An ancient world in focus
William M. Frej’s photographs of the Maya
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