Lola Alvarez Bravo (1903–1993) is widely recognized as Mexico’s first woman photographer. A pioneering figure in the rise of modernist photography in Mexico, she was a profound humanist who used the camera to chronicle the people and places of her beloved country over a remarkable six-decade career. The exhibition at Aperture Gallery, which is curated by Elizabeth Ferrer, a New York–based independent curator and writer specializing in Mexican and Latino art, features fifty-five vintage photographs spanning Alvarez Bravo’s entire career and is the first major representation of her work in over a decade. The exhibition will include several rarely seen and unpublished photographs. Additionally, the show will present an excerpt from a short film featuring Frida Kahlo made by Alvarez Bravo.
Alvarez Bravo’s oeuvre can be understood in the context of Mexico’s great post-Revolution cultural renaissance, which attracted such international artistic figures as Paul Strand, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Tina Modotti, and Edward Weston. She was a central figure in the Mexican modern art movement, and counted among her friends such luminaries as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Maria Izquierdo, and David
Alfaro Siqueiros, all of whom she photographed. Her best-known portraits, and ultimately the work for which she gained international recognition, are that of her colleague and friend Frida Kahlo. Primarily taken between 1944 and 1945, these portraits reveal a profound knowledge of Kahlo’s physical and emotional state of pain and conflict.
Diverse in subject and technique, Alvarez Bravo was a photojournalist, portraitist, and street photographer, as well as a teacher and curator. She moved to Mexico City from her hometown in Jalisco at age three, and Mexico City remained her home base for the rest of her long life—except for two years in Oaxaca with her then husband, the great Mexican photographer, Manuel Alvarez Bravo. She began making photographs, under his tutelage, in 1926. Although some of her earlier work reflects Manuel’s influence—they shared the same cameras and often the same roll of film—Alvarez Bravo achieved her own aesthetic during the 1940s and ’50s, concentrating on two particularly vivid bodies of work: portraiture and street photography. Her work is a spontaneous discovery of life lived in the moment—of human interactions, ritual, and the tasks of everyday life. She photographed outdoor barbers; letter writers in Santo Domingo; participants in religious rituals; children playing; people reading, sleeping, waiting, and watching. She was a magnificent storyteller who depicted her subjects with honesty, curiosity, and an abiding affection.
The exhibition, which will travel to other major venues worldwide, is accompanied by a stunning catalog, published by Aperture in conjunction with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona (October 2006). The first English-language volume on Alvarez Bravo to encompass the full range of her work, the book includes a foreword by Douglas R. Nickel, director of the Center for Creative Photography, and a text by Elizabeth Ferrer, which features interviews with the artist and her friends.