Graciela’s Iturbide photo Magnolia, Juchitan, Oaxaca 1986 printed 2012

I like this photo because it is simple, but yet it makes you think who is this person? A man or a woman? A friend or a lover? More importantly why does the subject hold the mirror at the given angle? Is he/she purposely ignoring his/her reflection, is this a sign of self confusion or inability to accept one’s self? Or is he/she intentionally displaying both sideways profiles of his/her face to the photographer? Does this give new meaning to the phrase ‘two faced’?

Graciela is renowned for her black and white documentary theme across Mexico. This photo is no exception, avoiding the use of colours, geometric shapes (other than the mirror) and any lines. This minimalistic photo, combined with the direct approach, leaves the focus on the subject. Graciela does not crop into portrait, but instead decides to capture the full body of this subject, clearly showing the muscular features that her dress and empty gaze attempts to hide.

Looking at the tonal values of the photo, we detect the soft light approaching from the left leaves most of the right side in darkness. Thus indicating that this photo was taken indoors near a window possibly during the day. There is no furniture nor other objects in the room giving a sense of open space. Both the wall in the background and the flooring appear rough in texture, with no decorative elements, they feel worn down and neglected. Maybe this is an indication of how the subject feels inside?

In contrast to this setting, the subject is very well groomed, wearing a pearl necklaces and a full length dress. In comparison to other clothing attire (from other photos of the exhibition) this subject has a more westernised fashion sense. Other photos depict more traditional Mexican costumes.

The exhibition reveals little about the photo. With no major focus on any single photo, and just small comments accompanying the photos. It is only after further research do we discover that this subject is in fact a indigenous woman from Mexico. Graciela describes these women as ‘big, strong, politicized, emancipated, wonderful women’.

Graciela was not just a photographer passing through these Mexican towns. She invested time in each village and got to know the locals in a personal way. In return she gained their trust and ultimately allowed to follow and document their lives. The photo of this woman is an example of the close relationship with these people. Garciela states ‘they adopted me in a way. They let me take my pictures and let me know about the various fiestas. I would go on pilgrimages with them…. It wasn’t only that they gave me permission to take photographs, they also suggested themes and showed me things.’

Overall my initial reaction to this photo was possibly unjustified and leaves me questioning myself. What initially I thought was a vulnerable, confused subject, turns out (after further research) to be a strong, empowered woman. Maybe the reflection in the mirror is me?

This entry was published on 12/19/2013 at 20:00. It’s filed under Contextual Influences in Art and Design, Review and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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