Lola Álvarez Bravo
In 1925 Lola married her longtime friend Manuel Álvarez Bravo and moved to Oaxaca where Manuel was an accountant for the federal government and Lola produced her first photographs. Lola and Manuel, moved back to Mexico City and had a son, Manuel in 1927. That same year, they also opened an art gallery in their home. Shortly after Manuel Álvarez Bravo fell sick and Lola took over his work for him. Lola and Manuel Sr. had marital problems, separated in 1934, and finally divorced in 1948.
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. The Álvarez Bravos separated in 1934 but Lola retained the Alvarez Bravo name.
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. 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.
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.
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 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.
Álvarez Bravo continued to take photographs until she became blind at age seventy-nine.
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.
She 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. She was accepted as a member of this institution.
The full archive of Álvarez Bravo's work is located at the Center for Creative Photography (CCP) at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Lola was a key figure in Mexico's post-revolution renaissance.
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.
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