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The Iturbide exhibit impresses on me a sense of being in another world. Although her works are based on everyday scenes of local people, the execution and creativity create a sense of looking at a different world where the unknown and the unfamiliar become common things and the bizarre becomes art. From the entire Iturbide exhibit, I’m choosing:
1. Nino Fidencio Ritual 2. Pushkat, India 3. Mujer Angel, Sonora Desert, Mexico
Espinazo, Mexico Gelatin Silver Print Gelatin Silver Print
Platinum Print 1999 1979
In two of the chosen photographs, Iturbide has chosen women subjects, which is typical of her work as she is a known feminist. The third photograph is of a child face down in nothingness. Focus is usually on the subject while the background appears hazy. Iturbide plays with lighting to give the photographs a different aura. Some parts are in shadows for a mysterious effect, as reflected in the Nino Fidencio Ritual. There are also the use of repetitive objects in the background like the camels in the Pushkat photo and the flowers in the Mujer photo. The repetitive objects somehow create a pattern that changes the way the photographs look. Iturbide creates depth in her photographs by putting a distant object from the main subjects. In Mujer, the distant mountains and the shimmering desert make the object seem to be standing on a hillside. In Nino, depth is created by intermingling of light and shadows. In Pushkat, the desert and the camels in the background provide depth. In terms of angle, only in Pushkat did Iturbide used a direct approach, capturing the subject in the face level. For the other two, Iturbide captured the subjects from an elevated angle.
Of all the elements, Iturbide’s use of her subjects is one of the most significant in each works. Iturbide has the capability to give the three subjects more than their face value. In Pushkat, the woman wearing a chador has a bizarre appearance because of how the circular designs of her veil are positioned to cover her nose and eyes. In Nino, the boy wearing a white piece of clothing looks like a fallen angel, while the subject in Mujer looks like an ethereal figure about to float to the shimmering sand below. Another element that highlights Iturbide’s works is the artist’s craftsmanship. From the seemingly innocent Pushkat photograph to the mysterious Nino, it is evident that Iturbide is skillful in using light and shadow to provide drama to her works. The tones in Nino can only be achieved through care and skill, while making the Sonora Desert shimmer like the sea also speaks of Iturbide’s craftsmanship.
Comparison of Iturbide’s Work with Uelsmann
Work chosen from the Jerry Uelsmann exhibition:
Silver Gelatin Print
Comparing Uelsmann’s Dream Theater to Iturbide’s photographs, it is easy to see the similarities and differences between the two artists’ approaches in their works. First, while Uelsmann and Iturbide are thematic in their approach, they differ in how they achieve the effects. Iturbide uses real people and places and achieves her goal by manipulating lighting. Uelsmann’s Dream Theater, on the other hand, has imposed during the processing many photographs to achieve the result he wanted. Uelsmann wants to represent the Dream Theater as a place that is not of this world. Iturbide’s final effect still retains a realistic touch while Uelsmann’s photograph is a totally out of this world scene. Second, in Dream Theater, the use of lines is very apparent. Lines are present to represent the columns the cathedral or building, the floor, the book and the platform. The photograph is largely defined by lines. In Iturbide’s works, her subjects are mostly human figures and the lines are minimal and mostly softly curving. Iturbide is apparently not fond of lines in her photographs.
In both of the artists’ works, there is a skillful use of light and shadow, although Iturbide is more prone to use this technique to highlight the subject or to create a mysterious and dramatic effect. Both artists have also included depth in their works by making the background look farther than the subject in focus. The sky in the background provides a feeling of space in Dream Theater while Iturbide uses the landscape or absence of any to avoid giving her pictures a flat look. With regards to focus, Dream Theater’s main subject is a minute silhouette that is in the center of the building. Ironically, the figure is very small and the only thing that draws the eye towards the figure is because it is in shadow. In Iturbide’s photographs, there can be no doubt where the focus of the photographs are since they are very clear and takes up most of the space. In the three photographs, the focus are the three humans in their different garbs.
Dream Theater’s scene gives the viewer the chance to formulate his own interpretation and meaning. The figure could be the dreamer, but what about the crow and the gnarled hands atop the open book? It makes the mind think and come up with its own explanations. In Iturbide’s photographs, they are usually representative of their themes and easier to interpret. However, the representations are sometimes manipulated to achieve an artistic result rather than simply providing the audience with what he is expecting to see. In this sense, Iturbide’s photographs tickles the mind to provide for an alternative interpretation of the images shown.
What are the reasons you would give for describing photography as a fine art?
Photography is a fine art because it can be made for aesthetic purposes rather than just mere utility. In this instance, the artist makes his photographs fulfill his creative visions. Just like the traditional forms of fine art, photography involves the artist’s eye of beauty and details and the skillful execution to translate what the artist’s saw to print images.
Which work is your favorite in the show and why?
Among the photographs, my favorite is the Nino Fidencio Ritual because it is the most mysterious in the set. It makes me wonder what the little boy looks like and why he is lying face down. He seems to me like an angel who fell to the ground and unable to stand because of the fall’s impact. Although it signifies a ritual, the craftsmanship is very good that it stirs the mind to think of other thoughts.
Graciela Iturbide and Jerry Uelsmann are two contemporary photography artists that are masters of their art. Although the two artists follow different approaches, it cannot be denied that each deserves to have his or her works exhibited in museums. Uelsmann’s style gravitates toward the use of lines and landscape, while Iturbide represents women subjects as more than what they are. The two artists have succeeded in putting into print their creative visions, earning the right to be called fine artists.
Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. Current Exhibition: Graciela Iturbide and: The Spirits of the Earth ~ Los Espíritus de la Tierra and “Just Suppose” by Jerry Uelsmann & Maggie Taylor.