Photographer Gina LeVay Talks about Catching Bullfighter Lupita Lopez in Action

We ask the photographer of September’s photo essay on Lupita Lopez, one of the few female bullfighters in Mexico, about her experiences with this project.

What inspired you to photograph a female bullfighter?

I started the project on female bullfighters in 2007 in Spain. About a year ago, I was hoping to go to Mexico because I heard there were a few young women there that were starting to take up bullfighting. I thought Lupita Lopez was a fascinating subject because there are probably four women in the world who are bullfighters. It’s a very small community, so it’s a very hard life.

What was your favorite thing about shooting Lupita?

The contrast of the beauty and brutality that I was witnessing.  Bullfighting is a blood sport, but to see this woman who is young and physically so attractive and also confident was gorgeous for me to capture.  She had a very sensual way about her—that dance with the bull, the overall ritual of how she got ready and her presence.

What were you feeling when you saw Lupita get gored the day you were shooting?

It was surreal. It was a pretty significant bullfight because she was opening up the season in Plaza Mexico, the biggest bullring in the world. That was one of the first ten shots that I photographed—the one when she got hit. I was amazed that I was there ready to go, because a split second later I probably would have missed it. It just looked so intense. She was like a rag doll.

How did Lupita inspire you?

She’s a model woman—smart, but also fun and down to earth. And the fact that she’s doing this out of the joy that she gets. She’s fearless. That was an inspiration for me—to see her in her Mexican culture be such a strong and determined successful woman, in and outside the bullring.

Read more about Lupita Lopez in the September issue of Latina magazine.