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 Manuel Alvarez Bravo  (1902 - 2002)

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Lived/Active: Mexico      Known for: photography

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Manuel Alvarez Bravo
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (February 4, 1902 – October 19, 2002)

Álvarez Bravo was born in Mexico City on February 4, 1902.  He came from a family of artists and writers, and met several other prominent artists who encouraged his work when he was young, including Tina Modotti and Diego Rivera.  His grandfather was a photographer and his father was a patron of photography, painting and literary composition.

Manuel began studying painting and music at the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1918.  He received his first photographic camera in 1923, and in 1925 began his essays on aesthetics and the technical work of photography, but did not begin professional photography until 1925.  Though he was never formally a member of the surrealist movement, his work displays many characteristics of surrealism, and he was exposed to many of its founders.  His work often suggests dreams or fantasies, and he frequently photographed inanimate objects in ways that gave them humanistic qualities.

His work bears some similarity to the work of Clarence John Laughlin, an American photographer who was working in New Orleans at around the same time.  They both loved literature, and made references to the mythologies of their time visually and in the titles of their images.  They both used old-fashioned cameras which were slower than the Leica which were becoming popular among other art photographers of the day.  They also both knew Edward Weston, so it is possible that they influenced each other's work.

Álvarez Bravo's work was often political, referencing the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution both directly and indirectly.  One of his most famous photographs, Obrero en huelga, asesinado (Striking Worker, Assassinated) depicts the face of a bloodied corpse lying in the sun is housed at The Wittliff Collections (Texas State University), which houses the largest archive of modern and contemporary Mexican photography in the United States.  He associated with many revolutionary artists and writers, but did not let politics overwhelm the personal aspects of his work; he continued to create beautiful, dreamlike, photographs of life in Mexico until his death in 2002.

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