A new Fondation Cartier exhibition traces Graciela Iturbide’s 50-year career

Heliotropo 37 brings together hundreds of images shot by the globetrotting Mexican photographer, including her work documenting the Seri community of the Sonoran Desert and the Zapotec women of Oaxaca Valley

Autorretrato, Desierto de Sonora, México, 1979. All images courtesy Fondation Cartier

Graciela Iturbide has been taking pictures since the early 70s, having originally enrolled as a film student before she discovered photography. Over the course of the decade, she photographed many Indigenous Mexican communities, in some cases living amongst them for extended periods of time, or returning to build strong relationships.

As her career progressed, Iturbide began to move away from portraits and imagery of humans, and more towards ritual and symbol. Latter pieces of work seem to tap into something uncanny, giving the sense that magic is being performed somewhere nearby, or behind the scenes. Iturbide has described these rituals as “the only way to forget the everyday”.

Saguaro, Desierto de Sonora, México, 1979
Carnaval, Tlaxcala, México, 1974
Khajuraho, India, 1998
Mujer zapoteca, Tonalá, Oaxaca, 1974

Travel was always a major part of the photographer’s work, and it’s reflected in this show, which features images she shot in her home country of Mexico, as well as work from India, Europe, the US and South America.

“I have looked for the surprise in the ordinary, an ordinary that I could find anywhere in the world,” said the photographer, who received the Outstanding Contribution to Photography prize in last year’s Sony World Photography Awards.

The exhibition features some of Iturbide’s most significant pieces of work to date, including her portraits of the Seri people of the Sonoran Desert, the cholo gangs of LA and Tijuana, and her images of the Zapotec women of Oaxaca – who she spent ten years visiting.

Pájaros en el poste de luz, Carretera a Guanajuato, México, 1990
Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas, Juchitán, Oaxaca, 1979

As well as examining her historic contribution, Heliotropo 37 unveils a rare colour series by Iturbide, commissioned by the Fondation Cartier and shot in an alabaster and onyx mine in Tecali de Herrera, Mexico. Exhibition-goers can also peer inside Iturbide’s striking terracotta brick-clad Mexico City studio, in a set of images shot by Pablo López Luz.

Heliotropo 37 is on display until 29 May, at Fondation Cartier in Paris; fondationcartier.com

DESIGN PRODUCER

LONDON/HYBRID

DESIGNER

LONDON