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Mexico Photography: Discovering 1950s Photography with Nacho Lopez

Nacho Lopez, born as Ignacio Lopez Bocanegra, was born in Mexico during the year 1923.  His father was the manager of sales and advertising of Palmolive Soap.  Watching his father work in this field, created an interest of his own in the area of photography and advertising.  He was gifted a camera from his uncle and began perfecting his craft.  At a very young age, he showed special talent in documentary photography and he started the “Yucatecan Photo Hobby Club”.

Lopez
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In 1944, Lopez began working as an assistant cameraman at the Motion Picture Studies Workers Union.  It was also during this time that he became an assistant to Victor De Palma, a photographer for Life Magazine.  Lopez credits Palma as being his first teacher in the art of photography.

Lopez walker
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Nacho Lopez is most known for his 1950s photography that documented life in Mexico.  His photographs illuminated life in the slums of Mexico City, which included topics like poverty, discomfort, and daily activities in the community.  These photographs, and stories that accompanied them, were very controversial because they contradicted the prosperous growth the government was trying to promote at the time. 

Laundry
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His photography topics expand beyond the slum life of Mexico.  The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, hosted an exhibition featuring the stages of Lopez’s career.  They put his work in six different categories.  The first category was the Mexican slum period discussed above.  The second presented images that were published in the magazines Manana y Siempre!.  The third category highlighted Lopez’s work photographing the indigenous groups of Mexico and their traditions.  The fourth section focuses on experiments by the artist, where objects, spaces, and bodies interact with each other.  The fifth category showed his interest in dance. 

Indigenous
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The final category in the exhibition showcased his work with cinematography.  Lopez believed his most important piece of cinematography was “In a Place in This World”.  While he was in Cuba recording the principles of Free Havana, he created this piece, which is about the Cuban Revolution.  Unfortunately, this film was censored in Mexico and was never finished editing.

Lopez began his teaching career in 1976 at the Faculty of Plastic Arts of the Veracruz Ana University.  He passed away in 1986 in Mexico City.  Although Nacho Lopez is not very well known outside of Mexico, he is credited as being one of the most influential Mexican photographers from the past several decades.  He pushed the envelope of what was acceptable, by photographing uncomfortable subjects.  He made it impossible to ignore what was really happening around him, even when authorities disagreed.  

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