most vis­ited Maya ru­ins, Chichén Itzá, Tu­lum, and oth­ers, are con­stantly cleared of en­croach­ing veg­e­ta­tion. The images also show how many of the ru­ined build­ings have been re­con­structed

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