Schmucker photography exhibit illustrates life in Mexico

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By Kira Goodwin, Staff Writer

This semester, the Schmucker Art Gallery welcomes a new exhibit titled “Photography in Mexico.” This exhibit, as the title would make it seem, displays photographs of life in Mexico. Combining photos by American photographer Paul Strand and Mexican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo, the exhibit is meant to showcase everyday life in Mexico.

According to Shannon Egan, director of the art gallery, these photographers “sought to document Mexico’s ‘new’ national identity” after the Mexican Revolution. The two photographers both shared the “notion that the essence of Mexican national identity is shaped by its rural and indigenous cultures.” And they go on to demonstrate these views through their modernist photography of everyday life and people.

The exhibit contained numerous photographs that displayed powerful messages through their simplicity. For example, Bravo’s photograph El Perro Veinte shows a girl standing in a doorway with a dog at her side. It just depicts life, not an extravagant life, but a life that finds beauty in its simplicity. Or there is Strand’s photo Church, which highlights cultural differences in that the Church is old and a little dirty, in fact the only reason that most Americans would be able to identify it as a Church is because of the cross that sits atop it. Yet it is a beautiful image that highlights cultural differences for those that belong to a different one.

Other images of landscapes or buildings, such as Strand’s Lamdscape near Saltillo, and Plaza, State of Puebla, or Bravo’s Ventana Al Coro, depict the old architecture and the desert landscape that help to shape Mexican culture. They show how even apart from the people, the environment of Mexico has its own unique culture.

Then the people, such as Strand’s Woman and Baby, Girl and Child, and Woman of Santa Ana, Michoacan depict the hardships of everyday life. The first showing a woman with a curious and slightly judgmental look on her face with a tired, sad-looking baby on her arm. The second showing a young girl with a menacing look on her face holding an even younger girl. And the latter depicting a large family experiencing poverty and hunger, depicted primarily through the facial expression of the women at center. The images are of real people and the real hardships in their lives, and it is heartbreaking to see them worn out and scarred.

Another impressive photograph was Street Market, Amanalco by Anton Bruehl. This painting is unique in that it is taken at an arial view and it depicts people going about their daily lives with a simplistic beauty. Another snapshot of everyday life comes in Bravo’s Paisaje Chalma. This photo is more of a landscape photo where Bruehl’s focused on the people, but it does contain people walking through the desert. It depicts people going about their daily lives and feels alive because the people walk with a purpose that you can’t always see in paintings.

That is where the power of these photographs comes from. They are real people experiencing real hardships as they go about their day to day lives, with the raw emotion on their faces perfectly captured. And it is that realism that causes the photos to leave a lasting effect.

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