Three Mexican Photographers

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    Ian McNab

    In South American literature and art, spiritual and magical events are routinely and unremarkably part of life in the ordinary mundane world. This ‘Magical Realism’ informs the work of internationally renowned South American writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez (“One Hundred Years of Solitude”), Isabel Allende (“The House Of The Spirits”) and Laura Esquivel (“Like Water for Chocolate”).

    The interplay between the magical and the mundane also infuses the photographs of three remarkable Mexican photographers: Manual Alvarez Bravo, Gaciela Iturbide and Flor Garduño.

    Manuel Alvarez Bravo was a towering presence in South American photography for the whole of the twentieth century. Born in 1902, Alvarez Bravo lived until 2002, and was active as a photographer for eight decades from 1920 until the very end of the 1990s. Graciela Iturbide was one of his many students; and Flor Garduño worked for two years as his darkroom assistant, learning not only Alvarez Bravo’s particular skills in silver, platinum and palladium printing, but also absorbing his philosophy and approach to photography and art.

    The magical realism we see in South American art and literature has echoes of Surrealism. But the connection with Surrealism for Alvarez Bravo was both direct and personal: he met and became friends with André Breton, the founder of Surrealism, in 1938; and Breton promoted and exhibited Alvarez Bravo’s work in France. Alvarez Bravo had already been interested in Surrealist ideas when, in 1935, he and Henri Cartier-Bresson held a join exhibition in Mexico, during the Frenchman’s two-year excursion there. (Cartier-Bresson, who described himself a Surrealist, knew Breton and the early Surrealists from socialising with the newly-formed group at their meetings at the Café Cyrano in Paris in the mid 1920s.)

    Be all this as it may, we only need to look at the photographs to appreciate the particular way of seeing that these three great Mexican photographers share:



    Manuel Álvarez Bravo, La buena fama durmiendo (The Good Reputation Sleeping), 1938




    Graciela Iturbide, Mujer ángel, Desierto de Sonora, México (Angel Woman, Sonora Desert, Mexico), 1979




    Flor Garduño, Rapto, Suiza, 2008 from the series Mujeres fantásticas (Fantastical women)



    If you wish to see more photographs by these photographers, here are links to their websites:

    Manuel Alvarez Bravo

    Graciela Iturbide

    Flor Garduño



    Must study this more later—Flor is great—–I think—maybe a good example we in clubs could see as an example of breaking away from the shackles we now practice in photo clubs. Perhaps work in small groups as Wigan 10 do. Thanks Ian—good stuff..

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