cover image Mexican Suite: A History of Photography in Mexico

Mexican Suite: A History of Photography in Mexico

Olivier Debroise. University of Texas Press, $60 (300pp) ISBN 978-0-292-71611-7

While this book is certainly a thorough and much-needed history of photography in Mexico, its passion, technique and breadth of insight make it much more. The book's musical structure more explicitly stated in its Spanish title, Fuga Mexicana, and its section headings, which move from ""overture"" through ""canon"" and ""pastorale"" to ""fantasia"" is also its narrative method, developing a series of discrete but interrelated sections instead of a lockstep sequential narration of events. With a talent for biting wit (the early 20th century Mexican press possessed ""a perversity that was then uncommon"") and bold recontextualizations, Mexico City independent curator and scholar Debroise takes figures like Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Tina Modotti and moves them from the ""exotic"" margins of the modernist canon to rightful and powerfully stated positions of central importance within a national tradition. A host of other figures, from anonymous daguerreotype artists to such American visitors as Edward Weston and Paul Strand, are incorporated into Debroise's overlapping panoramas. Since publishing the book in Spanish in 1994, Debroise and translator Sa Rego (archivist of pictorial collections at the Center for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico) have collaborated in revising and updating its content for readers less familiar with the details of Mexican history. That care, along with the sensitive layout and incisive selection of 143 b&w images, allow the authors to make an extremely compelling case for some terrific art. (Apr.) Forecast: For any photographic or university library this pioneering volume is an essential purchase. It also should appeal to a wide range of other readers, from those with an interest in Mexican history and Latino/Latina studies, to those with an interest in modernist and postmodernist photography and art.