Our next Artist You Need To Know is Graciela Iturbide.
A prolific photographer perhaps best known for her black-and-white images of local people in her native Mexico, Iturbide frequently makes women the subject of her photographs, as she feels that they most perfectly encapsulate independence and sexuality – themes that inform much of her artwork. Iturbide’s photographs often mix a direct sharpness with a sublime magical realism.
From ART21: “For Iturbide, the camera is just a pretext for knowing the world. Her interest, she says, lies in what her eyes see and what her heart feels—what moves her and touches her.”
Iturbide was born in Mexico City. She studied filmmaking at the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos between 1969 and 1972, and worked as an assistant to photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo: it was this that set her on the path of embracing photography as her primary medium. While travelling Europe in 1978, she met Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the most significant photographers of the twentieth century. She is also one of the founding members of the Mexican Council of Photography. In terms of influences upon Iturbide’s artwork, besides the aforementioned Bravo and Cartier-Bresson, she was also effected strongly by Tina Modotti‘s photographs as well.
“Iturbide’s exquisite high-contrast black-and-white prints convey the starkness of life for many of her subjects. Traveling through Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, and the Mexican community of East Los Angeles, Iturbide documents the uneasy cohabitation of ancient cultural rituals and contemporary adaptations and interpretations. One of her particular interests has been the role of women, and since 1979 she has photographed the Zapotec Indians of Juchitán, Oaxaca, among whom women are commonly accorded places of power, and stereotypical gender roles are frequently subverted. Iturbide uses photography to try to understand Mexico in its totality, as a combination of indigenous practices, and imported and assimilated Catholic religious practices, and foreign economic trade.” (from ICP / International Centre for Photography)
Significant solo exhibitions have been mounted at National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC (2020): Minneapolis Museum of Art, Minneapolis, MN (2019): Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA (2019): Helinä Rautavaara Museum, Espoo, Finland (2015): Pinacoteca, São Paulo, Brazil (2011): Rencontres d’Arles Festival, Arles, France (2011): OMG Gallery for Contemporary Art, Düsseldorf, Germany (2003): Robert Miller Gallery, New York City (2003): Centre Pompidou, Paris (1982): the Philadelphia Museum of Art: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (1993): Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico (1996); and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2007).
Graciela Iturbide is also the recipient of the 2015 Cornell Capa Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2008 Hasselblad Foundation Photography Award, and in 2022 was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum. The many other awards that Iturbide has garnered for her art can be seen here.
Her work can be found in many collections. These include Bert Hartkamp Collection, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, Department des estampes et de la Photographie, Paris, France: House of the Americas, Havana, Cuba: House of Culture of Juchitán, Juchitán, Mexico: Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona, United States: Franco Fontana Collection, Milan, Italy: Mexican Council of Photography, Mexico City: Photo Library of Cuba, Havana, Cuba: Musée National D’Art Moderne, Center Georges Pompidou, Paris, France: Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California, United States: Riverside Museum of Photography, Riverside, California, United States: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, United States: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, United States: University of Parma, Parma, Italy: Gelman Collection, Mexico City: The J. Paul Getty Museum Collection, Los Angeles, California, United States: Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK: MAPFRE Foundation, Madrid, Spain; and the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America, Colchester, UK.
Iturbide has also – in collaboration with several writers – published a number of books of her photographs. Among these publications are Fiesta und Ritual: Graciela Iturbides Mexiko [Fiesta and Ritual: Graciela Iturbides Mexico] (1994): La Forma y la Memoria = “Form and Memory” (1996): Eyes to fly with: portraits, self-portraits, and other photographs (2006): the previously mentioned Graciela Iturbide: Juchitán (2007): Torrijos: The Man and the Myth (2008); and Des Oiseaux (2019).
Dana Ostrander (Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography, MOMA) has offered the following about Iturbide’s aesthetic: ‘Iturbide’s steady, respectful, unintrusive approach to representing Indigenous communities is informed by personal interactions. As she has said, “To me it’s more important to get to know the worlds I travel in; this knowledge is so attractive that the photography almost takes second place.”’
Much more of Iturbide’s work can be enjoyed – and you can learn even more about her impressive career – here.