Tampico is a beautiful tropical city located on the Gulf of Mexico, traversed by canals, dotted with palm trees, graced with kilometres of undeveloped beach.
It was the first major port in Mexico and was the centre of gas and oil production for decades, both of which brought in great wealth to the city and led to the construction of the majestic historic centre, with grand European 19th and 20th century architecture that rivaled New Orleans.
When the oil dried up and was then nationalized, and other ports with deeper waterways were constructed nearby, Tampico’s economy collapsed and the historic centre was in large part abandoned. The huge old office and industrial buildings still stand, although many have been abandoned for decades. The recent narco violence which has transformed Tampico into one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico has not only kept the city from renovating its abandoned past, it has also led to a new wave of abandonment, where thousands of people have fled the city without being able to sell their homes. Today, almost half of the businesses have closed in the historic centre, and some of the most impressive architecture now serves as home to giant trees growing inside the empty structures.
When I went out to shoot early in the morning there was almost no one on the street, and at night the streets were empty, as well. I focused my work on the most majestic office buildings, factories and old houses that were now home to the largest trees, an example of how even the developed, wealthiest cities can be reclaimed by nature in just a few years.
Although I photographed the structures as normal architecture, the green trees protruding from the roof or windows added an extra dimension to the work, revealing one possible (dystopian) future for all architecture.
Kurt Hollander is a photographer and writer originally from New York City, living in Mexico City since 1989. He publishes his writing and photographs in the Guardian, Vice and other media, and is the author of Several Ways to Die in Mexico City (2012), an autobiography.