Friday, February 6, 2009

Researching Lola Alvarez Bravo

Photographer and gallery owner Lola Alvarez Bravo gave Frida Kahlo a one-woman exhibition in Mexico City during 1953. Alvarez Bravo also photographed Kahlo often, as in the beautiful photo above. During the course of helping a student research Lola Alvarez Bravo, I learned these things and more about her. Students (always girls, curiously) often come to the library looking for all things Frida; quite often all the books her are checked out; there were none on the shelves this past week when I looked for them, even though we own plenty. We don't own a single book about Alvarez Bravo, so we turned to the Internet and electronic resources.

Such serendipity is one of the best things about being a librarian. Your work takes you browsing through subjects you never would have learned about otherwise. I've seen and admired so many of Alvarez Bravo's photos of Frida without really thinking about who took them. So I enjoyed learning a bit more about her. Lola Alvarez Bravo is known as Mexico's first female photographer. Born in 1903, by 1925 she was married to her neighbor in Mexico City, photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo. He taught her photography, and she worked as his assistant. By 1934 when they separated, she struck out on her own and began winning commissions on her own. She became known for her intimate portraits (especially of Mexico's cultural elite), street scenes, and everyday subjects. She also taught photography during her lifetime. A year before she died in 1993, there was a major retrospective of her art in Mexico City.

The first comprehensive English language book about the artist, Lola Alvarez Bravo by Elizabeth Ferrer, was published in 2006 by Aperture/Center for Creative Photography. It is still available and I hope to add it to the library collection soon. I wonder if anyone is working on a biography of the artist? Now that she is "on my radar", I'd like to read more about her. Her art has been shown recently at the Smithsonian's International Gallery, among other places, and currently at the Snite Museum at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

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