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ANSEL ADAMS
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ALVAREZ BRAVO
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Manuel Alvarez Bravo

Text from On the Art of Fixing a Shadow: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Photography

The strength of Doisneau's documentation derives from a subjectivity that is the result of the photographer's actual, direct experience of the world he photographed. Just as Doisneau was a part of working-class Paris, Manuel Alvarez Bravo lived and worked in peasant Mexico. A student of the modernist tradition in the 1930s Alvarez turned in the 1940s and 1950s more and more insistently to experiences of his youth and of the time of the Mexican Revolution. "I was born in the city of Mexico, behind the Cathedral, in the place where the temples of the ancient Mexican gods must have been built," he wrote to Nancy Newhall in 1943. This was the year after be made the photograph How Small the World Is, in which laundry flutters brilliantly over a gray street. Images such as this one represent Alvarez's attempt to return, via an imaginative route, to the primal origins of his culture. He came to see the world through the eyes of his peasant subjects, and his work began to be informed by a kind of animism through which everything from a statue to a dress on a chair, or some laundry, seems to take on a life of its own. Even the humblest object or scene is inhabited by spirits made visible by Alvarezs photographs.


 


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