08 June 2008

Meeting Graciela Iturbide

Self-Portrait with fish, Pachuca, 1996
© Graciela Iturbide

The F Blog: We are glad and proud to see you here, Sra. Iturbide, as an invited guest to the F Blog. Please allow us to congratulate you for being awarded the Hasselblad prize.

Graciela Iturbide
: Dear Ulf, I appreciate the invitation to participate in this interview and it will be a pleasure to meet you in Gothenburg.

The F Blog: In October when you receive the award in Gothenburg, there will also open an exhibition of your work. We look forward to meet you again in Gothenburg and tell our readers all about the ceremony and exhibition. But where else will your photos be seen this year? The F Blog has readers from all around the planet and I am sure they will find it interesting to know about your plans for exhibitions.

Graciela Iturbide
: This year I had an exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, USA, called The Goat’s Dance, which was accompanied by a catalogue. Early in 2008, at the Americas Society in New York I showed a series about the people of Panama and their leader at that time, General Omar Torrijos. The exhibition is accompanied by a book titled, Torrijos: The Man and the Myth, and will be shown throughout the United States.

In August 2008, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, an exhibition titled Ojos para volar, is being shown, along with a book with the same title, edited by The University of Austin, Texas. In October 2008, El Baño de Frida, is being shown; and on October 24, as part of the Hasselblad prize, there will be an exhibition and a book.

The F Blog: Sra Iturbide, you photographed many images of "classical" Mexican culture that has changed or is disappearing; what do you miss of the classical and what interests you in contemporary Mexico?

Graciela Iturbide:
In 1969, with my teacher Álvarez Bravo, I had the good fortune to be able to visit villages in Mexico where festivals are celebrated constantly, always accompanied with traditions and rituals with have been transformed throughout time due to globalization.

However, the introduction of different modern elements is always fascinating, such as substituting ancient masks with paper masks, animal bones, or plastic ones, which acquire their own meaning; in that way the Mexican imagination, whether traditional or contemporary, continues to interest me. The ritual continues. My work is constantly changing. Right now I’m interested in landscapes and objects, as much from Mexico as from other countries.

The F Blog: Sra. Iturbide, often the subjects of your photos are marginalized socially (indigenous peoples, the transvestites in Juchitán, the cholos of East Los Angeles) and you photograph them with total equanimity and respect. What attracts you to difficult subjects and themes that question the status quo? Are they documentary photos?

Graciela Iturbide: For me photography is a pretext for getting to know other cultures and the world. In the case of Mexico, my work in the indigenous regions was very enriching and a privilege to be with the people in their daily reality.

In Juchitán, the Zapoteca culture is known for being strong and proud, the transvestites are accepted within the society and it’s said that when a woman has a homosexual son that he will be a help with the house and work.

The Gossipers, Juchitán, 1986
© Graciela Iturbide

The F Blog: The images of the cholos seem very intimate. How did you have the opportunity to take such intimate photographs in East Los Angeles?

Graciela Iturbide: The cholos are Mexicans who belong to gangs in the US. I was interested in knowing about their way of life in that country and I had the opportunity to live with them. They were very friendly people with whom I felt an affinity and could take the photos and where I observed their nostalgia for Mexican traditions.

The F Blog: Among the photos shown here on the F blog there is one called Seris - it is a picture of a woman carrying a radio in a desert landscape. It’s a photo that once you have seen it, it will always stay in your mind. Today we are exposed to thousand of pictures every day, but in this flow of images, what is it in a photograph that gets your attention, what is it that makes you remember it, even after a very long time.

Graciela Iturbide: The photograph Mujer Ángel was taken in the Sonaran desert, she is a Seri Indian. I called it Mujer Ángel because in some way it represents the change that this community had. Until 80 years ago they were nomads and abruptly entered in to the capitalist system of the US. They trade their folk art for electronic equipment like radios, videos, etc and the use of this equipment within their culture is very interesting to me.

The photo Mujer Ángel was taken casually and when I saw the contact sheets I didn’t remember the moment in which I taken the photo. In this case, I feel that it is an image that the desert gave to me.

There are images in the history of photography as much as in the history of painting that one can’t forget. For example I will never forget the Madonna del parto by Piero della Francesca nor the La Piedad by Eugene Smith. What has intensity is what reaches and stays with us.

The F Blog: Sra Iturbide, how do you feel about showing your photos on the Internet? Do you have a web site?

Graciela Iturbide: I’m very happy that I can show my photos on a blog, and unfortunately, even is it isn’t essential, I don’t have a website but I’m in the process of getting one.

The F blog: The Hasselblad Award has been granted many famous photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Irving Penn, Josef Koudelka, Christer Strömholm, to mention a few, and of course, your compatriot Manuel Alvarez Bravo. With some great exceptions most of the photographers awarded are men. How about you, Sra Iturbide, are there any woman photographers who have served as inspiration for your work?

Graciela Iturbide: There are women and men photographers who have inspired my work. It isn’t a question of gender but of sensibility. I’ve always liked the work of Francesca Woodman and in some way it has inspired me.

House of Frida Kahlo, Mexico City, 2007
© Graciela Iturbide

The F Blog:
Sra. Iturbide, you were the first person allowed to enter some of the rooms in Frida Kahlo´s house, rooms that had been locked for 50 years according to the wishes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Could you describe your feelings entering these rooms and your feeling about photographing there?

Graciela Iturbide: According to the decision of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo’s room was supposed to remain closed for fifteen years but for some reason it remained closed for more than fifty years. I had the good fortune to be invited by the museum to work on this project.

It was very difficult for me to enter the bathroom and see all the objects that had been stored for so much time. I dedicated myself to interpret the objects of Frida, her corsets, prosthesis, etc; which is to say, the objects that related to her pain.

The F Blog: Many thanks for participating in this small interview Sra Iturbide and we are hoping to see you in person in Gothenburg, Sweden later this year.

Graciela Iturbide: Thank you for the interest in my work.

The Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography of 2008 will be handed over to Graciela Iturbide in a ceremony held in Gothemburg, Sweden 25 October.

The Foundation’s citation:

Graciela Iturbide is considered one of the most important and influential Latin American photographers of the past four decades. Her photography is of the highest visual strength and beauty. Graciela Iturbide has developed a photographic style based on her strong interest in culture, ritual and everyday life in her native Mexico and other countries. Iturbide has extended the concept of documentary photography, to explore the relationships between man and nature, the individual and the cultural, the real and the psychological. She continues to inspire a younger generation of photographers in Latin America and beyond.

Visit www.hasselbladfoundation.org for more information about the Hasselblad Prize.

The Graciela Iturbide weekend on the F Blog is a cooperative effort by Beatriz Rowland, Fredrik Skott and Ulf Fågelhammar. This interview will also be published in the original language - Spanish.


Mikael said...

Very Interesting and once again, thanks for being here on F blog!!!

Sarah said...

Yes, very interesting. I would love to see your photographs IRL!

Rhonda said...

The self-portrait with the fish is so strong and powerful, as are all the photographs, but that one, in particular, speaks to me, very loudly! Thank you for sharing these photos and words!

jeanne said...

Thank you so much for generously sharing your photos and your thoughts with us here on the F Blog. The work is beautiful & powerful --

Mats Ä said...

Great photography, thanks for being on the f-blog!

chris said...

Great interview and so much fun to hear some of your thoughts regarding photography and art!


Anonymous said...


abeku said...

Nice to meet you, Graciela!

Tiberio said...

What a good reading I had this evening. Thanks to all of you.

wan said...

very, very interesting and great photography ... brilliant portfolio !!!

April said...

A tremendous interview, thank you. I am in love with Ms. Iturbide's work. I bought Images of the Spirit in New Orleans (on my honeymoon 10 years ago) and it is still so moving to me...thank you.

Anonymous said...

I would like to read more on that blog soon. By the way, pretty nice design your site has, but how about changing it from time to time?