‘I Try to Assimilate Myself With Them’: Watch How Photographer Graciela Iturbide Captures the People and Landscape of Mexico

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Graciela Iturbide: Photographing Mexico" © Art21, Inc. 2015.

With headlines screaming about border walls and the US immigration crisis, it couldn’t be a better time for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to unveil a new show dedicated to the gripping work of Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide. In the first major East Coast presentation of more than 120 images from her 50 year-career, Iturbide shows the nuances, particularities, and contradictions of indigenous Mexican cultures living together.

In an exclusive interview for Art21’s “Extended Play” series in 2015, Graciela says: “Politics are already implied when I’m working in Mexico.” At one point, she herself was an active member of the Communist party; she knows all too well the corruption that runs deep within the country’s government. “I don’t have to say, ‘Look, what injustice!’ because it would be sensationalized,” she says.

Production still from the Art21 “Extended Play” film, “Graciela Iturbide: Photographing Mexico” © Art21, Inc. 2015.

Iturbide captures subjects who have been overlooked by society. She told Art21 she prefers to “photograph the man in a more dignified manner, independently,” although she recognizes that it is impossible for her to be purely objective.

Over the course of her decades-long career, she has captured everyday people as important characters in tableaux inspired by the light and shadow of the country’s terrain. In the MFA’s new show, an entire section is devoted to her study of the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Gardens, where cacti and other flora and fauna are presented with as much dignity as her human subjects.

Watch the full segment, which originally appeared as part of the “Art in the Twenty-First Century” television series on PBS, below. Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico” is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from January 19–May 12, 2019. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of news-making artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship Art in the Twenty-First Century television series is available now on PBS. Watch full episodes and learn about the organization’s education programs at Art21.org.

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