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The Art of Animating Images


The Art of Animating Images investigates photography during Mexico’s reconstruction years: 1920s -1930s. During this period, photography was essential to illustrate nationalist projects through which a progressive image of the nation was projected locally and abroad. In this function, photography was a visual medium in its objective, expressive and technical capacity. Yet, photography also nourished discursive variants that promoted Mexico as a modern, liberal and socialist nation. Taking these discourses into consideration, this dissertation focuses on the role photography played in expressing nationalist ideals, informing nationalist imperatives by lending its own aesthetic and theoretical values: modern, objective and, foremost, unlimited reproducibility. In doing so, this dissertation engages a scholarly conversation on how photography was more than a visual and technical device at the service of nationalist ideals. The dissertation rethinks photography as an essential discursive apparatus that complemented, rewrote and magnified different nationalist currents at work during the reconstruction years of the Mexican Revolution.

Analyzing how photographic theory and discourse were employed by early twentieth century intellectuals in Mexico, it is possible to understand how in the 1920s, a time when the nation needed to project an integral and progressive image, Anita Brenner, a self-made writer, represented the rise of the modern Mexican nation as a religious-autochthonous phenomenon while Salvador Novo approached photography to question nationalist ideas; and in the 1930s, Enrique Gutmann, a Jewish journalist and photographer, promoted a socialist conception of Mexico, in a decade in which socialism was perceived as the last refuge from European fascism and totalitarian regimes. In the hands of these two lesser-known figures, photography was a system that provided a modernist discourse to promote the nation as modern, socialist, and yet autochthonous.

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