For several decades, until his death in 1973, photographer Pablo Ibarra documented the ordinary people who lived in and around Arandas, about two hours east of Guadalajara.
An exhibition of 200 of Ibarra’s photographs, curated by his daughter Berta, can be seen until 3 August at Casa ITESO Clavigero, Calle José Guadalupe Zuno 2083.
In one family portrait, three children huddle close to their seated parents. Instead of a child, the father is cradling a portable radio in his lap.
In another photograph, a young couple stare into the camera. He wears a hat, and his eyes bore straight into the viewer. She, however, is wearing dark, thick motorcycle glasses, and her eyes are inscrutable.
A young boy perches on a wooden chair, holding a fighting cock in his lap. The legs of the bird appear to be nearly as long as those of the child. The two must be good friends, because the boy is merely supporting the bird, not clutching him with a death grip.
A little girl about three years old is proudly displaying her book, Rosita Juanita. Her mother probably reads the book aloud at bedtime, while the little girl devours the vivid illustrations.
A woman with three small children (two boys and a girl) looks longingly from another photograph. No man is with them. Is she a widow? Has she divorced her husband? Has her man slipped into the United States to work and send money back to his family?
A woman without a man, a mother with twins in her lap, is surrounded by five other children—two boys and three girls. Is her man ashamed to be seen with them? Has he run off with the neighbor woman?
A bread seller balances a basket full of fresh bread on his head. He wears only sandals to protect his feet from the rough cobblestones over which he must walk all day long.
Among the portraits of the living, there are also glimpses of the dead. Stillborn twins, dressed in baptismal finery, their tiny heads wreathed in daisies, appear to be sleeping.
A young father and mother keep watch over their dead baby daughter, whose hands are folded as if in prayer. While the father looks utterly bewildered by the tragedy that has overtaken him, his wife appears to have accepted her loss as “God’s will.” She seems to be serene and imperturbable.
Surprisingly, there also some landscape photographs on display, four to be exact. In one of them a mother and her young child approach the waters of a pond or lake on what is probably a sizzling summer day. They are close enough to the water’s edge to cast reflections, but their bodies are as soft as the cumulus clouds filling the sky. Eyes, noses, mouths—no facial features are discernible. The mother and child are only impressions of human beings. They are, I think, what Monet would have produced had he wielded a camera instead of a brush.
This exhibition deserves more than a passing glance, and because there is no admission fee, you can return as often as you like to savor Ibarra’s haunting images.
Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
rummaging in the attic
for hidden treasure
Text and photo © 2016 by Mark M. Redfearn, all rights reserved