Lola Álvarez Bravo: Subverting Surrealist Photography in Mexico

Lauren Walden*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (SciVal)


    Rather than merely draw inspiration from Surrealism, I argue that Mexican photographer Lola Álvarez Bravo actually subverts some of its founding tenets and iconography. Though archived letters documenting the turbulent relationship with her former husband Manuel Álvarez Bravo, I contend that empirical experience incited her to deconstruct the male anatomy similarly to the surrealist treatment of the female body, photographically subverting surrealist iconography from within. I consider how Lola’s staunchly Catholic religious beliefs impacted upon her feminist stance and how she navigated the female iconography of the Catholic faith in a Surrealist manner. Subsequently, I chart how Lola’s photography reversed stereotypical gender roles in a post-revolutionary society, repurposing the surrealist penchant for the mannequin in the service of feminism. Lola’s practice corresponds to a form of intersectional feminism, whereby her own battles concurrently engender sympathy for other marginalized communities such as the poor and the indigenous. Nevertheless, due to her reliance upon government commissions, her photographic repertoire does sometimes stray into propaganda despite her ardent denials thereof; Manuel clearly had more artistic freedom compared to Lola. Lola’s subversion of surrealism is underpinned by the dichotomy of the generalized and concrete other, elaborated by feminist-cosmopolitan philosopher Seyla Benhabib.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1
    Number of pages26
    JournalPhotography and Culture
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 15 Mar 2023


    • Lola Álvarez Bravo
    • Manuel Álvarez Bravo
    • feminism
    • photography
    • surrealism
    • Mexico


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