The Photographer Re-Discovering Her Mexican American Heritage


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The Photographer Re-Discovering Her Mexican American Heritage

Photographer Cristina Bartley unpacks the layers of her identity in this photo series exploring Latin American rituals, womanhood, and performance.

This essay originally appeared in the Privacy & Perception Issue of Vice Magazine, created in collaboration with Broadly. You can read more stories from the issue here.

In 2017, Cristina Bartley Dominguez was a senior photography student at the Parsons School of Design in New York City, but she didn’t have a clear idea what to pursue for her thesis. A professor, Justine Kurland, encouraged Bartley Dominguez to focus on a subject she had long wanted to explore: the performativity and politics of her Mexican American background, and how that layers her overall identity.


Now 24, she continues to explore this aspect of her identity and heritage. In her latest body of work, shown here, she attempts to unpack and comment on those marginalized in her community, via her own experiences as a mestizaje. Bartley Dominguez uses the female nude and sexuality as proclamations, she says, of female force and womanhood. According to her, objects present in her work often have dual meanings: For example, the image of the egg alludes to its presence in Latin American rituals and cleansings, as well as procreation, and the appearance of the color red invokes blood and the “flesh and roots of [her] civilization.”

She does not, then, use sexuality to provoke lust or desire, but rather to connect back to everything that surrounds her—“nature, a soul, and [her] roots.”