Mexican artist Graciela Iturbide is considered on of the most important and influential Latin American photographers of the past four decades. Born in 1942 in Mexico City to a wealthy, conservative Catholic family, Graciela Iturbide was the eldest of 13 children. Despite her ambitions to be a writer, family and societal pressure persuaded her to marry at the age of 20 and have three children.
In 1969, she decided to enroll at the Centro de Estudios Cinematográficos at the Universidad Nacional Autónama de México to become a film director. When she took a class with master photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo, she began concentrating her interests on photography. Bravo was greatly impressed with Iturbide’s talent and invited her to be his assistant. She worked closely with Bravo from 1970 to 1971 and was deeply influenced by his poetic style, however, Iturbide wanted to focus her efforts on what she described as “photo essays” as opposed to individual photographs as works of art.
Iturbide traveled to Europe where she met internationally renowned photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose notion of the “decisive moment” (the creative moment when the photographer decides to capture a photograph) greatly influenced her work. She returned to Mexico where she spent the 1970s working for the Instituto Naciola Indenista documenting indigenous cultures throughout the country.In 1979, at the invitation of the painter Francisco Toledo, Iturbide began photographing the Zapotec women of Juchitán, documenting this ancient, matriarchal community. For more than a century, the socially and politically independent women of Juchitán—located in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico—have been viewed as symbols of national strength. Iturbide photographed the community’s marketplace, scenes of domestic-life, as well as rituals and special celebrations.
Iturbide refused to approach her work as an outsider, choosing instead to visit and interact with the communities in which she worked. “I usually get to a town with my camera and I introduce myself as a photographer. I tell the people that I plan to stay for a while. I like it when people know that I am taking their picture. Complicity, for me, is looking at someone and discovering that they are looking back. If I don’t get that answering look, I don’t get results,” said Iturbide.
Her interest, she says, lies in what her eyes see and what her heart feels—what moves her and touches her. Although she has produced studies of landscapes and culture in India, Italy, and the Unites States, her principal concern has been the exploration and investigation of Mexico—her own cultural environment—through black-and-white photographs of landscapes and their inhabitants, abstract compositions, and self-portraits. Her images of Mexico’s indigenous people—the Zapotec, Mixtec, and Seri—are poignant studies of lives within the bounds of traditional ways of life, now confronted by the contemporary world. Turning the camera on herself, Iturbide reveals the influence of her mentor Manuel Álvarez Bravo in self-portraits that transform her quotidian self and play with formal innovation and attention to detail. She has also documented cholo culture in the White Fence barrio of East Los Angeles and migrants at the San Diego/Tijuana border, illuminating the bleak realities of her subjects’ search for the American Dream.
- National Museum of Women in the Arts, https://nmwa.org/blog/2011/03/17/photographer-graciela-iturbide-capturing-the-spirit/
- Art 21, http://www.art21.org/artists/graciela-iturbide
- GracielaIturbide.org, http://www.gracielaiturbide.org/en/
- An Acclaimed Photographer Finds Poetry In The Ordinary, Alexa Keefe, NationalGeographic.com, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2016/06/photographer-graciela-iturbide-finds-poetry-in-the-ordinary/
- wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graciela_Iturbide