In the same room that had hosted the official announcement of the invention of the daguerreotype process by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre on August 19, 1839, Graciela Iturbide received the Photography Prize of the Académie des beaux-arts – William Klein.
A true recognition, this exceptional award of 120,000 euros rewards a photographer for his/her entire career and his/her commitment to the medium. As the perpetual secretary of the Académie des beaux-arts, Laurent Petitgirard, pointed out, “It doesn’t concern itself with aesthetics or schools of thought. It is a prize for freedom and curiosity, that’s why we created it.”
Awarded every two years, it was established in 2019 by the Academy in tribute to the work of William Klein (1926-2022), with the support of the Chengdu Contemporary Image Museum. Graciela Iturbide is the third laureate to receive this honor. The first was the Indian photographer Raghu Rai in 2019, followed by the American Annie Leibovitz in 2021.
Some discovered her in the ambitious exhibition that the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain dedicated to her in 2022, her first French retrospective that had been long overdue. Born in 1942 in Mexico, Graciela Iturbide dedicated her life to creating photography that blends documentary and poetry. Traveling primarily within her country, she immortalized the Seri Indians of the Sonora Desert and the women of Juchitán in sensitive and powerful portraits. Mexican communities with ancestral traditions are at the heart of her concerns. In the 1970s, she assisted the photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo, whom she followed across Latin America.
In addition to the kindred spirits she met throughout her life, the photographer pays special attention to nature. Her stunning compositions with cacti and birds immediately come to mind. As Sebastião Salgado pointed out in his tribute: “It is amazing to see how Graciela [Iturbide] has dedicated much of her life to human emotions as well as those of plants.”
The almost spiritual way in which the photographer perceives her surroundings adds to the fascination her images evoke. Animated by a unique light, Graciela Iturbide seems to walk with one foot in reality and another in dreams. It is a guiding thread and a defense for her: “Always go further in the search for images glimpsed in dreams and pursued in the poetry and cruelty of the world.”