An extensive retrospective of the subtle, nuanced work of a documentary photographer with a flair for capturing fleeting rural moments.
For the first ever time in France, an exhibition is devoted to the work of prolific Mexican photographer Lola Alvarez Bravo, who spent many years capturing her nation’s rural roads and tracks, and the modest peasant and farmer figures that roamed them. The Maison de l’Amérique Latine – located in a stunning 18th century hôtel particulier – has brought together many of these artfully composed street shots and juxtaposed them with Bravo’s portraits of some of her most famous contemporaries (including Frida Kahlo, Diego Riviera and Octavio Paz).
Very much aware of the importance of indigenous culture and the social transformations taking place in her country, her documentary work offers a subtle and nuanced look at the Mexican society of her time. Shot in a subdued, low-contrast black and white, all of her non-portrait photos attempt to capture the local way of life in settings where sunlight is omnipresent and shade is constantly craved. Focusing on details that many others would most likely skim over (an open door, the underneath of a lorry, the corner of a street, the sand on an Acapulco beach), she displays a masterful flair for framing, composition and the capturing of even the most minute of movements – much like her friend and contemporary Henri Cartier-Bresson. A man playing a tololoche, just about to turn his head to find out who’s listening, and the quizzical expression of a young daydreamer are just two of the fleeting details Bravo manages to expertly reproduce on film.
TRANSLATION: HUW OLIVER