Hidden Archive, RVM #11


Name: Graciela Iturbide
Date and place of birth: Mexico City, Mexico, 1942
Profession: Photographer
First camera: The first camera I used it was a Kodak Brownie, when I was 11 years old.
Last picture taken: The last photo I took were Llama Fetuses, two months ago. In Bolivia they are used to adore the mountain and the earth and they sell it in a street called The Witches market in La Paz.




• IN 1969 I WAS MARRIED WITH TWO CHILDREN BUT I DECIDED TO APPLY FOR A COURSE IN A CINEMATOGRAPHY SCHOOL. I was studying cinematography, I had always had an interest in images and when I met Manuel Álvarez Bravo at the university and worked with him, his vision of life, which is obviously reflected through his photographs, sensibly helped me to see life through the lens of the camera. Álvarez Bravo used to teach the photography class. I talked to him and I asked him to be part of his class. Not a long later he asked me if I wanted to be his assistant and I accepted immediately. That’s when I decided to go from cinematography into photography. However, when I was a young girl, my father, who was an amateur photographer, used to take photographs all the time. He kept them in a closet and I used to go to that closet to see those images. I never thought that I would be a photographer at those times but I think those family images have influenced me in a nostalgic way.

• I HAVE HAD THE PRIVILEGE TO TRAVEL WITH ÁLVAREZ BRAVO. That allowed me to get to know my own country. We travelled together through some rural towns so he could take photographs. He was a very delicate man and he always worried about his subjects. Like I said, with him I got the chance to get to know my country. He taught me to appreciate not only photography, but also Mexican popular art, and even some classical music. He gave me a full education in life.

• SINCE PEOPLE AND THEIR CULTURE WERE MY PHOTOGRAPHS’ SUBJECTS, I VISITED MANY DIFFERENT TOWNS IN MEXICO WHEN I STARTED WORKING ON MY OWN PROJECTS. I used to live with my subjects, just like I did in Juchitan and I strived to get to know them well and to get complicity with them. Where I am from there must be a right time for anything: for landscape appreciation, for legends, for grandparents’ tales to their grandchildren, there’s a right time to plough. I visited countries where traditional and very ancient festivals were celebrated. As time went by, these rituals have been transformed by globalization, but it is the introduction of contemporary elements that keeps catching my attention. I’d say that this kind of contamination between traditional imagination and contemporary imagination, typical of Mexico, has kept my job in constant evolution. More recently, I started to be interested in more abstract themes. I photograph landscapes and objects. And now that I travel a bit too often I try to photograph what surprises me and I use travel notebooks to work.

• I STARTED TO PHOTOGRAPH IN BLACK AND WHITE WHEN I WORKED WITH ÁLVAREZ BRAVO. I have taken some images in color but I feel more comfortable working in black and white.

• THE DAY I’LL STOP BEING SURPRISED WITH LIFE WILL BE THE DAY WHEN I’LL STOP TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS. For me photography is an important therapy, and at the same time, it is a way to gain my own freedom. It is also a chance to get to know different cultures around the world and to get to know the world itself. As a photographer I feel I have developed my own language but it can happen that my images change according to the place where I am and the influences I receive from what’s around me. When I work I try to feel surprised with what I see and with what I think that can be an important image for me. After that the ritual takes place during lab work and then I edit the images that surprise me the most.

• IN 2002 THEY ASKED ME TO COLLABORATE TO A BOOK CALLED EL ROPERO [THE WARDROBE] ABOUT FRIDA’S PERSONAL OBJECTS, WHICH ARE CONSERVED IN HER CASA AZUL IN MEXICO CITY. When I had access to Frida Kahlo’s bathroom I was very surprised. It remained closed for 50 years. I took photographs of what I found there, trying to make my own interpretation of her personal objects. My work portrays her crutches, her corsets, her Lenin’s, Stalin’s and Trotsky’s images. Her nightgown, covered in water colours and oil painting, which seems stained with blood. Her medicines, the morphine she used to take. I am interested in Frida as a woman and as an active political figure rather than as a painter. I am especially fascinated by her relationship with Trotsky. He spent the last years of his life in Mexico, in a house nearby hers.

• MOST OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS HAVE TO DO WITH FRIDA’S PAIN. During this project I was able to gain a much understanding of Frida’s painting. With so many accidents and surgeries I admire her strength in continuously working on her paintings. My vision of Frida Kahlo was different before I worked on this project. After I finished, I understood her work and the love she had for life.

• TECHNOLOGY IN PHOTOGRAPHY HAS CHANGED SO MUCH. Photography is more and more a democratic medium. You can take photographs even with a small device like cell phones. However, for me the analog way to do photography is still important. I still like to develop my film, to cut my contacts meaning…it is a ritual where I can take the amount of time that I need to think about what I did.

• THERE AREMANY YOUNG PHOTOGRAPHERS THAT INTEREST ME. Here in Mexico I like the work of Maya Goded, Pía Elizondo or Ana Casas.

• THERE IS ANIMAGE THAT I REGRETFULLY MISSED. I was distracted and got very surprised, which prevented me from taking this picture. I was taking pictures at a bike with some hens around it when I saw an older couple of newlyweds. I was so excited to see them that I could not stop that moment with a picture.

• AS FOR THE FUTURE, I HAVE MANY TRAVELS SCHEDULED; many shows planned and a residence in Japan that I’m really looking forward to it.