“In terms of book form, “Before the War” is not one cohesive “book” but rather a splintering of signatures, a splintering of narrative; a book broken up into pieces with an equally disjointed story. The photographs within are suggestive of the people and places affected by the drug war in Mexico. Yet the more information we are presented with, the less we seem to understand. This experience parallels the confusion of citizens living amongst it. Cartagena adds his perspective and leaves us questioning; What do we truly know? Who do we believe? What is really going on?” LARISSA LECLAIR for TIME
“Ultimately, Before the War visualises the confusion and the sense of defencelessness that was spread throughout the country during the war in a very powerful way. Without showing us the actual atrocities that have happened in the country, Cartagena describes these feelings and actions without excess – and the reader is required to be involved beyond simply turning pages of a book” .—RACHEL MORÓN for GUP Magazine
“Before the War is not the most transparent of books. It’s a bit messy in some ways. But it is ambitious in its scope. It is the start and not the end of a project that will develop into something altogether grander and more accessible, something that might one day lead to the end to the hypocrisy, corruption, and killing that have devastated great swathes of the country”.—COLIN PANTALL for Photoeye
“For Cartagena, “in 2008 the war against the drug cartels erupted in México. The State of Nuevo León in northeastern México became an increasingly violent place. The book project is a compilation of images and texts that obsessively revisit places where the war was eventually fought and look for signs of an evil that lay underneath but was invisible to everyone´s eyes at the moment these images were shot.” This complex project is indirectly a critique of photography itself which questions the “meaning” that photographic images seem to hold for the viewer. What do we really know by looking at a photograph of a landscape or a portrait at a given moment in time?” Douglas Stockdale for PhotoBook
“The images are full-bled in a series of small signature booklets, comprised like nesting dolls to make up the larger whole. Intentionally loose in formality, the publication inspires the viewer to function as an investigator. With my second peering, I found better pleasure engaging with the photos stream-of-consciously, ingesting the the images cinematically, excited in leaving the overarching story of the Mexican drug cartel wars behind and belied. This is photography and editing working its great tangle of nonfictitious and fictional ways. One of the few examples where elaborate and novel design doesn’t deter my excitement to flip and flounder”. MICHAEL AST for PhotoBook Melbourne
“Before the War is a fragmented story, in which what is seen or read is never fully complete, formally reiterating Cartagena’s frenetic photographic search for an origin of the evil that seems to haunt the region yet never appears as a singular event. Cartagena and editor Fernando Gallegos have thoughtfully sequenced an archive of individual histories, which fade in and out of a landscape that itself becomes a central character; and, in which it is difficult to tell what may represent good, and what evil. The book exemplifies the innovative spirit of current photobook production, as well as the ability of the photograph to capture what at times cannot be seen”. ASHLYN DAVIS for SPOT Houston Center for Photography
Selected as one of TIME Magazine Best Photobooks of 2015
Selected as one of the best books of 2015 Kassel Photobook Festival
Shortlisted for Photobook Award at Arles Photography Festival
In 2008 the war against the drug cartels erupted in Mexico. The state of nuevo leon in northeastern Mexico became an increasingly violent place. This book is a compilation of images and texts that obsessively revisit places where the war was eventually fought and look for signs of an evil that lay underneath but was invisible to everyone´s eyes at the moment these images were shot.
YALE Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, New Haven, Connecticut
Edition of 250 softcover 1 risograph booklet + 1 offset poster + $35 plus $20 for donkey shipping worldwide.