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Autorretrato (self portrait), Desierto de Sonora, Mexico, 1979
Autorretrato (self portrait), Desierto de Sonora, Mexico, 1979

Graciela Iturbide: A Major Figure of Latin American Photography

A new exhibition in Paris showcases some of her work from the 1970s to the present day.

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From Feb. 12 to May 29, 2022, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris is presenting Heliotropo 37, the first large exhibition devoted to Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide in France, spanning works dating from the 1970s to the present day.

Graciela Iturbide is a major figure of Latin American photography. For over 50 years, she has created images that oscillate between a documentary and a poetic gaze: 

Iturbide, who is turning 80 this year, became famous for her portraits of Seri Indians in the Sonora Desert and Juchitán women, and for her photographic work around Mexico’s ancestral communities and traditions.

“I have looked for the surprise in the ordinary, an ordinary that I could find anywhere in the world,” she said. 

Her art also brings quasi spiritual attention to landscapes and objects. This oscillation between a documentary approach and a poetic gaze are the essence of her work. 

"Ultimately, I think photography is a ritual for me. To go off with my camera, observe, capture the most mythical part of man, then go into darkness, develop, choose the symbolism," she said, as quoted in the exhibition catalogue.

For the exhibition, the artist opens the doors of her studio at 37 Calle Heliotropo in Coyoacán, Mexico City, an architectural masterpiece by Mauricio Rocha, who has also been entrusted with the exhibition scenography. 

Heliotropo 37 brings together over 200 images from her most iconic photographs to her more recent production, as well as a color series created especially for the exhibition.

Graciela Iturbide was introduced to photography in the 1970s alongside Manuel Àlvarez Bravo. She followed the former on his travels to villages and popular Mexican festivals, where she watched him looking for the right place, waiting for something to happen, practically invisible, disturbing no one, and then photographing anything that interested him. He became the young Iturbide’s mentor and shared with her his sensitivity and humanist approach to the world.

In addition to the photographs that made the artist famous, the Heliotropo 37 exhibition reveals her recent productions. Over the years, Iturbide’s images have become devoid of any human presence and her attention has turned to materials and textures, revealing the metaphysical link that unites the artist to objects, nature and animals.

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