Lola Alvarez Bravo

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Lola Alvarez Bravo
Self-Portrait of Lola Alvarez Bravo (correct file type).jpg
Self-Portrait, Alvarez Bravo, 1950
Born Dolores Martinez de Anda
(1903-04-03)April 3, 1903[1]
Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, Mexico
Died July 31, 1993(1993-07-31) (aged 90)
Mexico City, Mexico
Nationality Mexican
Known for Photography
Spouse(s) Manuel Alvarez Bravo

Lola Álvarez Bravo (April 3, 1903 – July 31, 1993) was a Mexican photographer, serving as a key figure in the post-revolution Mexican renaissance.

Early life[edit]

Lola was born Dolores Martinez de Anda in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, Mexico. Lola's mother, Sara de Anda, died when Lola was two years old. Lola's father, Gonzalo Martinez, died of a heart attack five years later. In 1916 Lola was then taken in by her half brother.[2] Lola and her brother were sent to live with their older half brother in Mexico City. Lola then received a traditional education at Colegio del Sagrado Corazón.[3]

Lola is quoted saying the following, "I don't know why since childhood, I had the idea that I wanted to do something not everybody did. What I've hated most about my life is that they order me around and they limit my freedom."[3]

Marriage, Divorce, and Family[edit]

In 1925 Lola married her longtime friend Manuel Álvarez Bravo [4] and moved to Oaxaca where Manuel was an accountant for the federal government and Lola produced her first photographs.[2][5] Lola and Manuel moved back to Mexico City where their son, Manuelito, was born in 1927. That same year, they opened an art gallery in their home.[6] Shortly after, Manuel Álvarez Bravo [4] fell sick and Lola continued to photograph and manage the art gallery. Lola and Manuel Sr. separated in 1934, and finally divorced in 1948.[5] Lola retained the Alvarez Bravo name.[3]


Manuel had taken up photography as an adolescent; he taught Lola and they took pictures together in Oaxaca. Manuel also taught her to develop film and make prints in the darkroom. As he became more serious about pursuing a career in photography, she acted as his assistant, although she also harbored a desire to become a photographer in her own right.

Frida Kahlo by Alvarez Bravo

In the 1930s, just after her separation from Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Lola worked as an elementary school art teacher and soon after took a position at the Department of Education cataloging photographs.[5] She met the minister of education by chance and was asked to photograph him. He loved her work and showed her photographs to some influential people which got her a job in the mid-1930s as the chief photographer for El Maestro Rural (The Rural Teacher). El Maestro Rural was a magazine published by the secretary of public education aimed at the group of young teachers that were being hired by the progressive administration.[7]

She had her first solo art exhibition in 1944, at Mexico City's Palace of Fine Arts. Multiple solo and group exhibits were to follow afterwards.

She photographed schools, factories, farms, orphanages, fire stations, and hospitals throughout Mexico to accompany the magazine's articles. Álvarez Bravo is probably best known however for the photographs she took in the 1940s of her close friend, Frida Kahlo. In the adjacent image, Álvarez Bravo depicts the pain Kahlo suffered after she was in a bus accident and in her relationship with Diego Rivera.

She was the director of photography at the National Institute of Fine Arts. She opened an art gallery in 1951 and was the first person to exhibit the work of Frida Kahlo in Mexico City.[8]

Inspired by photographers Edward Weston and Tina Modotti, Álvarez Bravo established her independent career. She was a photojournalist, commercial photographer, professional portraitist, political artist, teacher, and gallery curator over the course of her career. For 50 years, she photographed a wide variety of subjects, making documentary images of daily life in Mexico's villages and city streets[8] and portraits of leaders from various countries. She also experimented with photomontage.

Bravo was not one for stylized studio shots, but wandered with her camera, searching for poignant moments and arresting compositions. Her work balances an interest in the formal qualities of light and shadow against a need to capture life as it happened.[6]

Álvarez Bravo continued to take photographs until she became blind at age seventy-nine.[9] She made a statement late in life that sums up why her photographs are important; "If my photographs have any meaning, it's that they stand for a Mexico that once existed."[10]


Álvarez Bravo's work focused on documenting Mexico and its people during her lifetime, with a humanistic perspective. Her images document de industrialization of the country which occurred after the Mexican Revolution as well as the effects of 20th century technology.[3]

Lola Álvarez Bravo was the first woman photographer to exhibit her work at the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana with the exhibit México en la Vida, en la Danza, en la uerte in 1953. Álvarez Bravo was accepted as a member of this institution.[3]

The full archive of Lola Álvarez Bravo's work is located at the Center for Creative Photography (CCP) at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona[11].[8] The Center for Creative Photography acquired the Lola Alvarez Bravo Archive in 1996. It includes her negatives and nearly 200 gelatin silver photographs, 100 of which were selected by Lola Alvarez Bravo in 1993.[12]

Álvarez Bravo was a key figure in Mexico's post-revolution renaissance.[12]

Further reading[edit]

  • Alvarez Bravo, Lola., & Ferrer, Elizabeth. (2006). Lola Alvarez Bravo. New York, Aperture. ISBN 1-931788-94-4
  • Alvarez Bravo, Lola, and Salomón Grimberg. Lola Alvarez Bravo: The Frida Kahlo Photographs. Distributed Art Pub Inc, 1991.
  • Alvarez Bravo, Lola. Recuento fotográfico. Collección de Arte—Fotografia, Mexico, 1982. ISBN 9687199059


  1. ^ Ferrer, Elizabeth (2006). Lola Alvarez Bravo. New York: Aperture. p. 162. ISBN 978-1-931788-94-6. 
  2. ^ a b Whitelegg, Isobel. "Lola Alvarez Bravo". Oxford Art Online. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Mujeres del Salón de la Plástica Mexicana. 1. Mexico City: CONACULTA/INBA. 2014. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978 607 605 255 6. 
  4. ^ a b "National Museum of Women in the Arts". Lola Alvarez Bravo. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Congdon, Kristin G.; Hallmark, Kara Kelley (2002). Artists from Latin American Cultures: A Bibliographical Dictionary. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 1. 
  6. ^ a b DesignWorkLife. "Badass Lady Creatives [in History]: Lola Álvarez Bravo". Design Work Life. Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  7. ^ Ferrer, Elizabeth (2006). Lola Álvarez Bravo. New York: Aperture Foundation. p. 17. 
  8. ^ a b c Kristin G. Congdon; Kara Kelley Hallmark (30 October 2002). Artists from Latin American cultures: a biographical dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-313-31544-2. Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  9. ^ Congdon, Kristin G.; Hallmark, Kara Kelley (2002). Artists from Latin American Cultures: A Bibliographical Dictionary. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 3. 
  10. ^ Sills, Leslie (2000). In Real Life: Six Women Photographers. New York: Holiday House. p. 31. 
  11. ^ Alvarez Bravo, Lola. "Lola Alvarez Bravo Online Collection". Center for Creative Photography. Archived from the original on 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Lola Álvarez Bravo Photographer - All About Photo". Retrieved 2017-04-24. 

External links[edit]