Death of a Beautiful Woman

It almost looks like a glamor shot magazines like Face or advertisers like United Colors of Benetton often throws your way. Her blonde hair looked so soft, her manicured fingernails so red, her glistening bracelet and handbag so readily beside, the red cross aide so solicitous in bending over her that you can almost feel like it has been staged. The woman was an actress named Adela Legarreta Rivas, but she was actually hit by a car and killed on Mexico City’s Avenida Chapultepec in 1979.

She was draped across a fallen pole, her arm hanging like a rag doll’s around it, the bridge of her perfect nose intersected by a single line of blood. It seems as if Edgar Allen Poe, he who elevated deaths of beautiful women into sublime art and said such death is “the most poetical topic in the world”, had taken this photo, but the man who captured this image was Enrique Metinides. Metinides, whose photos often looked like stills from pulp graphic novels and film noirs, is the most accomplished photographer for the Mexican version of tabloid press, the nota roja. As its name (bloody news) suggests, nota roja covers not celebrity scandals, but death and destruction: car crashes, fires, shootouts, suicides, etc.

Metinides is often called Mexican Weegee, but unlike Weegee, Metinides did not tune nightly into the police radio; he volunteered with Red Cross and often arrived at the scene with an ambulance crew. He photographed his first dead body before he was 12, a feat that earned him a nickname El Niño – the Kid – for his precocity. Although his work is not widely known outside of Mexico, this may be changing with a New York show in 2006, and a Time magazine feature recently.

See Time Magazine or Los Angeles Times for more graphic images from Enrique Metinides.

24 thoughts on “Death of a Beautiful Woman

  1. […] Crítica da Fotografia Contemporânea: Entrevista em vídeo com Enrique Metinides | Iconic Photos: Death of a Beautiful Woman | (Obrigado, Alexandre, pelo teu email) Partilhar no Facebook ou Twitter » Categoria […]

  2. What in the world is that on the bottom right? It can’t be her arm..cause I see both arms. It’s the same material as the shirt she’s wearing..what body part is that???

    • Its not a body part. It is her hippy style bag with beading. They were a fashion accessory for hipsters of the period.

    • Yes she was a journalist not an actress, on her way to meet her sister who was going to accompany her to her book release party. So sad!! And as I understand it, from watching the documentary about Enrique Metinides life as a photographer, he said she was cut in half when the vehicle struck her against that pole. So I imagine that is part of her bottom torso or legs. When you see the same image from the other side, the one that was published on another magazine at the time, there’s two large parts of her covered with sheets.

  3. […] Crítica da Fotografia Contemporânea: Entrevista em vídeo com Enrique Metinides | Iconic Photos: Death of a Beautiful Woman | (Obrigado, Alexandre, pelo teu email) « O que Portugal precisa de saber sobre a Islândia […]

  4. I’ve just found your blog as I’m researching for an essay I’m writing on the photograph. Your input was very helpful, although Metinides actually did tune into the frequencies of the Red Cross, the fire service, and the local police during his sleep, so would often get up in the middle of the night to photograph tragic events like this! At least it says so his book (published 2003).
    Grace 🙂

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  7. […] Death of a Beautiful Woman | Iconic Photos – The woman was an actress named Adela Legarreta Rivas, but she was actually hit by a car and killed on Mexico City’s Avenida Chapultepec in 1979. … Death of a beautiful woman, via Alina. […] Moartea unei femei frumoase at Miri Bratu. July 18, 2011 at 8:00 am. […]

  8. Just to clarify she was no actress, she was a writter and a journalist. In fact she was on her way on a presentation for her new book, that’s why she look so well dressed. Unfortunately she died that afternoon.

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