Author: Anton Bruehl
Publisher: Delphic Studios
Edition: 1st Edition
About the book:
Anton Bruehl was born in South Australia, the son of European immigrants. He moved to New York in 1919, where he studied at the Clarence H White School of Photography, and went on to pursue a highly successful career in commercial photography for 40 years. Working in a popular modernist style, and known particularly for his work in colour, he published several photobooks. of which Mexico is considered the finest. A self-assigned, non-commercial project, this venture had particular personal significance for Bruehl.
The book, printed in an edition of 1,000, features 25 fine photogravures of Mexico created in the modernist-pictorial vein. The images are close in style to those made by Paul Strand in Mexico in 1932-4, although Bruehl's pictures do not display the sense of suffering that colours much of Strand's work. Nevertheless, like Strand, Bruehl seems to have been aiming for a timeless vision of humanity. It is clear from his opening remarks in the volume that he shared the fascination with Mexico exhibited by many American artists and intellectuals during the 1930s, but it is also apparent that Mexican society mattered less to him than the chance to make interesting photographs in expressive mode. These pictures, he states in introduction, 'show nothing of Mexican cathedrals, public buildings, or ruins. They do not undertake to present Mexico.'
This admirably honest disclosure suggests, therefore, that Bruehl's pictures should be judged primarily on the formal terms by which he conceived them. The immediate difference between his work and Strand's is that Bruehl does not emphasize religious imagery. He gives us grave peasants, marketplaces and one or two modernist angles on wide-brimmed Mexican hats. In other words, the book is an interesting demonstration of the kind of formalist modernism that does not even pretend to make any social analysis of what is being photographed. On its own––somewhat limited––terms, however, it is seductive photography, beautifully printed and presented in a handsome volume, an exemplary combination of modernist angles with pictorialist values.