Graciela Iturbide

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Graciela Iturbide
Born Graciela Iturbide
Mexico City, Mexico
Nationality Mexican
Education Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Known for Photography

Graciela Iturbide (born 1942 in Mexico City) is a Mexican photographer. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is included in many major museum collections.


Graciela Iturbide was born in Mexico in 1942, the eldest of thirteen children. She was exposed to photography early on in life. Her father took pictures of her and her siblings and she got her first camera when she was 11 years old. When she was a child, her father put all the photographs in a box and she said "it was a great treat to go to the box and look at these photos, these memories."[1] She then married the architect Manuel Rocha Díaz in 1962 and had three children over the next eight years.

Photography career[edit]

Iturbide turned to photography after the death of her six-year-old daughter, Claudia, in 1970. She studied at the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, where she met her mentor, the teacher, cinematographer and photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo. She traveled with Bravo between 1970 and 1971 and learned that "there is always time for the pictures you want."[2] In 1971, she got the Eugene Smith grand and a scholarship at the Guggenheim College.[3] Iturbide photographs everyday life, almost entirely in black-and-white. She was inspired by the photography of Josef Koudelka, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sebastiao Salgado and Álvarez Bravo.[4] Her self-portraits especially reflect and showcase Manuel Álvarez Bravo’s influence and play with innovation and attention to detail.[5] She became interested in the daily life of Mexico's indigenous cultures and people (the Zapotec, Mixtec, and Seri[6]) and has photographed life in Mexico City, Juchitán, Oaxaca and on the Mexican/American border (La Frontera). With focus on identity, sexuality, festivals, rituals, daily life, death and roles of women; Iturbide’s photographs share visual stories of cultures in constant transitional periods. There’s also juxtaposition within her images between urban vs rural life and indigenous vs modern life.[7] Overall, her main concern within her photography has always been the exploration and investigation of her own cultural environment.[6] Graciela Iturbide uses photography as a way of understanding Mexico in it totality; combining indigenous practices, assimilated Catholic practices and foreign economic trade under one scope.[8]

'Mujer Ángel'[edit]

In 1978, Iturbide was commissioned by the Ethnographic Archive of the National Indigenous Institute of Mexico to work on a series about the Mexico’s Seri Indians - a group of fisherman living in the Sonora desert along the Arizona/Mexico border. She was in Punta Chueca for a month and a half working on the series. There were about 500 people within the community. It was while working for this series that ‘Mujer Angel’ came about. [9] The image depicts a Seri woman while on an expedition to a cave with indigenous paintings. The woman “looked as if she could fly off into the desert” and was carrying a tape recorder exchanged for handicrafts by Americans.[9] The image of Mujer Ángel was used by the politically charged metal group Rage Against The Machine for their single "Vietnow" in 1997.

In 1979, Iturbide was asked by painter Francisco Toledo to photograph the Juchitán people who form part of the Zapotec culture native to Oaxaca, Mexico. The women were economically, politically, and sexually independent.[2]:2 This experience as a photographer shaped Iturbide's views on life, making her a strong supporter of feminism. Iturbide’s series ran for almost 10 years, ending in 1988. This collection resulted in a publicized book ‘Juchitán de las Mujeres'.[10]

'Señora de Las Iguanas' and 'Magnolia'[edit]

Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas

Some of the inspiration for her next work came from her support of feminist causes. Her well-known collection, Señora de Las Iguanas, (Our Lady of the Iguanas) was also shot in Juchitán de Zaragoza. This piece inspired two filmmakers from Los Angeles, Susan Streitfeld and Julie Herbert, who used the photograph as an icon in their 1996 film entitled Female Preservations.[2]:4 Her work in Juchitán was not only about women, however: she also shot "Magnolia", a photo of a man wearing a dress and looking at himself on a mirror. It was "Magnolia" that has led many photography experts to say that Iturbide also explored sexuality among Mexicans with her work.

Iturbide has also photographed Mexican Americans in the White Fence barrio of East Los Angeles as part of the documentary book A Day in the Life of America (1987). She has worked in Argentina (during 1996), India (where she shot another well-known photo of hers, "Perros Perdidos", or "Lost Dogs"), and the United States, where she did her last known work, an untitled collection of photos shot in Texas.

One of the major concerns in her work has been "to explore and articulate the ways in which a vocable such as 'Mexico' is meaningful only when understood as an intricate combination of histories and practices." [11]

She is a founding member of the Mexican Council of Photography. She continues to live and work in Coyoacán, Mexico.

In awarding her the 2008 Hasselblad Foundation award, the Foundation said:

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.[12]

The largest institutional collection of Iturbide's photographs in the United States is preserved at the Wittliff collections, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX.[13]


  • Images of the spirit. (1996) New York, Aperture Foundation. ISBN 0-89381-681-7
  • La Forma y la Memoria (1996) ("Form and Memory")
  • Eyes to fly with: portraits, self-portraits, and other photographs. (2006). Austin, University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-71462-9
  • Iturbide. (2003) tf. editores, Madrid. ISBN 84-96209-48-2
  • Torrijos: The Man and the Myth. (2008) Umbrage Editions, Madrid. ISBN 978-1-884167-68-3
  • Graciela Iturbide: Juchitán. (2007) Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum.


Exhibitions (selected)[edit]


Iturbide's work is held in the following permanent collections:

Further reading[edit]

  • Gili, M. (2006). Graciela Iturbide. London, Phaidon. ISBN 0-7148-4570-1
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (1980). 7 portafolios Mexicanos: exposición por diversos países, Centro Cultural de México, abril-mayo de 1980. UNAM Difusión Cultural - in Spanish


  1. ^ Iturbide, Graciela; Bradu, Fabienne (2006). Eyes to Fly With: Portraits, Self-Portraits, and Other Photographs. Austin: University of Texas Press. p. 3. 
  2. ^ a b c Iturbide, Graciela; Keller, Judith (2007). Graciela Iturbide: Juchitán. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum. p. 1. 
  3. ^ "Iturbide Biography". 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Graciela Iturbide". 
  6. ^ a b "Graciela Iturbide". 
  7. ^ "A Photo Teacher". 
  8. ^ "ARTIST Graciela Iturbide". 
  9. ^ a b "Graciela Iturbide's best photograph: a Mexican Seri woman". 
  10. ^ "Graciela Iturbide". 
  11. ^ Iturbide, Graciela; Tajeda, Roberto; López Austin, Alfredo (1996). Images of the Spirit. New York: Aperture Foundation. p. 12. 
  12. ^ The 2008 Hasselblad Award Winner - Graciela Iturbide, Hasselblad Foundation, 2008, archived from the original (– Scholar search) on June 3, 2008, retrieved 2008-06-17 [dead link]
  13. ^ a b Graciela Iturbide Photographs at The Wittliff Collections, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX. Retrieved 3 June, 2016.
  14. ^ Graciela Iturbide Wins Hasselblad Foundation Photography Award, ARTINFO, March 20, 2008, retrieved 2008-05-20 
  15. ^ Torrijos: The Man and the Myth. Retrieved 18 August, 2014.
  16. ^

External links[edit]