Bravo prints capture intimacy of Mexico

By Keri Hayes

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Lola Alvarez Bravo's photography has long been overshadowed by that of her famous husband, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, yet with her newest solo exhibit, "In Her Own Light," Bravo has finally received her own share of recognition for her spectacular work.

"In Her Own Light," on display at UA Center for Creative Photography through Jan. 22, is Bravo's first survey exhibition of her work outside Mexico. The 60 prints at CCP are drawn predominantly from their permanent collection, with a few additions from the artist's estate collection.

Bravo is credited with the

production of a profound new chapter in the history of photography and the contributions of Mexico to it. Her photographs provide an intimate look at the cities, communities and rural landscapes of her country as it was in the '30s and '40s.

Bravo wrote of her own work: "I do not have great artistic pretensions, but I do believe that as the years pass, if something useful results from my photographs, it will be as a chronicle of my country, of my people, of how Mexico has changed."

The Mexico that Bravo enchants her viewers with is quite strikingly different than the industrialized urban landscapes we now see. Bravo captures the people of Mexico in an intimate manner; women relaxing in the shade and men getting haircuts in the town square are remnants of a past culture.

One of the main themes of Bravo's work is community celebrations and festivals. The masks and effigies pictured in her vibrant photographs reflect the shared traditions and beliefs of her fellow Mexicans. Bravo used this theme as well to make a statement about homosexuality; one photograph of a gay rally through the streets of Mexico City is placed next to others depicting joyful community celebrations. The masks in this case were not of a common tradition, but to conceal identity for personal reasons.

Bravo took advantage of her role in the Mexican cultural scene, choosing many famous artists such as Frida Kahlo and Rufino Tamayo as her subjects. One particularly candid protrait featured the Mexican artist Diego Rivera seated on Chachalacas Beach in Veracruz.

Throughout Bravo's photographs of the cities and rural areas of her country, she continues a sort of study in the way light and shadow define the human form and natural settings, a practice that gives her work an exceptional trademark quality. In one of her self portraits, Bravo uses this method in a beautiful self-reflective stance, holding dried plant fiber above her face to produce intricate shadows along her cheeks and jawline.

Almost all of Bravo's work is of an older culture and more peaceful, natural landscapes. Only one modern photograph is hung with these, which contains Bravo's critical opinion of the effects of urbanization and industrialization on her beloved country. "Architectural Anarchy in Mexico City" features a warped angle of dozens of post-war skyscrapers constructed over the colonial city. The photograph has an overwhelming quality, as if the buildings are growing larger as one views the print more closely.

Bravo's statement next to one of her photographs reads, "There are things in my photographs that you just don't see anymore . If I had the luck to find and capture these images, they can serve later as a testimony of how life has passed and been transformed."

The Center for Creative Photography is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tours of the exhibition are available through the Curator of Education.

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