Lola Álvarez Bravo

1907Lagos de Moreno, Mexico | 1993Mexico City, Mexico
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Lola Álvarez Bravo — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Lola Álvarez Bravo, Autoportrait, c. 1950, Tucson, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona

Mexican photographer.

Lola Álvarez Bravo learnt photography helping her husband, Mexican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902-2002; they married in 1925 and separated in 1934). Between 1935 and the late 1950s she made a living as a documentary photographer for various government agencies, including the Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP) and the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. She also taught art in SEP public schools. She used photomontage – El sueño de los pobres [The dream of the poor, 1935] and La capital de la República Mexicana [The capital of the Mexican Republic, 1946] – and created political propaganda as well as large scale photomontage murals for office buildings such as the Chrysler’s factory Auto-Mex (1954) and the Communications and Public Works Ministry building (SCOP 1954-1955), in Mexico City.

In the early 1930s L. Álvarez Bravo covered her husband’s commission documenting the work of the Mexican Muralists for the magazine Mexican Folkways; that job trained both her aesthetic taste and her eye. Most of her fine art photographs were taken while she was on commission documenting the reality of the Mexican countryside but also industrialization, urban growth and development. She declared that while documenting she would stumble upon an image that she considered was for herself, and which she would photograph and later print as part of her own oeuvre. She approached her human subjects with respect and empathy, sometimes negotiating the pose, at other times capturing a passing moment without their noticing. Her work appeared in publications such as the SEP’s El maestro rural [The rural teacher, 1935-1937] and architectural magazines like Espacios and Arquitectura México [Spaces and Architecture Mexico, 1940s-1950s]. For President Manuel Ávila Camacho she illustrated the report of his tenure in Seis años de Actividad Nacional [Six years of national action, 1946], with sixty photographs and a few photomontages. L. Álvarez Bravo is considered a prominent portraitist of her contemporaries, Mexican artists, writers and intellectuals, a noted architectural photographer and a curious experimenter, as in Homenaje a Salvador Toscano [Tribute to Salvador Toscano, c. 1949]. In the 1951 she illustrated the book Acapulco en el sueño [Acapulco in the dream] and her photograph Entierro en Yalalag [Burial in Yalalag, 1946] was included in the famous New York’s Museum of Modern Art exhibition and book The Family of Man In 1955.

In Mexcio City, in the 1930s L. Álvarez Bravo organised one of the first film clubs and she also had a gallery, Galería de Arte Contemporáneo (1951-1958), where she exhibited the work of many of her friends. It was here in 1953 that she organized Frida Kahlo’s only solo exhibition in Mexico while still alive. L. Álvarez Bravo’s first collective show was for the women’s section of the LEAR (Liga de Escritores y Artistas Revolucionarios) organised by Mexican painter María Izquierdo in 1935. In 1944 she had her first solo exhibition in the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Her largest retrospective was held in 1992 at the Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo, some months before her death. Art historian and critic Olivier Debroise interviewed her extensively during the 1980s; these recordings are held at the Centro de Documentación Arkheia in Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC-UNAM). L. Álvarez Bravo’s archive is held at the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson.

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Deborah Dorotinsky Alperstein

© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Lola Álvarez Bravo — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Lola Álvarez Bravo, Hiedra (ruinas) [Ivy (Ruina)], 1930, gelatin silver print, Private collection

Lola Álvarez Bravo — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Lola Álvarez Bravo, Frida Kahlo regardant dans un miroir, avec des chiens, vers 1944, 22.5 x 18 cm, Private collection

Lola Álvarez Bravo — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Lola Álvarez Bravo, Les uns montent, les autres descendent, 1940, gelatin silver print, 20.3 x 15.4 cm, Fundacion Televisa

Lola Álvarez Bravo — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Lola Álvarez Bravo, 11am, vers 1948, gelatin silver print, 23.7 x 19.6 cm, Patronat du Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico

Lola Álvarez Bravo — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Lola Álvarez Bravo, Le Rêve des pauvres, vers 1935, gelatin silver print, photomontage, 44 x 44 cm, Private collection

Lola Álvarez Bravo — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Lola Álvarez Bravo, Maudelle Bass, 1947, gelatin silver print

Lola Álvarez Bravo — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Lola Álvarez Bravo, Sexo vegetal [Vegetable Sex], 1948, gelatin silver print, 18.8 x 23.1 cm, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona

Lola Álvarez Bravo — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Lola Álvarez Bravo, Telas [Fabrics], 1950, gelatin silver print, Private collection

Lola Álvarez Bravo — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Lola Álvarez Bravo, Saliendo de la opera [Leaving the opera], 1950, gelatin silver print, 22.9 x 18.4 cm, Private collection

Lola Álvarez Bravo — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Lola Álvarez Bravo, Sirènes dans l’air, vers 1958, gelatin silver print, 20.1 x 15.3 cm, Private collection

Lola Álvarez Bravo — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Lola Álvarez Bravo, El Numéro 17 [The Numero No17], c. 1958, gelatin silver print, 23.6 x 16 cm, MoMA

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