Manuel Alvarez Bravo

There are few Mexican photographers more influential and well known than Manuel Alvarez Bravo. He was an artist, not just of photography, that focused on the principles of the Mexican people and its social movements. His legacy is one that is evident in his revolutionary and iconic works of art. It is only appropriate that the modern day exhibit that bears his namesake is located in the heart of Oaxaca. His lifetime of photography has played a role in forming the national and political identity of Mexico.

Manuel Alvarez Bravo was born February 4, 1902 in Mexico City. He lived and was raised in downtown Mexico City until the death of his father. This led to him dropping out of school at a young age to work in the nearby textile factory. His love for photography was not an accidental one, both his father and grandfather had been amateur photographers. When he was in his twenties, he had begun to work for the government. It was during this time that he decided to take on photography and art seriously. His foray into photography began with his own practice and experience, but he received education and practice in painting from the San Carlos Institute. He was enamored by a great multitude of styles and forms. Yet, in the end he took after a more modern approach and aesthetics. Manuel eventually died on October 19, 2002 at the age of 100. Though he dabbled in painting and worked in film industry at various points, he is remembered for his work in photography and is featured in hundreds of exhibitions in Mexico and elsewhere.

Stylistically speaking, Manuel differed heavily from his peers in the way he formed his message through his chosen medium. Some of his peers, such as Juan Rulfo, preferred to form scenes of the Mexican landscape and people. Manuel, in contrast, took a much more direct and particular way of getting his point across. Take for example the photo Obrero en huelga, asasindo (1934). The photo shows the prone body of a recently killed Mexican worker. For additional effect, the blood trail from the victim’s blood pool leads directly to the position of the photographer. Bravo’s photos are meant to portray the problems of the class warfare that was commonplace in Mexico during the 1900s. Bravo’s style can be divided into three different attitudes, as described by Arthur Ollman. The first of these is a person that focuses on the pre-Columbian aspect. This perspective takes a personal interest and fanaticism in the aspects of the native life, gods, and culture. The second of these is the Revolutionary. This one places an importance on the social struggle of the Mexican people in the social warfare that was previously touched upon. Finally, there is the perspective that is Europeanized. This aspect is aware of the Anglo expectation of the Mexican culture and people and utilizes it to extend his culture (Benjamin R. Fraser, Chasqui, 115-119).

Whether it is revolutionary or Euro-centric, Manuel Alvarez Bravo is an important aspect of the Mexican culture and history. His work epitomized the revolutionary movement and the attitude of the Mexican people.

Images

Lobby of the Centro fotografico

Lobby of the Centro fotografico

The Centro Fotografico is located in the heart of Oaxaca. This building is an old colonial-era house that was converted to house the various works of art. The Centro Fotografico was founded in 1996 and is dedicated to exhibiting the art of photography and recording its history. These exhibits are frequently interchanged, showing any number of works by both local and famous photograhpers. The building not only perserves, but it also endorses the production of the local arts. Outside of its exhibits, the building also serves as a place for study of artistic principles and techniques. | Creator: Photo by Andrew Eckhoff View File Details Page

Centro Fotografico

Centro Fotografico

This picture shows the banner that hangs outside of the institute. The organization's namesake was named after Manuel Alvarez Bravo and as such always has an exhibit of any of his given works. Bravo has been associated with Oaxaca ever since his brief stint of living in the region during the mid 1920s. It was in Oaxaca that Bravo achieved some of his first awards and recognition for his works. His time spent in the region clearly affected how his later works would become politically and socially charged pieces. | Creator: Photo by Andrew Eckhoff View File Details Page

Manuel Alvarez Bravo

Manuel Alvarez Bravo

This shows Bravo during the pinnacle of his career. He was a revolutionary, not just of photography but also for his social commentary. His time spent in his initial introduction to the arts gives his career an interesting variety. His early photos will show a greater emphasis on the principles of cubism, but his later works show a greater focus on the abstract. This makes his portfolio incredibly diverse, not just in his style but also in his method of delivering his message to the audience. To quote his ideals for his artistic effort: "The important thing in a photographer is his work, his sincerity, his ability to transcend the documentary to achieve human fulfillment..." | Source: Asociacion Manuel Alvarez Bravo View File Details Page

Obrero en Huelga, Asesinado (1934)

Obrero en Huelga, Asesinado (1934)

Translating to Striking Worker, Assassinated, this is one of Alvarez's more striking works. His style relied more on graphic imagery, at least when compared to his contemporaries. This particular sample is potent because of its subtleties that are not necessarily obvious. For example, the blood trail that leads to the photographer essentially places a form of responsiblity or blame on the viewer. It is a prime example of his photography's ability to convey the social struggle of his time. | Source: J. Paul Getty Museum | Creator: Manuel Alvarez Bravo View File Details Page

Manuel Alvarez Bravo in his later years

Manuel Alvarez Bravo in his later years

This photo shows the famous photographer in the later part of his life. This photo was taken by Graciela Iturbide who, during her time studying the arts at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, became the student of Bravo. Much like Bravo, Graciela was fascinated by the culture of the native people. Her venture into Pre-Colonial culture was directly influenced and encouraged by Manuel Alvarez Bravo's guidance. Graciela still lives today in Mexico and is recognized for her efforts in the field of photography. | Source: Centro Fotographico Manuel Alvarez Bravo Coleccion | Creator: Graciela Iturbide View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Andrew Eckhoff, “Manuel Alvarez Bravo,” HistoricalMX, accessed November 24, 2017, http://historicalmx.org/items/show/28.

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