Lola Álvarez Bravo (1907-1993)
As one of the first successful Mexican women photographers, Lola Álvarez Bravo was celebrated in her nation for her works; considered fine art, they are composed with an observant – but not intrusive – eye. Born Dolores Martinez on the 3rd of April 1903 in Lagos de Morena, Lola would leave behind a legacy of commercial success within magazines and numerous exhibitions, including curations of her own. Despite having an impressive social circle of fellow artists and photographers including her lifelong friend Frida Kahlo and husband Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Lola displayed strength in maintaining a vision of her own that, whilst healthily influenced, was also independently illuminated.
In contrast to the popular trends in photography at the time, namely posed subjects and photomontages centred around advertising purposes, Lola was well-known for her desire to picture the surrounding world, to observe the realities of Mexico and its people. She saw value in her photography for the way it captured a nation undergoing post-war cultural transformation, and focused on candid revelations of the everyday life around her; for Lola, the camera she held was a ‘third eye’ that documented the truth and imparted deeper social meanings.
In one of her famous photomontages, El Sueño de Los Pobres, Lola pieces together an image of a sleeping child with another of a money-making machine that looms above; the work delivers social criticism on the effects of capitalism upon the continuously impoverished. Another photo, titled A ver quién me oye (¿Me oirán?), sets the lens upon a street musician and his cello. He appears to have paused in his play, his gaze questioning the existence of a listening audience. Lola had a gift for silent and compassionate witness – a willingness to return the gaze of her subject with an intimacy that deepened the artistry and aesthetic of her photography.
By Katrina Calsado