Manuel Alvarez Bravo on Art and Technology

The question of art is not a question of spontaneous feelings. It is not a question of emotionality, but of the knowledge of how to make things, how to realise something consciously. Everything functions in the brain. Even art. And, since one keeps developing and gaining an understanding of a work of art, the question of art is always a question of culture.
The photographer receives what he is given. […] Technology develops and the individual is given more possibilities. But he is neither better nor worse because of those possibilities. […] The question of technology has nothing to do with new or old apparatus or methods. The question is only about the capacity of man to acquire culture and express it. It would never occur to me to do digital work in photography, because I have – within myself – my own development.
Technological advances are double-edged. What a marvel, the automobile! […] But what happens? The individual becomes more dependent on the automobile, and the automobile needs other phenomena to keep it going, and very soon it becomes a great muddle. Eventually, as we have more and more inventions, the individual becomes more and more separated from society. He stays more and more in his house, among his books, within himself.

Like many other photoartists, Alvarez Bravo drew inspiration from painting and literature. Below are the two fine examples. First is Lucy, his new take on the image of St Lucy (whose attribute was her eyes that were poked during the tortures). I chose the 16th c. painting by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi (1484-1551), although Alvarez Bravo clearly had more to say in his photo, and this is not a mere ‘resemblance’ of eyes to nipples. Frederic Kaufman whose extensive interviews with the photographer made up an introduction to Aperture monograph about Alvarez Bravo (Manuel Alvarez Bravo: Photographs and Memories (Aperture, Vol 147)) recalls a visit to the house where the master was born. The building in 20, Guatemala, right behind the cathedral, by the 1990s housed two commercial stalls on the ground floor. In one of these, Kaufman says, ‘I sink my hands into a bowl of glass eyeballs‘. These were “saint’s eyes”, and on the plate in the photo we probably see such a pair.

Another is Big Fish Eat Little Ones, titled almost precisely after a 1556 painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder Big Fish Eat Little Fish.


2 thoughts on “Manuel Alvarez Bravo on Art and Technology”

  1. Hey there,I am doing a project on Manuel Alvarez Bravo and I’m wanting to know whether or not the red text above is a quote from Alvarez?


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