14 May 2015

Photography during the Mexican revolution

Lately I've been reading México: fotografía y revolución by Miguel Ángel Berumen, and Mexico at the Hour of Combat: Sabino Osuna's Photographs of the Mexican Revolution. The latter was brought to my attention by an exhibit at the Marriott Library by Artes de México en Utah.

In Fotografía y revolución, Laura González Flores says that the format preferred by most Mexican war photographers of the time was a 4 x 5 or 5 x 7 inch glass plate. Even though nitrocellulose film had become widely available at that time, the glass plates were better for commercial contact printing and had high enough image quality for photomechanical reproductions. By the early 20th century, exposure times were short enough and cameras were light enough that they could be used to capture action on the battlefield. Because it occurred so early in the 20th century, photos of the Mexican revolution are some of the first live-action photos of war (as opposed to images of dead soldiers). Although by this time photography was accessible to the middle class, most of those photographing the revolution were professionals, not amateurs.

Mexico City photographers, c. 1910.
Image from Fotografía y revolución.
Camera ad, from an early 20th century magazine for Mexican photographers.
Image from Fotografía y revolución.

I think the reason I've pored over these two books so much is that I love the peek into everyday life they give of civilians, especially women, and the photographers themselves. Osuna seems to have had a lot of access to the Madero family, especially his wife. I want all her outfits. Note that the rest of the images in this post are from Mexico at the Hour of Combat.

Do you peep that white dress? This is Madero's family.

Sra. Madero

Sra. Madero again

a nurse

A market by damaged buildings

When I saw this photo all I could think about was how jealous I am of the printer who
owned all that wood type, with accents. But, erhm, the important historical event documented here is in fact a prison break, not type.

Battalion of Yaquí Indians

Makeshift barber shop for soldiers

Compared to the other photographs detailed in Fotografía y revolución, Osuna's photos are technically better and I would say they go beyond documentary. The photography museum at UC Riverside holds the Osuna negatives and they have a great permanent history of photograph display too! And a little room that is a camera obscura! One of my favorite things about Mexico at the Hour of Combat is that it has an index of the entire collection, with thumbnails.

My favorite details are the little boy in the lower left hand corner and the brass band

Zapata eating dinner

No comments:

Post a Comment