Photographers You Should Study

Graciela Iturbide: Intimate Portraits of Ritual, Tradition, and Spirit

Mexican Photographer

Graciela Iturbide

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Graciela Iturbide – Wikipedia

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Graciela Iturbide [1942 – present] is a Mexican photographer celebrated for her intimate and evocative black-and-white images, deeply rooted in Mexico’s cultural and social realities.

Her work explores indigenous communities’ rituals, traditions, and daily lives, particularly the Zapotec women of Juchitán, Oaxaca.

Iturbide’s photographs, characterized by their stark beauty, raw honesty, and profound respect for her subjects, offer glimpses into a world often unseen and misunderstood. She captures the strength, resilience, and sensuality of the women, challenging conventional narratives and subverting gender stereotypes.

Iturbide also delves into the surreal and symbolic, blurring the lines between reality and magic, as in her haunting images of La Llorona, a mythical Mexican ghost.

Iturbide paints a powerful and poetic portrait of Mexico’s soul through her lens, earning her recognition as one of the most important Latin American photographers of our time.

Read the full Biography below.


Photography Quotes From Graciela Iturbide

Yousuf Karsh, a photographer without imagination, is not a good photographer.
"In the end, photography for me is just an excuse to get to know the world." Graciela Iturbide
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Graciela Iturbide’s early love was for cinema, not photography. Before becoming a renowned photographer, Iturbide studied cinematography, hoping to become a film director.

Videos about Graciela Iturbide

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Her first major photographic project was commissioned by the Mexican government. In 1979, Iturbide embarked on a journey to document the diverse indigenous communities of Mexico, commissioned by the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples.

Photography Books: Graciela Iturbide

Grazia tortile on dream, symbol, and imagination.
A black and white photo of a bicycle with a bull on it.
A black and white photo of a man standing in front of a wall.
The cover of the book gracelia turbide.
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She has a deep fascination with death and the rituals surrounding it. Death is a recurring theme in Iturbide’s work, explored through images of Day of the Dead celebrations, cemeteries, and individuals grappling with loss. However, her treatment of death is rarely morbid; instead, she captures its multifaceted nature, often finding beauty and even humor in the rituals and traditions surrounding it.

Biography of Graciela Iturbide

Early Life and Education

Graciela Iturbide, born on May 16, 1942, in Mexico City, Mexico, emerged as one of the most prominent and influential figures in Latin American photography. 

Born into a wealthy and conservative family, Iturbide initially pursued film studies at the Centro de Estudios Cinematográficos at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, where she was exposed to the rich visual culture of cinema. This early experience in film laid the groundwork for her later work in photography.

Transition to Photography

Iturbide’s transition to photography occurred in the 1970s. She became the apprentice of Manuel Álvarez Bravo, one of Mexico’s most renowned photographers, who played a significant role in her artistic development. Under Bravo’s tutelage, Iturbide learned to see photography not just as a technical skill but as a form of poetic expression.

Artistic Development and Style

Iturbide’s work is characterized by its depth, symbolism, and exploration of cultural and social identities. Her Mexican heritage profoundly influences her approach, which she explores through her photography, capturing the complexity and richness of her country’s diverse cultures.

Her style blends documentary and artistic practices, focusing on the daily lives and customs of indigenous and marginalized communities in Mexico and other parts of the world. 

She is known for her ability to capture intimate moments while maintaining respect and sensitivity towards her subjects.

Notable Projects and Series

One of Iturbide’s most celebrated series is “Juchitán de las Mujeres,” a project she began in the late 1970s, documenting the lives of the Zapotec women living in the Tehuantepec Isthmus. This series showcases her interest in the roles and representations of women in society, a theme that permeates much of her work.

Another significant project is “Los que viven en la arena” (Those Who Live in the Sand), focusing on the Seri Indians living in the Sonoran Desert. Iturbide’s work often delves into rituals and ceremonies, exploring life, death, and Indigenous cultural themes.

Recognition and Exhibitions

Iturbide’s work has been widely exhibited in major museums and galleries worldwide, including the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. 

Her photography is celebrated for its lyrical quality and profound exploration of cultural identity and human dignity.

Influences and Collaborations

Her work is influenced by her encounters with various artists and intellectuals and her extensive travels within Mexico and abroad. 

Iturbide’s collaborations with writers, artists, and anthropologists have enriched her vision, allowing her to approach her subjects with greater depth and understanding.

Publications and Photobooks

Iturbide has published several photo books, which are crucial in understanding her work’s narrative and thematic development. Her books include “Pájaros,” “Asor,” “Fiesta y Muerte,” and “Juchitán de las Mujeres,” which collectively offer a comprehensive look at her photographic journey.

Later Career and Ongoing Work

As of 2023, Graciela Iturbide continues to be an active and influential figure in the world of photography. 

Her ongoing work extends her exploration of cultural narratives and personal identities, consistently capturing the human experience’s richness and complexity.

Legacy and Impact

Graciela Iturbide is not only a key figure in Latin American photography but also a significant contributor to the global understanding of photographic art. 

Her work transcends geographical and cultural boundaries, offering a universal language that speaks to shared human experiences. Her legacy is defined by her commitment to capturing the dignity and beauty in everyday life, and her impact continues to resonate across the contemporary art world.


Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Photographer, Photo Educator and the host of The The LAST FRAME LIVE, which is viewed by photographers in over 100 countries.  Follow this link to learn more about Joe or view his portfolio.
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