Frida Kahlo & Diego RiveraFrida Kahlo & Diego Rivera

Manuel and Lola Álvarez Bravo

9 July to 2 October 2011

A selection of photographs by a key artistic couple who offer a significant glimpse of Mexico' s cultural history, the photographers Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902–2002) and Lola Álvarez Bravo (1905–1993).

Manuel Alvarez Bravo (1902−2002), 'the poet of the lens' is regarded as one of the great photographers of the 20th century and the godfather of Latin-American modern photography.

Born in Mexico City he left school at the age of 12 to earn money for his family after his father's death. Both his grandfather and father were amateur photographers and awakened his interest in photography at an early age. He studied painting and music at the San Carlos Art Academy in Mexico City. In that time his photographs were pictorial. The influence of Cubism, abstraction and Surrealism changed his work completely. He worked for the Muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera, who introduced him to the Italian film star, communist and photographer Tina Modotti. When Modotti was deported from Mexico in 1930 for alleged subversive political activities, she left Alvarez Bravo her camera and her job at the magazine 'Mexican Folkways'. Between 1943 and 1959 he worked in the burgeoning Mexican film industry as a stills photographer and experimented with cinema. 

Alvarez Bravo was a child of the Mexican Revolution (1910−1917) and like many other artists promoted the ideals of equality, justice, modernity and the Mexican identity. His work captures the essence of Mexico and at the same time has a universal humane appeal.

In 1925 Manuel married Lola Alvarez Bravo who learnt photography from her husband and became a distinguished photographer in her own right.

Lola Alvarez Bravo (1907−1993) was born in a wealthy family in Jalisco, Mexico as Dolores Martinez de Anda. After moving to Mexico City she met the young Manuel Alvarez Bravo, a neighbour. After their marriage in 1925 they moved to Oaxaca where Manuel was an accountant for the federal government. At the same time he became more interested in photography as a serious career and Lola acted as his assistant. They separated in 1934, but she kept his name and pursued her interest in photography.

For a living she taught and worked in archives but gradually established herself as a professional photographer, making documentaries of Mexican daily life, portraits of political, intellectual and artistic figureheads and experimenting with photomontage.

She was a photography teacher at the San Carlos Art Academy in Mexico City and ran her own gallery the Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City. In 1953 she staged the first solo exhibition in Mexico of work by her friend Frida Kahlo.Exhibition Sponsor