Manuel Álvarez Bravo was the most important Mexican photographer of the twentieth century. His most creative period was the 1930s and 1940s, during which he helped define modernist photography. Self-taught and working primarily in Mexico City, Bravo came under the influence of important photographers, including the Americans Edward Weston and Paul Strand, and the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. In the late 1930s, he began teaching at several colleges in Mexico City, where for over thirty years he encouraged young photographers.
Álvarez Bravo is associated with the artistic renaissance in Mexico that occurred after the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920). In visualizing a new national identity, he and other artists were drawn to the campesina or native peasantry. This indigenous population was seen as the bedrock of Mexican history, whose poverty would be alleviated by the egalitarian ideals of the Revolution. Although a realist in detailing the lives of ordinary Mexicans, Álvarez Bravo's photography was also shaped by the ideas of European Surrealism, which also influenced many of his compatriots. His scenes of street life, everyday activities, folk art, and religious rituals are often overlaid with hidden symbolism and suggestions of the fantastical.
MORE WORKS BY MANUEL ÁLVAREZ BRAVO IN THE MMOCA COLLECTION
Autorretrato, 1982. Photograph by Manuel Álvarez Bravo. © Colette Urbajtel/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, SC.
Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Retrato de lo eterno, 1977, Gelatin silver print, 9 3/8 x 7 7/16 inches. Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Gift of Sam Faber. © Colette Urbajtel/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, SC.