b. 1942, Mexico

Graciela Iturbide Biography

Known for photographing Indigenous communities across Mexico, Graciela Iturbide has spent five decades exploring the culture and everyday life of Mexico through a camera lens. Emerging as a prominent figure of Latin American photography in the late 1970s, she is widely recognised as one of Latin America's most important photographers.

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Born in 1942 to a large family in Mexico City, Graciela Iturbide was introduced to photography by her father at an early age. Nonetheless, it was only in 1969, after marrying and giving birth to three children, that Iturbide began to pursue her artistic passions. Between 1969 and 1972, she studied filmmaking at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, before turning to photography as the focus of her practice.


Iturbide's instructor and subsequent mentor, Mexican art photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo, served as a major influence on her work. Álvarez Bravo's interest in Indigenous communities and his philosophy of 'Mexican Tempo'—which championed a patient and observational means of artmaking—found its way into Iturbide's practice after travelling across Mexico with him as his assistant in the early 1970s. Iturbide was also influenced by preeminent French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, whom she later met while travelling in Europe, and the Italian American photographer and revolutionary activist, Tina Modotti.

Working with Indigenous Communities

Graciela Iturbide's photography came into its own in the late 1970s, when she became a leading figure in a developing movement of Latin American artists each seeking to redefine their nations' visual identities—a role previously held by foreign photographers.

In 1978, on commission from the Ethnographic Archive of the National Indigenous Institute of Mexico, Iturbide lived alongside and photographed Seri communities with anthropologist Luis Barjau. The product of this collaboration, Luis Barjau and Graciela Iturbide's book, Los que viven en la arena (Those Who Live in the Sand) (1981), stood out as one of the few Mexican studies on the subject at the time.

The experience of living among Seri peoples cemented Iturbide's commitment to building relationships with and documenting the diverse population of Mexico. Beginning in 1979, she began to photograph the Zapotec peoples of Juchitán. Refraining from the exoticised gaze that had typically characterised photography of Indigenous communities by outsiders, Iturbide befriended her subjects, lending her photographs a humanistic sensitivity. Seeking to document the variety of cultural practices within Mexico, Iturbide was interested in recording the communities' adaptation to capitalism and their differing perspectives on gender.

For example, Graciela Iturbide's Mujer Angel (1979) presents a Seri woman in the Sonoran desert carrying a tape recorder that she had bartered for with some Americans to be able to listen to Mexican music. Additionally, Iturbide's iguana-crowned Zapotec trader in Our Lady of the Iguanas (1979) presents an image of dignity and empowerment; she is the embodiment of Juchitán women, who are the primary economic and social drivers of the region. Graciela Iturbide's 'Magnolia' photographs from 1986, meanwhile, shed light on transgender identity within Indigenous Mexican communities.

Photographing Mexico and Beyond

Iturbide's examination of the interplay between cultural rituals and contemporary adaptations extends beyond Indigenous communities as an observation of Mexico as a whole. Graciela Iturbide's prints, in stark black and white, capture the confluence of Indigenous practices, imported Catholicism, and introduced ideas of economy within Mexican life and culture.

Expanding her exploration of culture to beyond Mexico's borders, Iturbide has also visited places like Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador, and has photographed members of the the Mexican community in Los Angeles. Graciela Iturbide's Birds On the Post, Highway, Guanajuato (1990) is demonstrative of her ability to transfer to nature the poetic lyricism and sensitivity with which she approaches human subjects.

Frida Kahlo

Widely recognised for her work in Mexico, Iturbide was invited to be the first to photograph Frida Kahlo's two private quarters in La Casa Azul when they reopened in 2005 for the first time following the artist's death in 1954. Graciela Iturbide's biography aligns in many ways with that of the famed Mexican modernist, as both of them relied on their art to cope with personal tragedy. Iturbide herself turned to photography as a form of therapy to deal with the loss of her six-year-old daughter, Claudia, who passed away in 1970.

Public Collections and Exhibitions

Over the decades, Iturbide's photography has received international attention and been featured in numerous institutional and gallery exhibitions worldwide. Her work can be found in major institutions including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), San Francisco; the Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. In recognition of her contribution to the field, Graciela Iturbide received the Outstanding Contribution to Photography award at the 2021 Sony World Photography awards.

Graciela Iturbide's solo exhibitions include Graciela Iturbide's Mexico, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2019); Graciela Iturbide, Tate Modern, London (2013); The Goat's Dance: Photographs by Graciela Iturbide, the Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2007); Images of the Spirit: Photographs by Graciela Iturbide, Philadelphia Museum of Art (1998); Graciela Iturbide: La forma y la memoria, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Mexico (1996); External Encounters, Internal Imaginings: Photographs by Graciela Iturbide, SFMOMA, San Francisco (1990); and Graciela Iturbide, Centre Pompidou, Paris (1982).

Graciela Iturbide's group exhibitions include Live Dangerously, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C (2019); Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2017); América Latina, 1960–2013, Fondation Cartier (2013); _Photography in Mexic_o, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2012); and Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2009).

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021

Graciela Iturbide Featured Artworks

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Procesión, Chalma by Graciela Iturbide contemporary artwork photography
Graciela Iturbide Procesión, Chalma, 1984 Gelatin silver print
20 x 15.1 cm
Taka Ishii Gallery Contact Gallery
Cabrita, Juchitán by Graciela Iturbide contemporary artwork photography
Graciela Iturbide Cabrita, Juchitán, 1979 Gelatin silver print
24 x 16.5 cm
Taka Ishii Gallery Contact Gallery
Primera Comunión, Chalma by Graciela Iturbide contemporary artwork photography
Graciela Iturbide Primera Comunión, Chalma, 1984 Gelatin silver print
22.1 x 15.8 cm
Taka Ishii Gallery Contact Gallery
Muchacha con vasija tonala' Oaxaca by Graciela Iturbide contemporary artwork photography
Graciela Iturbide Muchacha con vasija tonala' Oaxaca, 1974 Gelatin silver print
30.6 x 21.5 cm
Taka Ishii Gallery Contact Gallery
San Pablito, Puebla by Graciela Iturbide contemporary artwork photography
Graciela Iturbide San Pablito, Puebla, 1970s Gelatin silver print
23.2 x 22.9 cm
Taka Ishii Gallery Contact Gallery
Stone curlew, Juchitan by Graciela Iturbide contemporary artwork print
Graciela Iturbide Stone curlew, Juchitan, 1985 Gelatin silver print
Taka Ishii Gallery Contact Gallery
Convent of Hidalgo by Graciela Iturbide contemporary artwork print
Graciela Iturbide Convent of Hidalgo, 1981 Gelatin silver print
Taka Ishii Gallery Contact Gallery
Seri Woman, Sonora desert by Graciela Iturbide contemporary artwork print
Graciela Iturbide Seri Woman, Sonora desert, 1979 Gelatin silver print
Taka Ishii Gallery Contact Gallery

Graciela Iturbide Recent Exhibitions

Graciela Iturbide Represented By

Taka Ishii Gallery contemporary art gallery in Complex665, Tokyo, Japan Taka Ishii Gallery Hong Kong, Tokyo

Graciela Iturbide In Ocula Magazine

Graciela Iturbide In Related Press

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