|Mexico Roma, Photographs by Graciela Iturbide. |
Published by RM, 2011.
Reviewed by Alexandra Huddleston
Graciela Iturbide Mexico Roma
Photographs by Graciela Iturbide
RM, 2011. Softcover. 96 pp., 50 illustrations, 6-1/2x8-1/4".
Graciela Iturbide's newest book Mexico Roma feels and looks like one (beautifully designed) volume from a traveler's archive of scrapbooks. However, this is the only volume published. If its companions exist, they are yet to be made. At 6.5 by 8 inches and just 96 pages, it's the size and shape of a journal that would fit easily into a purse or camera case. The cover is a textured, muted powder blue with no photograph, only what looks like an adhesive red-trimmed name-tag (which the artist apparently picked up in Bolivia) stuck in the middle and filled with a handwritten title: "Mexico" for the front side of the book and "Roma" for the back. The interior pages are a thin, rough, creamy stock that has a tactile grace, but one that adds a dark, grainy, and rough quality to the photographs. From what Iturbide has said about the book, the photographs are in fact a highly culled selection from her archives of these two locations, though she pulled the Mexico work from images shot between 1974 and 2009 while the photographs of Rome were all made in 2007.
Iturbide has been working in the medium for over forty years. She always shoots film, primarily black and white, and while she has worked on projects all over the world, her most famous work has been on the life of traditional communities in Mexico. Her latest projects -- including her last book Asor and the publication currently under discussion -- have turned away from documentary subjects. The medium is still beautiful black and white film photography, but now the photographs tend towards a poetic description of place, filled with the signs of human presence, but the absence of actual people.
In the end, this book is exactly what it appears to be: a beautifully designed and beautifully edited scrapbook of a traveler and photographer, linked only by where her eyes and her feet took her over what were surely many miles of pavement. There are many photography books whose only conceptual glue is the artist's 'intuition.' Most of them feel limp and lifeless. Iturbide's intuition towards her native Mexico is rooted in a lifelong knowledge of the place, and her country's half of the book is without a doubt much stronger than Rome's half. However, with its skillful but modest design and presentation, its flawless sequencing, and Iturbide's own evocative symbolic language Mexico Roma manages to please. If there are other volumes to come: Welcome!—Alexandra Huddleston
_____________________________Alexandra Huddleston is an American photographer who was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and grew up in the Washington, DC area and in West Africa. She holds an MS in broadcast journalism from Columbia University and a BA in studio art and East Asian studies from Stanford University. In 2007 she was awarded a Fulbright Grant to photograph and research the legacy of traditional Islamic scholarship in Timbuktu, Mali. Photographs from her Timbuktu work have been included in the permanent collection of the US Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division and exhibited worldwide. Her current work in progress explores a pilgrim’s life along the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain and the Shikoku Henro, a pilgrimage of 88 temples on the island of Shikoku, Japan.