Mexico City, Mexico
Author: Grace Banks
Fri Apr 01 2022
Capturing young womanhood and the electrifying moment when young women come together for the first time around a shared love of dressing, beauty and the conversations that form from these experiences? Mayan Toledano wrote the rule book on it. Mayan is a photographer whose way of presenting a female muse with warmth and verve – a woman on her bed looks ethereal and optimistic because Mayan contrasts her image with bubblegum pink bed sheets, cartoon posters and canopy bed frames, while Madonna’s daughter Lourdes Leon looks autonomous and independent reclining in the passenger's seat of a convertible – has made her the ultimate pioneer of the female gaze.
“I go back and forth between NYC and Mexico City a lot – Mexico City feels like a creative home to me” Mayan says of her shoot, where she’s fused her instinct of bringing out the intimacy of female groups to the streets of Mexico City. “I wanted to share that feeling with my best friend Maya, who came to meet me here all the way from Tel Aviv”, The Israel-born photographer has an instinct with location scouting, often eschewing commercial global fashion capitals in favour of places she simply feels at home, and where she has a group of people she loves around her. “I love the friends that I made there, '' she says of Mexico City, “the parks, the colors, the food. It always feels like a home of rest and inspiration to me.”.
Mayan is the photographer who brings women together. In the past, she’s photographed Paloma Elsseser, Lourdes Leon and Chloe Wise. For this shoot, it was no different. “I brought a group of my friends together, we tried on clothes at home and I wanted to take portraits of our day as naturally and fun as it was for us.”. Mayan toys with the idea of the muse in this series, seeing the contemporary muse as that of friendship and community. “I’ve had this idea to shoot Maya and Natalia together for a really long time” she says, “Maya is one of my best friends in the world and Natalia is someone I shot in Mexico before and always thought they look similar, like sisters but also in their energy. So I knew bringing them together would make sense and it immediately did when they met.”.
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Presenting young womanhood and the early stages of the formation of identity is important to Mayan. Shooting in Mexico, where 2021’s International Women’s Day protests descended into brutal police clashes – in which women were protesting the fact that ten women are murdered each day in Mexico, the mediative power of female friendships feels bittersweet here. “I think we find a lot of rest in each other. A lot of times the women in my photos are depicted in their natural state, not posed or given direction and I like that”, she says of the power female community offers her photography – “the spontaneity and trust in knowing I can only capture who they are today, what they want to show, what they’d like to bring.”.
This meditative quality comes through in these photos, which were derived from a personal desire for connection and kinship for Mayan and her friends. “This trip was born from me and Maya wanting to see each other at a time we both needed comfort and support. I think that comes through in the photos as well.”. For Mayan, her hometown of New York wouldn’t cut it, it had to be Mexico City. “It’s the only place in the world where I don’t constantly ask myself questions” she tells me, “like a home in between.”.