A show of works by Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide and Raghu Rai

How does one communicate with a Mexican photographer who wants to be known to the people of India through the media and is not adequately conversant with English? The only way, perhaps, is through the photographs that she has so fondly taken of the country.

Meet 68-year-old Graciela Iturbide, the Mexican photographer who is considered the Raghu Rai of her country. Rai and Graciela are part of the show “An Eye for an Eye” presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the Embassy of Mexico in India, and Instituto Cervantes. The show has been put together to commemorate the bicentennial of the Independence of Mexico, the centennial of the Mexican Revolution and 60 years of diplomatic relations between India and Mexico.

The show is about contemporary photography, a sort of dialogue between the two celebrated names in photography.

Rai and Graciela shot India and Mexico together some five years ago. Says Rai, “Based on (Mexican poet, writer and diplomat) Octavio Paz's love for India, we shot pictures that Natalia Gill Torner created into an exhibition for us. Graciela and I also did a book together. This show is largely based on those pictures, which include 36 prints of mine and 40 of hers. I have mostly tried to capture India in horizontal frames with a panoramic view. India, I think, is horizontally populated and so many centuries live together here. So capturing them in close-ups doesn't suit my camera,” he says.

Graciela's pictures, especially those in the show, are essentially upfront, character-driven than location-centric. They are largely a glimpse of her photographic career and span almost 40 years of her association with the lens. Be it a traditional Mexican Tlaxcala of 1974, a self-portrait in 1969, or Jaipur and Banaras of 1999, most of her characters are caught posing, and not unaware, unless it is a location-specific picture like a flock of birds in the Mexcio sky of 1978 in and out of darkening cloud. From a distance, the picture gives the impression of a dust storm. In a similar photograph taken in Jaipur is a flock of birds picking grains disturbed by a horse rider. It highlights the photographer's quick thinking. Whereas, her posed subjects, though smiling at the camera, seem intrigued by her lens; for instance, a veiled woman in Jaipur's Pushkar mela. The design on her veil, interestingly, falls on her features, making a perfect mask — two triangles on the eyes, a huge medley on the nose and a tiny circle on her chin. They hide her features and yet reflect them from the transparent cover.

Says this recipient of several awards, including the National Award for Arts and Sciences last year, “I have visited India thrice. I have been to Benaras, Jaipur, Kolkata and Mumbai. I found Jaipur very quiet and Mumbai busy. I am generally fascinated by pictures of fairs and festivities in India. I like to capture faces with emotions and colourful fetes. I respect my subjects' privacy. If people don't like to be pictured, I don't insist.”

Interestingly, Graciela has several photo books to her credit published by noted publishing houses in Mexico. She considers “El baño de Frida Kahlo” one of her most important achievements. It is on famous painter Frida Kahlo's shots of the bathroom. “Since it was essentially a private space, permission to get the pictures wasn't easy. After her death (1954) everything was kept under a total of 50 locks,” she says.

A veteran of over 100 shows across the globe, Graciela has learnt cinematography and counts Deepa Mehta and Vikram Seth among her friends in India.

The exhibition will be on display till until Sunday, October 31st