Working in her native country, Graciela Iturbide creates photographs
which have become synonymous with Mexican culture in all its diversity.
Born in Mexico City, Iturbide came to photography after marrying at the
age of twenty and having three children, fulfilling the pressures of an
upper-middle class family. In 1970, after the sudden death of her six-year
old daughter, Iturbide reassessed her life's purpose, which eventually
led her to an apprenticeship with Manuel Alvarez Bravo. This bond with
Mexico's greatest photographer led her to see her homeland as she never
had before, photographing indigenous people in small villages across the
Through Iturbide's images, we come to understand that the power of the
Catholic church could not erase the greater power of pre-Hispanic cultures,
which created a country flourishing with modern technologies [radio, television,
advertisements] yet cognizant and proud of its traditional and religious
customs. Her photographs tell a visual story of a culture in constant transition
though images of identity, sexuality, festivals, rituals, daily life, death
and the role of women. At times we see the clash between urban and rural
life, indigenous and modern life, as Iturbide effortlessly moves from community
to community on her personal journey through her homeland.
One of her most well-known projects was with the Zapotec Indians in
Juchitán, a community known for its rare matriarchal social structure.
This is evident in Nuestra Señora de Las Iguanas (Our Lady
of the Iguanas), in which an iguana wraps itself around the head of a woman
whose stoic stance reveals the strength and pride of Zapotec women who
take on the role of goddess and healer. Other images include scenes at
festivals in which young girls participate as angels and virgins. But there
are some festival closed to women, reserved for men only. It is here that
men explore gender, dressing as women in a street procession. In Magnolia,
Juchitán, Oaxaca a man posing in a dress holds a mirror up to
his face in a gesture of vanity and double personality. In Mujer Ángel,
Desierto de Sonora, Mexico (Angel Woman, Sonora Desert, Mexico) a Seri
Indian is seen from behind, wearing traditional clothing running along
a mountain ridge, the only hint of modernization is a boom box in her hand.
Graciela Iturbide has solidified her place as one of the most important
contemporary Mexican photographers, who images reveal her love of Mexico
and its people. Most recently, Iturbide has expanded her work to other
cultures. This can be seen in her images of the American South in which
she focuses on the effects of modern culture on the landscape. Whether
at home or in foreign lands, Iturbide's work explores cultural identity
and the ways people adapt to modernization.