Still, in front of Rossell’s camera, they vamp and pout like Versace models working it for Steven Meisel. One bottle-blond with an Anna Nicole Smith figure spreads her legs on the marble floor of a hall filled with mounted hunting trophies. Another fierce glamazon, this one in a penthouse decorated with blackamoors and wall-to-wall carpet, snatches a peach-colored Kleenex with one hand while she yanks her bulldog’s leash with the other.
"The following images depict actual settings," reads the one-paragraph introduction to Rossell’s book (distributed by D.A.P. [Distributed Art Publishers]). "The photographic subjects are representing themselves. Any resemblance with real events is not coincidental."
Rossell should know, because she’s one of them — a member of Mexico City’s elite, whose wealth and political clout go hand in hand. Rossell descends from two Mexican governors, while her father is an attorney and her mother an art collector. She calls "Ricas y Famosas" "a family tree."
And she has produced a document as intimate and occasionally scathing as only a family member could produce. One dark-haired girl with blue eye shadow — a cousin? — smiles in the family chapel while her pet dachshunds hump each other on the floor.
"There is some theatricality," acknowledged Rossell, "but I was interested in keeping things as they were. I was interested in people’s concept about a photographer who comes into your home to take photographs — like for Vanity Fair or Hello."
She says that if her subjects used props — the granddaughter of former president Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, who rests a foot atop a stuffed lion, offering a peep beneath her pleated skirt, for example — it was only something ready at hand. Otherwise, the subjects were free to be themselves, amidst their expensive possessions.
"I would just say, ‘I want to take a picture of you,’ and not explain much," says Rossell. "Those models [the subjects of "Ricas y Famosas"] were willing to strike these poses, clichés you’ve seen a thousand times. I was interested in letting that happen."