Carrying the Mexican torch, Flor Garduno has taken pictures of her native Latin America on her travels through the more remote regions of Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, focusing on the culture, landscape, architecture and religious ceremonies of some of the 40 million indians living in the continent. In search of an expression for this indigenous culture's fight for survival, she has produced a surreal body of work where lone figures inhabit strange landscapes and haunted, or masked, faces stare out from stark portraits. What emerges is a world of the dispossessed, obscured through the years by the European invasion. The rigours of daily rural life are seen to be alleviated by overwhelming religious and mystic beliefs which dominate the lives of this American people.
In Garduno's stunning body of black-and-white photography, Tina Modotti's influence both endures and ends. Here is Modotti's mastery of the subtle nuances of light and shade, together with the kind of exquisite composition learnt from Edward Weston and continued in the work of Alvarez Bravo. But there the similarity ends. For Flor Garduno's photographs are as magical and other-worldly as Modotti's are grounded in an unshakeable realism. Where Modotti was committed to a political form of artistic expression, Garduno seeks to heighten the mythical aspects of Latin American culture and does so by embuing her subjects with ethereal qualities.
This could almost be a land of make-believe, in the realm of fairy-tales, where statues seem to breathe and small children turn to stone. A masked figure becomes a dog in human clothes, an old man seems to dance with a wooden statue of a saint. In an introduction to the exhibition catalogue, the Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes delivers a fitting tribute, noting 'the profiles of the only real American aristocracy; two boys who are kings of clubs . . . ancient kings, fallen princes: they have no other dominion than that of time'.
To 5 June, National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Pictureville, Bradford (0274 72748)
(Photographs omitted)Reuse content