Graciela Iturbide :: The Artist Series

Graciela Iturbide :: The Artist Series



a long time ago back in the 1980s I had a dream and in that dream I saw a man with a plow as he moved the earth birds were released and the man said "in my land, I shall plant birds" and the next day I'd forgotten the dream I went to an island of birds in Nayarit and there was a man who took care of birds I took a photo I call The Birdman there I remembered the dream because it was the same gentleman they looked alike sometimes I have premonition dreams about photography, with respect to life but I want to talk about some things that I later learned from Brassaï Brassaï says photography has more to do with intuition and with dreams its not exactly what he says but what I remember for Brassaï dreams were very important for example I have a series on birds
and it helped me a lot to read San Juan de la Cruz – a mystical poet who speaks of the conditions of the “solitary bird” – one, it flies very high two, it does not enjoy any company
even of its own species three, it has no particular color four, it aims its beak at the sky and five, it sings softly apart from San Juan de la Cruz about the birds I read a Sufi poet, Attar, a very old poet from Iran where he speaks of “the language of the birds”, which is a very beautiful story it is very difficult to tell it all but
all the birds gather to make a journey to find God on that journey they come and find eachother I studied cinematography and was lucky enough to meet Manuel Álvarez Bravo at film school the students did not go to Manuel's classes no because they wanted to be film directors then, one day I found him and asked him if I could go to his classes I only had one of his books this was 1969 and he had made a book in '68 during the Olympics, but a work on Mexico so I took him my book, he signed it and he said of course, you can be my ‘achichincle’, which means like a 'workers assistant' I said, of course! I will be very happy and as I was assisting him little by little I left filmmaking to work with him and for me more than a master of photography he was a master of life because he was a very poetic man who loved to read listen to classical music, contemporary he talked to me about popular art and we started going out to towns where I would assist him once I said to him maestro
quisiera saber como revela usted los I would like to know how to develop rolls of film and he said:
its very easy Graciela go to a store buy a roll and read the instructions how its done
…and perfect he was a perfect teacher because he never told me
your work is good, your work is bad never nothing but I knew I understood
when I liked what I'd done as a teacher for me, perfect Claudia, my daugher died in '71
and it is to death all this time in towns I'd photograph little angels but this happened in '77
because I lost a little girl when she was six years old
I had this obsession to photograph the "little angels" we call them in Mexico
who are the babies who die and those who are going to bury them in boxes made from Chinese paper in the village
they use colorful Chinese paper sometimes they include their food and…
and then one time I was in Dolores Hidalgo, near San Miguel Allende I saw that there was a whole family with the little angel in his box I asked permission of this family
if I could photograph them because these things have to be done delicately
and the gentleman said yes that they were going to bury the boy in the cemetery
and I followed this family with the little angel and at one point the man turns around to me
and sees that I am scared I saw a man who was half skull and half dressed
I took some photos but quickly, because I was commited to the gentleman
to photograph them and when we started to bury the angel
there were thousands of birds in the sky and they were the ones that had eaten
the skeleton of the man but here I felt that death was telling me, enough
enough enough because it was evidently and obsession of mine to be able to
forget about my daughter's death from that moment forward
I did not photograph dead children again that photo I don't like really to
put in exhibitions, because it is very strong they are not good photos, they are a report
but there is death and the birds which I call Birds of Death e Francisco Toledo, who was born in Juchitán
I did not know him at the time and he called me on the phone because he was doing a series
with different photographers to photograph Juchitán and then he gave me several prints of a lizard that he made
so that I could sell them and with that money I could travel to Juchitán
but when I arrived in Juchitán, I went to the market
to sell tomatoes with the ladies so I would not be aggressive
and to be able to gain their friendship when I arrive at the place with my camera
for example, in Juchitán or with the Seri Indians and I ask permission at the beginning
and if its obvious that they've said yes because I explained why I was going etc but when someone did not want to be photographed
no but then the people of Juchitán
invited me to photograph all their traditions tradición and in the first days that I was there
a lady arrived with iguanas on her head and I said, please please don't remove them let me make a portrait and I have the contact sheet
where the iguanas sometimes move sometimes not because those (live) iguanas are sold to be eaten now the fantastic thing that happened with that photo that was casual is that it has become an icon
in Juchitán I call her Our Lady of the Iguanas but they call her the Medusa Juchiteca and when the House of Culture
celebrated ten years that Toledo founded it they put the photo that I took
on posters in all the houses of Juchitán and now, at this moment
Sobeida – who is the lady of the iguanas has made a sculpture of it in Juchitán
and on all of the signs telling you which road is my photo
and also in Los Angeles there are murals of the lady of the iguanas and they also make a mezcal with the photo
without asking me permission but it's the only case
I'm going to make a little book
with Clément Chéroux Chéroux is a researcher of how an image flies by itself
without you doing anything because it is in the United States
all over the world why Juchitán in the 1930's was very important because it was (Sergei) Eisenstein who filmed part of his movie ¡Que viva México!
it was Henri Cartier-Bresson
he had a Juchiteca girlfriend she later wanted to go with him to France
but he already said no and there was also Diego Rivera
Tina Modotti… many very important characters but after that nobody went
until Toledo invited us as photographers and for me it's like my second home I take self-portraits in a very unconscious way
the portrait I have a dead bird and a live bird
I had a little crisis and I had a dead bird here in my house
I went to the market and bought one that flies and I took the photo
but I do not know why but the photo is called Eyes To Fly With
as a question then the other day I found a fish in the market
and put it in my mouth but I do not know why
but the snake I did know why because when I was seeing a therapist
about Claudia I told my psychoanalist
I feel snakes coming out of me when I talk to you and there I went and looked for snakes
and put them on I love Dadaism, Surrealism but you can not be in this time
neither Dadaist nor surreal or anything that is a stage where the artists
formed those groups – nothing more so when they sometimes tell me
your work is surreal, I say no surrealism belongs to Dalí, to all of them, to Bretón but not now, there is no surrealism I get angry
because also when I get asked in France about… ah "magical realism"
I said no magical realism you invented for García Márquez, Vargas Llosa
for the 'boom' of literature and to be able to better sell books
I am not magical realism, surrealistic, nothing I am Graciela Iturbide e él

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