The thought of Derrik Chinn in a Tijuana prison on Halloween night wearing Chuck Taylors, a fake Zapatista mustache, a lucha libre mask and, more confounding, the same gold sequin dress that “Miss Centro” is sporting on this week's cover of CityBeat, is certainly enough for us to give him props for having some major huevos.
“Wearing masks in public in Mexico is apparently illegal,” says the 28-year-old photographer via e-mail. “Even on Halloween. Thankfully, they let me keep my camera.”
And we're thankful, too. The Ohio native and music and nightlife editor for SignOnSanDiego.com has been documenting his love for his new adopted home since moving south of the border a couple of years ago.
“Tijuana possesses an energy that San Diego lacks,” says Chinn, who displays his work at derrikchinn.blogspot.com. “It soon became increasingly impossible to ignore the fact that an international border is visible from most hills in S.D., nor explore what I feel is the most overlooked and underrated city on the North American West Coast.”
“Miss Centro” is from a series of photographs that Chinn recently did for the HAHA Store in TJ called Quien Quiere Ser Miss Tijuana? (Who Wants to be Miss Tijuana?).
“Fancy-naca beauty pageant was the theme,” Chinn says. “Naca means tacky in Spanish. Well, Mexican Spanish. Everyone knows how intensely I love the tack, and no one does tacky as tastefully as Tijuana.”
“There was really no rhyme or reason to why I paired these particular eight Mexican ladies with the eight particular Tijuana neighborhoods that I did. They're all friends of mine, and I really enjoy taking photos of my friends. None are the pageant type. Most are actually well out of pageant age range, and I suppose aside from having lived in Tijuana at some point in their lives, that was the only prerequisite. All eight hoods are without a doubt iconic characters of the city. Shiny, prissy, dusty, poor, rich, trampy, tranny. Tijuana answers to all of the above.”
And despite the women's concerns that they'd look like drag queens and prostitutes (perhaps due to Chinn's incessant call for “bigger hair” and “heavier makeup”), Chinn says that all the women soon found their inner Little Miss Sunshine (albeit a little less sunny).
“One by one they stepped out of reality and into the game of pretend, and all apprehension eventually gave way to laughter and pouty lips galore,” says Chinn, who's thinking about taking on a similar theme (what he calls a “Tijuanafied take on Malibu Barbie scenes”) for a show in March 2010 at the Baja California Institute of Culture. “That's when I realized that I was giving grown women, two of whom are mothers, a chance to play dress-up and drink too much Chardonnay. So, if I have to come up with some sort of reasoning for taking these photos, I'll go with that.”