Graciela Iturbide was born in Mexico City, the oldest of 13 children. She studied at the Centro de Estudios Cinematográficos at the Universidad Nacional Autónama de México where she met her mentor and teacher, the Mexican modernist cinematographer and photographer, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, who was teaching at the University. She worked as his assistant in the early 1970’s, accompanying him on his various photographic journeys throughout Mexico.
Iturbide traveled widely across Latin America in the 1970s, in particular to Cuba and Panama. In 1978 the Ethnographic Archive of the National Indigenous Institute of Mexico commissioned her to photograph Mexico’s indigenous population. She chose to capture the way of life of the Seri Indians, a group of fisherman living a nomadic lifestyle in the Sonora desert in the north west of Mexico along the border with Arizona, US. In 1979 she was invited by the artist Francisco Toledo to photograph the Juchitán people who form part of the Zapotec culture native to Oaxaca in southern Mexico. Iturbide’s series that started in 1979 and runs through to 1988 resulted in the publication of her book Juchitán de las Mujeres in 1989. Iturbide has continued to produce important work in Cuba, East Germany, India, Madagascar, Hungary, Paris, and the US.
Iturbide’s work has been celebrated in solo exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou (1982), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1990), Philadelphia Museum of Art (1997), J. Paul Getty Museum (2007), MAPFRE Foundation, Madrid (2009), Photography Museum Winterthur (Zurich) (2009), and Barbican Art Gallery, London (2012), among many others.
Iturbide is the recipient of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Foundation Award, 1987; the Grand Prize Mois de la Photo, Paris, 1988; a Guggenheim Fellowship for the project ‘Fiesta y Muerte’, 1988; the Hugo Erfurth Award, Leverkusen, Germany, 1989; the International Grand Prize, Hokkaido, Japan, 1990; the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie Award, Arles, 1991; the Hasselblad Award, 2008; the National Prize of Sciences and Arts in Mexico City in 2008; an Honorary Degree in photography from the Columbia College Chicago in 2008; and an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2009.
The Hasselblad Foundation, in bestowing her 2008 Award, stated:
“Graciela Iturbide is considered one of the most important and influential Latin American photographers of the past four decades. Her photography is of the highest visual strength and beauty. Graciela Iturbide has developed a photographic style based on her strong interest in culture, ritual and everyday life in her native Mexico and other countries. Iturbide has extended the concept of documentary photography, to explore the relationships between man and nature, the individual and the cultural, the real and the psychological. She continues to inspire a younger generation of photographers in Latin America and beyond.”