Bravo, Manuel Alvarez

Mexican (1902-2002)

Lucky is the child who is surrounded by artists, and fortune smiled on Manuel Alvarez Bravo. His grandfather was a photographer, several cousins and siblings were artists and Diego Rivera was a family; as such, Bravo was encouraged to pursue his creative bent. He began studying painting and music in 1918, but in the early 1920s, started writing on aesthetics and the technical aspects of photography. When, in 1925, he commenced photographing professionally, his lens captured a wide variety of imagery.  

Mexico City, before the Mexican Revolution, provided Bravo with much to look at. His earliest photos displayed surrealistic tendencies, causing inanimate objects to appear almost human. It wasn’t long, though, before he became interested in the surrounding culture. Both he and his American friend, Clarence John Laughlin, were fascinated by folklore and mythology, which led Bravo to interact with Mexican folk culture. A large body of images – including burial rites, coming-of-age ceremonies and artisans at work – was the result of this season. Bravo’s later photographs were decidedly political, ruminations of the Mexican Revolution which explore the conflicts between several “Mexicos”: urban and rural, modern and colonial, insular and open to the world.