Graciela Iturbide’s Birds

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. I may owe it to the rare airtime of Vertigo during my breakfast hour, or maybe it’s due to the fact it would’ve been his 117th birthday this past weekend (of course he would have been born on the thirteenth!), but mostly I’ve been thinking a lot about horror in attempt to formulate photo ideas for my own collaborative series.

Which brings me to a question. What does the “Master of Suspense” and Mexican documentary film photographer, Graciela Iturbide (1942) have in common?


You guessed it, birds.

Like Hitchcock, Iturbide also came from a filmmaking background, but soon fell in love with the still image as practiced by the modernist master, Manuel Alvarez Bravo who was teaching at the University at the time. It was here that the young Graciela began to assist Alvarez Bravo on various photographic journeys throughout Mexico before embarking on her own journey documenting the indigenous people of Mexico — the Zapotec, Mixtec, and Seri, a group of nomadic fisherman living in the Sonora desert.

So why birds? For Hitchcock, anything goes. The birds symbolized inexplicable violence, tension even, in an otherwise peaceful bayside town. For Iturbide however, this is a fleeting reality, captured.

In an interview with Foto Feminas, Iturbide gave insight on her feathered subject:

I have always been interested in the flight of birds, especially in literature and the ability to capture birds photographically during flight. San Juan de la Cruz, the mystical poet, said: “There are five qualities a bird possesses; first, they go the highest; second, they don’t suffer from company, although it is their nature; third, they go with their beaks in the air; fourth, they do not have a specific colour; fifth, they sing sweetly.

Iturbide creates work shot exclusively in black and white, using natural light, and blends the world of poetry and testimony to create iconic images.

She continues to live and work in Mexico City.
To know more about Iturbide’s work, click here.





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