Debbie Fleming Caffery has been making photographs of the people and culture of her native Louisiana for over thirty years. Past projects include documentation of sugarcane field and mill workers, alligator hunting, and family portraits in Louisiana, as well as photographs of rural Mexico and Portugal. Caffery's deep south work has been included in solo exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego and the Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Photography.
For several years during the mid-1990s, on a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation, Debbie Fleming Caffery spent time photographing in a small village in northeastern Mexico, living on the grounds of the local Catholic church, and using a tortilla shack as her studio. In Mexico, the church is the center of village life, and she became accustomed to the flow of life surrounding it, replete with celebrations of religious feasts and the mysteries and secrets of community life.
One day she stumbled upon a cantina near the church that served occasionally as a brothel. The environment of the smoke-filled tortilla hut and the unpredictable happenings at the cantina became a central focus of her work. Of this period she has said, "I felt incredibly comfortable in a culture rich in celebrations of religious feasts, with strong, independent, highly emotional people, much like the people I grew up with in southwest Louisiana. Symbols of heaven and hell were dominant, both in the church environment as well as the cantina. The brothel brought new elements into my work: secrets, sensual needs, desire, and often unexpected love."
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