National Museum of Women in the Arts
Graciela Iturbide
May 16 1942 - present
Photograph of Graciela Iturbide in Rockport, Maine, 1988, by Bill Jay, courtesy of the photographer. (c) Bill Jay
Place of Birth:
Mexico City
Phonetic Spelling:
grah-see-EHL-ah ee-toor-BEE-thay
Work Type/Media:
Multimedia (electronic, digital, video, film), Photography
Artistic Role(s):
Filmmaker, Photographer
Artist's Biography:
Graciela Iturbide was born into a wealthy conservative Catholic family in Mexico City in 1942. She attended Catholic school which emphasized the county’s Hispanic heritage as opposed to that of Mexico’s indigenous peoples. Iturbide’s interest in exploring the underrepresented native cultures, their daily lives, customs, and rituals, fueled her future work as a photographer.

In 1962, Iturbide married Mexican photographer Pedro Meyer and had three children. In 1969, she decided to enroll at the Centro de Estudios Cinematográficos at the Universidad Nacional Autónama de México to become a film director. When she took a class with master photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo, she began concentrating her interests on photography. Bravo was greatly impressed with Iturbide’s talent and invited her to be his assistant. She worked closely with Bravo from 1970 to 1971 and was deeply influenced by his poetic style, however, Iturbide wanted to focus her efforts on what she described as “photo essays” as opposed to individual photographs as works of art.

Iturbide traveled to Europe where she met internationally renowned photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose notion of the “decisive moment” (the creative moment when the photographer decides to capture a photograph) greatly influenced her work. She returned to Mexico where she spent the 1970s working for the Instituto Naciola Indenista documenting indigenous cultures throughout the country.

She began publishing her photographs extensively during the 1980s and received international acclaim for her work in the town of Juchitán, Oaxaca, where Iturbide photographed the community’s marketplace and scenes of domestic-life, both of which were dominated by women. Iturbide continued photographing indigenous rituals and activities of daily life, but refused to approach her work as an outsider, choosing instead to visit and interact with the communities in which she worked. She also felt that it was important to represent these cultures without trying to idealize or romanticize their connection to the past. Her images often depict startling juxtapositions of traditional Mexican folk-life with elements of contemporary culture. Through her photo essays, Iturbide has documented and preserved a transitional moment in the history of Mexico’s indigenous peoples, whose communities are still enriched by their traditional cultures.

Other Occupation(s):
Place(s) of Residence:
Mexico City
Where Trained/Schools:
Centro de Estudios Cinematográficos, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico (1969-1972)
Related Visual Artists:
wife of Pedro Meyer student of and influenced by Manuel Álvarez Bravo student of and influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Grand Prix, Recontres Internationales de la Photographie, Arles, France (1991) Fellowship, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York, NY, USA (1988) Prize, United Nations International Labor Organization, New York, NY, USA (1986)
Earliest exhibition:
Tres fotógrafas mexicanas, Galería Jose Clemente Orozco, Mexico City, Mexico (1975)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Defining Eye: Women Photographers of the 20th Century
Images of Spirit: Photographs by Graciela Iturbide
A History of Women Photographers
Book as Art XII: Artists' Books from the Permanent Collection
Artist retrospective(s):
The Goat's Dance: Photographs by Graciela Iturbide, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA, USA (2007-2008) Graciela Iturbide: Images of the Spirit, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1997-1998) Graciela Iturbide: La forma y la memoria, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico (1996)
Cuatro Pescaditos, Juchitan, Oaxaca