George O. Jackson Photo Exhibit In San Antonio

 Legacy of George O. Jackson
Mexican Festivals A Feast for the Eyes
 Marita Adair
In 2001, when George O. Jackson crossed the first goal line of his enormous Essence of Mexico Project  11 years after he started,hehad photographed 330 of the most important indigenous festivals in Mexico as they existed in the last decade of the millennium. He had also ensured that the more than 76,000 images would be housed at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin  and available to future  generations of scholars.

A portion of that legacy will be on view March 15-May 25, 2008, when the public is presented a glimpse of festivals in Mexico’s Huasteca region through Jackson’s lens at the San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas. El Cuerpo Adornado: Exploring the Aesthetic Spirit of Mexico  
with 25 life-size color giclé photographs. Over several years Jackson spent months in this culturally rich area where six Mexican states converge—Tamaulipas, Veracruz, San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo, Queretaro and Puebla.

He  describes the Huasteca region as “probably the most fascinating area left in Mexico.” Because there’s no disruptive commercial reason for the outside world to go there, it’s relatively untouched. Thus, this show reveals a world few outside of it have seen.

The Smithsonian Museum, which has a show of his photographs in progress in Washington, D. C., pronounced that Jackson “is widely regarded as among the most accomplished photographers of Mexican ceremonial life today.”
Whether or not there is ever hall of fame recognition for this contribution (in my mind, there should be), future generations will marvel at his stamina and cultural eye just as we do the work of other noted scholars such as Carl Lumholtz, Oscar Lewis,  Frederick A. Ober, Stephens and Catherwood and others who left us a distinct vision of Mexico in their time.

Over all, he searched out festivals in 23 Mexican states and the Federal District and included 62 cultural groups. Besides the Benson Library, Jackson donated 10,000 of the most publishable photographs to The San Antonio Museum of Art; the photographs from this show will remain in its permanent collection.
Statistics, however, fail at telling the whole Essence of Mexico story. As you may know, to photographically document a Mexican festival requires enormous energy and unflagging determination.  You have to be tough to keep up particularly when covering a festival start to finish as Jackson did; most festivals last several days from sunup to far beyond sundown. Jackson averaged 30 of these a year lugging a 35mm Nikon on each shoulder, bulging pockets of film, and all the other appropriate camera equipment. For at least half of the decade funding the dream was a constant uncertainty.
His show  of 150 images, Mexican Cycles, at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History,  in Washington, D. C.  has been held over through April of 2008. The Smithsonian images depict religious festivals in indigenous communities across Mexico. From there it will go on display at Mexico City’s  Museo Nacional de Antropologia de Mexico, followed by a 22-year tour to Mexico’s cultural venues around the world. A long tour for a big dream that continues to unfold.
Since the two shows mentioned here showcase only 200 of Jackson’s thousands of  photos, keep your eyes peeled, folks, there’s lots more to come. Jackson offers his festival prints for sale in large format. Contact him at  His more
contemporary work can be seen at