ROSSEL DANIELA

MEXICO CITY. MEXICO [1973]

Daniela Rossel is a Mexican photographer that uses her work to depict the privileged lives of the Mexican political elite related to the PRI Institutional Revolutionary Party. Rossell's mother was an art collector and the early exposure to art in her home encouraged her appreciation for the arts.

Rossell first studied theatre at the American School Foundation and became an actress by the young age of sixteen. Rossell later shifted from theatre to painting when she went to the Nation School of Visual Arts, but after a short time dropped out to pursue photography. Today, Rossell continues to make Mexican art in her home country and show throughout both Latin America, Europe and the United States.

 

The photographic series Daniela Rossell is best known for is Ricas y Famosas (Rich and Famous), which spanned over the years 1994-2001 and was published as a book in 2009. The first models for these photographs were as friends and family of the artist, who were Mexican elite, and then began to spread to other elite women who volunteered to model. Each model chooses how to depict their identity surrounded by their lavish material items and selling sex appeal in their poses. Rossell believes that her models are influenced by magazines and television show how they should perform in front of the camera because they want to look American. This quest to look American requires these models to modify their lifestyle and manipulation of identity that is a form of unhappiness. Despite having materialistically everything, these women struggle to find satisfaction in who they are because of the fantasy portrayed of America. When looking at the photographs is the large amounts of art and non-Christian icons mixed with Christian art found in these lavish homes. For example, one woman is posed lying seductively across a massive sized Buddha surrounded by champagne and money. The juxtaposition between sacred object and sexual attraction makes for a conflicting yet entertaining subject.

One of the themes of the series is femininity and the role of women. The artist describes the home as the territory of the women, and by taking pictures of women within their own homes we are granted a glimpse into this constructed world. For example, one of the subjects surrounds herself with self-portraits and includes her personal waiter in the scene, putting on display that this is a space dedicated to her. In these highly cluttered environments the female models blend in with the lavish objects and Rossell uses this composition to reemphasize the objectifying of women in photographs. Often seen in fashion and commercial advertising campaigns the women photographed become synonymous with the object being sold.

Another theme that is found in the series is Mexican history and identity. Rather than depicting the romanticized views of the Mexican villages or the harsh images of the urban poor, Rossell depicts the wealthy minority. Rossell herself is a part of this demographic and in turn this is the Mexican history she relates to. Also, the elite lives of her subjects were unknown to the rest of Mexico, her photographs also serve as social and political documents. After the release of her book Ricas y Famosas, the people originally had been eager to model were angry with the artist. The public praised Rossell for her cinematic eye and ability to create provocative photos showing that flashy lifestyles are visible in all cultures.