Lucha Libre Extrema by Annick Donkers

Annick has been traveling widely in Mexico since 2002, and after many years of living between countries, finally decided to settle permanently in Mexico City.

Annick has been traveling widely in Mexico since 2002, and after many years of living between countries, finally decided to settle permanently in Mexico City.

The Lucha Libre Extrema series emerged from a growing interest she had in Mexican professional wrestling. She was soon drawn towards sub-genres of the sport such as Lucha Libre Exótica, involving androgynous and openly-gay wrestlers, and Lucha Extrema, an ultra-violent “hardcore” style.

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She began photographing Cassandro, a luchador “exótico” from El Paso, Texas, and became fascinated by the daily struggles he endured beneath the glamor and glitter of his stage persona. Through Cassandro, who became a close friend, Annick was introduced to many other figures within the world of Lucha Libre and began to cover the secretive, underground genre of Lucha Extrema. This semi-clandestine hardcore genre is prohibited in Mexico City because of how dangerous it is, but events still take place legally outside the capital, notably at a car wash-turned-arena in Tulancingo, the village where El Santo, Mexico’s most famous pro wrestler, was born. The participants receive professional training and are paid a little bit more because of the risks they take. They perform with a variety of weapons: chairs, thumbtacks, wire, and fluorescent lights, turning the ring into a war zone. Yet the community of luchadores “extremos” is closely knit and few outsiders have gained access.

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For Annick, Lucha Libre Extrema highlights the many contradictions in Mexican culture. Mexico has been a very violent place in recent years with gang wars, massacres, and the murder of students and journalists gaining widespread headlines. As such, Annick found it fascinating that people were drawn to the dangerous world of Lucha Libre Extrema. She turned her camera to the audience, especially the women and children present, in an attempt to understand why.

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 About Annick Donkers

Annick Donkers is a documentary photographer from Antwerp, Belgium, who currently lives and works in Mexico City. After obtaining a master’s degree in Psychology, she decided to study Photography. She studied at different schools in Mexico and participated in an artistic residence program called Residencia Corazón in La Plata, Argentina. She received a grant from the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations in 2008 and was selected to participate in the 2008 Seminar on Contemporary Photography at the Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City. She has won both Mexican and international photography competitions such as Survival International UK (2015), San José Foto Uruguay (2016), and the Sony Awards organized by WPO (2016) where she was awarded the third prize in the Professional Sports Category. She has been published in Belgian, Mexican, and international newspapers and magazines. She currently works on documentary stories for VICE News and the Mexican online magazine Tercera Vía.
Her work has been exhibited in Belgium at the Mexican Embassy, the Flemish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Mestizo Arts Festival in collaboration with the Mexican Embassy, and CONACULTA; in the Netherlands at the Wereldmuseum in Rotterdam; in Mexico at the XIII Biennial of Photography, Fotoseptiembre, the Academia de San Carlos, and the Centro Cultural de España; in Argentina at the MUGAFO in La Plata; in the United States at the Museo Cultural in Santa Fe as part of the AHA Festival of Progressive Arts; and in the United Kingdom at Somerset House as part of the Sony Awards 2016 competition, among other places. [Official Website]

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