Manuel Álvarez Bravo,was one of the founders of modern photography on an international level. He is regarded as the leading representative of twentieth-century Latin American photography. His work spans the late 1920s to the 1990s.
He was born in the center of the Mexican capital on February 4, 1902. After the demise of his father, Manuel interrupted his studies and began working in a textile factory, and later in the Mexican Treasury Department to help support the family.
His grandfather, a painter, and his father, a teacher, were photography aficionados. The early discovery of the camera’s possibilities led Álvarez Bravo to explore all photographic procedures as well as printing techniques on his own.
Early on, he dabbled in pictorialism, under the influence of his painting studies at the Academy of San Carlos. Later, he studied modern aesthetics, with the discovery of Cubism and the possibilities of abstraction. In 1930 Tina Modotti was deported from Mexico, leaving Álvarez Bravo her job at the magazine Mexican Folkways. And so, he began to do documentary photography, by working for the muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
Álvarez Bravo is an emblematic figure from the period known as the Mexican Renaissance, which developed in the wake of the Mexican Revolution. The richness of that period arose from the happy, albeit not always serene, coexistence of a desire for modernization and the quest for an identity grounded in Mexican roots in which archaeology, history, and ethnology played a significant role, somewhat parallel to the arts. Álvarez Bravo embodied both tendencies in the field of the visual arts.
From 1943 to 1959 he worked in the film industry, doing still photos, a profession that led him to create experimental works of personal expression.
During his life, he presented more than 150 solo exhibitions and participated in more than 200 collective exhibitions. According to numerous critics, the work of this “poet of the lens” conveys the essence of Mexico, but the humanistic gaze that he reflected in his work, the aesthetic, literary, and musical references that it contains, also give him a universal dimension.
Manuel Álvarez Bravo passed away on October 19, 2002, at the age of one hundred.