Culture, Ritual and Everyday Life: Graciela Iturbide

“The camera is an excuse to share the life of the people, the rhythm and simplicity of festivities, to discover my country. While using my camera I am, above all, an actress participating in the scene taking place at the moment, and the other actors know what role I play. I never think of my images as a project, I simply live the situations and photograph them; it is afterwards that I discover the images.” – Graciela Iturbide

Graciela Iturbide is known for portraying stigmatized ethnic groups and her focus on feminism. Her focus on feminism strongly influenced her work taken in the city of Juchitan, Oaxaca. This is a matriarchal society. Women are in charge economically, politically, and spiritually. She became somewhat of an anthropological photographer in order to get the pictures she wanted. She entrenched herself in the culture… became a part of them. She said, “They adopted me in a way. They let me take my pictures and let me know about the various fiestas. I would go on pilgrimages with them….It wasn’t only that they gave me permission to take photographs, they also suggested themes and showed me things. I discovered the Zapotec people through their eyes, and through my own at the same time.”

She has won the W. Eugene Smith prize for photography in 1987, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1988, and, in 2008, she received the Hasselblad Foundation Photography Award.

The Hasselblad Foundation said this about her work:

“Graciela Iturbide is considered one of the most important and influential Latin American photographers of the past four decades. Her photography is of the highest visual strength and beauty. Graciela Iturbide has developed a photographic style based on her strong interest in culture, ritual and everyday life in her native Mexico and other countries. Iturbide has extended the concept of documentary photography, to explore the relationships between man and nature, the individual and the cultural, the real and the psychological. She continues to inspire a younger generation of photographers in Latin America and beyond.”

Iturbide says she looks for “surprise in ordinary things that I could have found anywhere in the world. The unconscious obsession that we photographers have is that wherever we go we want to find the theme that we carry inside ourselves.”

As photographers, this is what many of us look for… surprise in ordinary things. I know that is one of the things I love about her work. The subject matter is often nothing extraordinary and yet the impact of her images is both evocative and profound — people in their environment, in their culture, being who and what they are with no pretense involved.


Graciela Iturbide
Graciela Iturbide on Pinterest

Recommended Reading

Graciela Iturbide
Graciela Iturbide: Juchitan de Las Mujeres 1979-1989
Images of the Spirit

You may also like