© Graciela Iturbide, 2022
After her time at the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos [University Center for Film Studies], Graciela Iturbide became Manuel Álvarez Bravo’s assistant. She accompanied Bravo, the great master of Mexican photography, on his trips throughout different rural areas in Mexico. This became her first contact with a forgotten world: the everyday lives of the peasants in indigenous communities, which opened before Iturbide with the intensity of a revelation. Iturbide decided to direct her camera at this reality, previously unknown to her, in an effort to better understand it.
At the time, the Instituto Nacional Indigenista de México [National Indigenous Institute] commissioned a series of photographic essays on indigenous communities from a number of young authors whose generation was characterized by a shared interest in documenting and recovering the richness of indigenous cultures. In 1971, within the framework of this documentary series, the INI offered Iturbide her first important assignment. The photographer decided to work with the Seris people, the inhabitants of the Sonora Desert, with whom she lived for a month, alongside anthropologist Luis Barjau. The resulting series, Los que viven en la arena [Those who live in the sand], is comprised of an ensemble of portraits—among which is Mujer angel [Angel Woman]—that capture the traits of a community undergoing a transformation; one whose life is being pulled between the ancestral legacy of the past and the new technological ways of the present.