Latin American Photographers
Medium through the gender prism
10.04.2020 | Ariane Fleury

Tina Modotti, Hands Resting on Tool, 1927, palladium print, 19.7 x 21.6 cm (7 3/4 x 8 1/2 in.), © J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

In the early 20th century, photography was still a new medium, unburdened by the weight of an art history that had been traditionally defined by male artists. As such, the still marginal medium offered a new field of emancipation and experimentation for women artists. In this context, Latin America became a major hub for photographers. Because it remained on the periphery of Western modernist visions and experienced a great deal of political turmoil throughout the century, it became fertile ground for artists seeking change and political commitment, particularly thanks to documentary, social and journalistic photography.

As early as the 1920s, pioneers like Tina Modotti (1896-1942) began to combine complex aesthetic research with more political aims. From figures such as Annemarie Heinrich (1912-2005) and Grete Stern (1904-1999), both of whom had immigrated to Argentina from Europe and were fascinated by Surrealism, to politically aware documentary photographers of the 1970s, including Alicia d’Amico (1933-2001) and Sara Facio (born in 1932), many women tried their hand at the full range of 20th-century photography styles, from pictorialism to photojournalism, and from surrealist photomontages to using photography as a plastic medium. This rich heritage can be felt to this day in the flourishing photographic scene in Central and South America, with women photographers drawing extensively from the works of their predecessors. Among these, are the poetic compositions of Flor Garduño (born in 1957) and Marta María Pérez Bravo (born in 1959), which, each in their own style, are reminiscent of the ethereal and minimalistic works of T. Modotti.

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