The beauty of Mexico’s volcanoes can be matched by their power. Whether topped by snow or spewing towers of ash and smoke, they are a natural draw for would-be nature photographers. But to Hector Guerrero they are more than subjects for pretty pictures. The 33-year-old photographer sees them as embodying the environmental and social challenges facing his country.
For several years he has been photographing along the route of Mexico’s seven tallest volcanoes, showing the full range of weather conditions, the pressures on the environment and the forces that compel people to either flee to the United States or establish settlements in the shadows of volcanoes that could one day displace them. His images show areas where once-predictable snowfalls have dwindled, villages where residents have taken up arms to defend themselves against narco-criminals and new towns populated by people pushed off their land by mining or illegal logging.
“On this route you can find all the climates of the world and all the problems facing the big cities,” he said. “When you talk about violence in Latin America, you will find a lot of conflicts have their origin in the environment over control of water or mining. Yet people don’t make the connection. In Mexico we have a big problem with drug trafficking. But why do young people turn to organized crime? A lot of them come from displaced communities or places where the mines took away their traditional jobs.”
When he embarked on this project, he wanted to challenge the traditional way these places were portrayed. Rather than…