© Graciela Iturbide, 2022
In 1969,Graciela Iturbide enrolled at the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos [University Center for Film Studies] to study film. There she studied with Manuel Álvarez Bravo, a foundational figure within Mexican photography. Fascinated by the work of Álvarez Bravo, who would become her mentor and friend, she began taking photographs. México (1969) is one of her first photographs from those years of apprenticeship. Nevertheless, it quickly became an emblematic image that included some of the motifs—both formal and in terms of subject matter—that would be recurrent throughout her oeuvre: her nonnegotiable use of black and white, her ability to evoke poetry and oneiricism from a perspective anchored in reality, and her reflections on death.
The photo was taken at a wax museum. In it we are presented with the doubling that takes place in this type of museum: the face of the woman sitting at a table finishing her drink rhymes visually with the skull appearing in the background. The skull seems to comment on the scene or represent an allegorical figuration. The cavities of the dreary figure reveal a narrative synthesis ciphered within the motif of the bed: the hotel room bed, the hospital bed where the ill body lies, and the grave, the definitive resting place. Next to the skull, the seated woman’s face resembles a mask. Her mouth attempts a broken smile in an effort to conceal the exhaustion and disappointment in her eyes.