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Art HERstory: Isabel Muñoz

I’ve been very fortunate to work with talented and down-to-earth female photographers such as Amanda Lopez (Mama Clothing photo shoots) and Nina Parks (Married to the Hustle album cover) and the way these ladies are able to capture the feeling and raw beauty of a culture is simply awing.

As a graphic designer, it’s very important for me to work with someone who can interpret the world I’m not able to immediately capture through my art. Working with these ladies has inspired finished products that leave me filled with gratitude and satisfaction.

Today’s post is on Isabel Muñoz, who is one of the most important and exciting figures in photography today but I can honestly say that I see Amanda Lopez and Nina Parks both being introduced in that same way, in the near future. Read on…

Ballet National De Cuba, 2001

Isabel Muñoz is renowned for using one of the most difficult photo developing techniques, platinotype, using platinum paper to produce superior quality B&W photographs. Her work tells stories through movement, body parts, and sensuality. Her black and white photos are a study of people through pieces of the human body or pictures of toreros, dancers or warriors, by using a handmade and meticulous process of developing.

Muñoz was born in Barcelona in 1951. When the Spanish photographer was 20 years old, she moved to Madrid and started studying photography in 1979 in Photocentro. In 1986, she had her first exhibition, “Toques” and for more than 20 years, she has continued to have exhibitions in several countries of the world. Her works can be found in the Maison Européenne de la Photographie de Paris, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, in New York, the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston and in private collections.

Muñoz’s work ranges from the political: a series of families in Malaysia with AIDS; to the cultural: a series of photos of the Surma tribes in southern Ethiopia; to the erotic: a series of arousing photos exploring the theme of giving into the senses.

It’s easy to see why Isabel Muñoz is one of the most respected photographers in Spain. She deservingly has won international acclaim. Her photographs consistently provoke not only thought, but deep intimate reactions as well. The quality of her work, and the subject matter, makes her exhibits both intellectually and physically stimulating.

Muñoz has won two World Press Awards for her artful documentary photographs from around the world. Her stunning body of intimate portraits of people from south Ethiopia, captures dignity and beauty of the people in scarified skin, piercings and ornamentation.

“The Mara – Casa de Las Americas” is a fierce yet breathtaking series of work where Muñoz documents life in prison.

Black and white portraits of prisoners leave the viewer speechless but a little unsure why. It may be because they feel they’ve witnessed the cruel depths to which humanity can sink or the beautiful complexity of the tattoos or simply, her photographic skill.

The celebrated Spanish artist has documented everything from bull fighting to flamenco and has now turned her lens toward the Mara Salvatrucha, one of the most established, dangerous and rapidly growing gangs in the world. As if the project doesn’t sound scary enough, Muñoz took all of the photos in prisons… in El Salvador.

The exhibit of sixty large-scale portraits that bring the viewer face to face with the gang members themselves – many of them tattooed from head to toe.

Muñoz has also included information about the country’s history, as well as photographs of the prisoners with their mothers, wives, girlfriends and children saying she wants to expose “the social calamity that has destroyed the youth of Central America.?

Far from being a distant social issue, the Mara Salvatrucha have spread across North America and have even entered Europe. This makes Muñoz’s art thought-provoking on many levels.

The French magazine, PHOTO, recently highlighted Muñoz’s Mara project as their cover story in the above Fall 2007 issue.

For more insight into the work of Isabel Muñoz, please read this article from Lens Culture. On the very bottom of that page is an audio link where she describes her working process.

Info & Images: 20 Minutos & Lens Culture

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7 Responses to “Art HERstory: Isabel Muñoz”

  1. snapshotlopes says:

    wow! Her work is wonderful! thanks for hipping us to her art

  2. Nina Parks says:

    Ditto on Miss Lopez’s comment. Very inspirational

  3. Dear Mrs Munoz
    English is not my mother tongue, but I’ll try to explain my big wish now also in a foreign language. I’m the godmother of a young woman from 17 years. It was her big dream to become a professional ballet dancer. She worked very hard for this goal over many, many years, and was on a good way with her career. Then they found out, that something with her feet is not okay for a professional career and she had to stop the training in the opera of Zurich. A lot of tears we had to dry. Now she is fine and new oriented in a other profession. Dancing is still her passion, now only as a hobby. When she saw your Photo from the butterfly of the ballet dancer in Cuba she was absolutely enthusiastic. I decided to buy it and to present it in a frame for her as a gift at her next birthday. Now the people in the shop told me, that you are not willing any more to give out the rights for this picture. Is there any chance to get this wonderful impression from you directly? I would be so happy to please my goddaughter with a big surprice. You could help to realise this wish. Thank you for your support and for an answer in any case.
    Cordially Verena Schüepp-Lanz

  4. BLB BLB says:

    Hi Ms. Schüepp-Lanz,

    It would be best if you contacted her directly thru her web-site:


    Good Luck!

  5. Dear Mrs Verena Schüepp-Lanz,
    Thanks to a very special friend that red your letter in the web I’ve been able to know you. I’m sorry I was not able to answer to your letter. Please could you tell your goddaughter that I beleive that dancers are born to dance, they live dancing. I’m really happy to offer the butterfly you liked to your goddaughter. So that it can be a present from both of us. Please can you tell me the name of your goddaughter and your adress, so I can send you the “butterfly”. Good luck.
    Mi email adress is info@isabelmunoz.es
    My regards,
    Isabel Muñoz

    Chère Madame Verena Schüepp-Lanz,
    C’est gràce à un ami très spécial que j’ai pu lire votre lettre sur internet. Je suis désolée de n’avoir pu y répondre auparavant. S’il vous plaît, pourriez-vous dire de ma part à votre petite-fille que je crois que les danseurs sont nés pour danser, qu’ils vivent en dansant. Je serais réellement heureuse d’offrir la photo du “papillon” que vous vouliez pour votre petite-fille. Ce serait un cadeau de la part de nous deux. Dites-moi le nom de votre petite-fille et son adresse, je pourrais ainsi lui envoyer la photo. Bonne chance.
    Mon adresse mail es : info@isabelmunoz.es.

  6. Thanks a lot for the help, to get in contact directly with Isabel Muñoz
    Verena Schüepp-Lanz

  7. Francisco says:

    Desde hace algún tiempo, yo sé que la magia existe…

    Y lo sé, porque la magia se llama Isabel Muñoz.


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