Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide is famous for her haunting black and white photos. Isabel Quintero and Zeke Pena have created an enthralling graphic novel in which Iturbide’s story and photographs are brought to life for a generation who may be entirely unfamiliar with their groundbreaking work. Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide is an important graphic novel for the current culture. Mexican stories need to be told. Graphic novels like this are a reminder that the history and culture of Mexican art and artists is vast and rich. This graphic novel may be a few years old but its review is crucial.
The story opens at an art gallery with photographs on display. A group of young people ask the photographer about their style and methods. That photographer is Graciela Iturbide. She explains her methods and motives to the young attendees while the story fades into the past. The story moves through time—back and forth—from the Sonoran Desert and Mexico City to India and Frida Kahlo’s bedroom. It covers her most famous photographs as well as her childhood and relationship with her father. Graciela appears to explain in her own words what was going on at the time, the inspirations for the photographs, and her own thought process.
Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide is uniquely illustrated. The artist painstakingly recreates Graciela’s history and photographs through similar yet powerful black and white illustrations. The actual photographs accompany the illustrated versions. It’s refreshing to see artwork and photography depicted in this way, particularly in a graphic memoir. It is one thing to see an illustrated version of a piece of art, but to see it held up against the real thing is entirely different and adds great depth to the story. The attention to detail is astounding and the artist made the right decision to keep color out of the book. Graciela’s medium was black-and-white and her biography should be the same.
The writing itself feels a bit stilted and that may be entirely based on the translation. It’s hard to feel a rhythm while reading. The author includes an interesting use of a second person point of view. The author addresses the reader in short snippets of text before each chapter break. These breaks in the fourth wall are a way to introduce the reader to where the story will take place next. It’s helpful in a way, but also a bit distracting. Graciela’s descriptions are poetic and imaginative while these breaks feel unnecessary. Graciela is more than capable of telling her own story in her own way. Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide is a fascinating look into the life of a prolific and iconic Mexican photographer. Their work resides in many museums around the world. This graphic novel cannot tell Graciela’s story in its entirety, but it does a great job of introducing readers of all ages to her life and her work.
Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide is appropriate for readers 13+. It is enjoyable to readers of Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, Pénélope Bagieu’s Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, and Liana Finck’s Passing for Human.
Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide
By Isabel Quintero
Art by Zeke Pena
Getty Publications, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: T
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Character Traits: Latinx