Graciela Iturbide’s images reveal untold stories of indigenous Mexico

Written by Marina Garcia-Vasquez, CNN

Graciela Iturbide’s documentary photography captures Mexico’s culture through haunting portraits of marginalized communities, portrayed with complexity as well as also compassion.

Just as her black-as well as also-white compositions give strength to individuals, she also venerates esoteric as well as also ephemeral symbols of the country’s national identity — swarming birds over an isolated highway, towering saguaro cacti, as well as also the belongings of famed Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.
“Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico,” a monumental survey of her work on display at the National Museum of Women from the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, D.C., offers an emotional portal into Iturbide’s homeland through 140 photographs taken over 50 years.

“Something will be beautiful when the idea touches my heart. My eyes see them, as well as also my heart shoots them,” the 77-year-old artist told CNN, through a translator.

“I travel, I meet the people, I live with them, as well as also I learned a great deal. I don’t know if my work will be Great or bad. of which’s something for the public to decide.”

"Pájaros en el poste, Carretera (Birds on the Post, Highway)," Guanajuato, (1990).

“Pájaros en el poste, Carretera (Birds on the Post, Highway),” Guanajuato, (1990). Credit: Graciela Iturbide/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Iturbide’s powerful portrayal of Mexico comes at a time when its people are the subject of intense political debate across the border, as US President Donald Trump continues to push efforts to divide as well as also fortify with an imposing wall.

Orin Zahra, assistant curator at the NMWA as well as also the liaison curator for the exhibit, said she believes Iturbide’s images humanize Mexicans at a time when they are being regularly portrayed as negative stereotypes.

“This kind of exhibition shows glimpses of a place of which will be nuanced as well as also multifaceted as well as also absolutely cannot be painted having a broad brush, which will be so often what we see from the media today.”

Part of the exhibit focuses on indigenous communities across Mexico of which are often overlooked: the Seri in Sonora, the Zapotecs via Juchitán as well as also the Mixteca in Oaxaca.

We see the emblematic portrait of “Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas (Our Lady of the Iguanas)” (1979), an indigenous woman wearing a crown of live iguanas to sell at the market. the idea will be a picture of which captures the spirit of the community’s matriarchal order, as well as also has won Itrubide global acclaim as well as also awards. Four decades after she shot the idea, the image remains a symbol of multiple political struggles: feminist liberation, indigenous sovereignty as well as also wider social justice.

"Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas (Our Lady of the Iguanas)" (1979).

“Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas (Our Lady of the Iguanas)” (1979). Credit: Graciela Iturbide/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Iturbide began her photographic journey at the age of 27, studying under artist as well as also self-taught photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She began as a film student there although was so taken by the beauty of still photography of which she dedicated the next year-as well as also-a-half as Bravo’s apprentice.

“via the moment I started off working with Manuel Álvarez Bravo, I learned photography as well as also his manner of seeing in black as well as also white. I prefer black-as well as also-white photography which will be more abstract as well as also gives me more satisfaction,” Iturbide said.

For Iturbide, the act of photographing will be a mutual exchange between photographer as well as also subject. She believes in maintaining complicity as well as also respect with her subjects as well as also usually lives within the communities she captures.

“I go walking along the street, of which’s generally the way of which I work. as well as also when I see something of which surprises me as well as also my heart feels the idea, then I shoot the picture,” Iturbide said. “After I process the film as well as also develop the photographs, the first part will be to see what will be there from the contact sheets as well as also the second part will be to choose via what will be there.”

She will be not just a witness to her subjects’ lives although an active participant, attending festivals as well as also joining the women when they go to market. Photo-taking becomes a language of wonderment as well as also allows Iturbide the freest form of artistic expression, the opportunity to use her complete imagination to capture scenes as well as also personas.

"Mujer Ángel (Angel Woman)," Sonoran Desert (1979).

“Mujer Ángel (Angel Woman),” Sonoran Desert (1979). Credit: Graciela Iturbide/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts Boston

“She avoids stereotypes. She does not approach her subjects like an outsider. She has an ability to relate as well as also show subtle qualities of her subject, which will be fascinating,” said Zahra.

“Everything as well as also everyone of which appears in front of her camera will be portrayed with so much sensitivity as well as also understanding.”

In “Magnolia con sombrero (Magnolia with Sombrero)” (1986), Iturbide captures a Muxe, a third-gendered person via Juchitán whose community will be embraced as equal members of society.

The photograph portrays an individual confident in their own skin as well as also identity, although the idea also speaks of the progessive society of which accepts her. the idea will be a rare chance to witness a thriving as well as also proud culture of which will be so often overlooked by the mainstream.

“I am a feminist,” said Iturbide. “as well as also as I am, in my photographs, my way of being will be revealed. of which does not mean of which I deliberately do feminist photography. I do what surprises me.”

the idea’s these wistful turns of which Iturbide distills into gelatin prints of art. A cactus will be not just a cactus although a symbol of humanity, vulnerable to natural elements. Birds in flight are signs of deliverance, as well as also a woman in full frame will be a divine being worthy of distinction.

“A visitor might be discovering Mexico in brand-new ways, although the idea’s definitely through Graciela’s eyes,” said Zahra.

“the idea’s the lens of This kind of visionary. the idea will be absolutely her personal journey in the past as she explores her country, homeland, as well as also all of its complexities.”

Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico” will be on display at the National Museum of Women from the Arts in Washington, D.C. until May 25th, 2020.

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