The Photographer’s Gallery‘s exhibition of Manuel Alvarez Bravo has me reaching for my copy of ‘Manuel Alvarez Bravo – Photopoetry’, a detailed study into his photography. I have long been an admirer of his work, but what really strikes me about Alvarez Bravo (“AB”) is his ability to keep all the genre plates spinning.

As John Banville says in his essay, ‘A Magician in Light’ 1, AB recognised both the poetical and journalistic potential of photography. In his work we see a full range of intention. In an age of specialisation and the early narrowing of options this insistence on width and depth in his photography is so encouraging.

It’s worth looking at examples of his range of output:

Photojournalism

©Estate of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Burial at Metepec, 1932

Landscape

©Estate of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Texcoco, 1950s

Portrait

©Estate of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Carlos Mérida, 1930s

Street Life – Cartier-Bresson influence?

, Retable of Atlatahucan, 1950-58

Drama

©Estate of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, The Threshold, 1947

Surreal – Walker Evans influence?

©Estate of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Optical Parable, 1931

Detail – Atget infuence?

©Estate of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, The Lions of Coyoacán

Anticipating Robert Frank?

©Estate of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, The Crouched Ones, 1934

Aspiring photography students would do well to take a leaf out of AB’s book. His refusal to be pigeon-holed is a lesson to us all in these times.

  1. Manuel Alvarez Bravo – Photopoetry, Thames and Hudson, 2008, page 9
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