Optical Parable/[Parábola Optica]

Object Details


Optical Parable/[Parábola Optica]


Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902 - 2002)




negative 1931; print 1974


Gelatin silver print


23.7 x 17.9 cm (9 5/16 x 7 1/16 in.)


© Colette Urbajtel/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, SC

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This photograph of an optician's shop and oval hanging sign, taken from the perspective of a pedestrian looking up, plays a trick on the viewer. By flipping the negative and producing reversed text, Manuel Alvarez Bravo called into question the accuracy of vision. Images of the human eye reiterate the theme of looking.

Although the name La Optica Modernameans "the modern optician's shop," Alvarez Bravo recognized that these words imply "the modern viewpoint." The photograph's title, Parabola optica, compounds this wordplay. Parabolaboth suggests the shape of something and alludes to parable, a story with multiple meanings. Alvarez Bravo thus crafted a modern parable about the shapes we see and the meanings we attach to them.

Neither Speech nor Language: Photography and the Written Word (February 28 to May 12, 1991)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), February 28 to May 12, 1991
Manuel Alvarez Bravo: Optical Parables (November 13, 2001 to February 9, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 13, 2001 to February 17, 2002
  • Museo Nacional de Arte, (Mexico City), March 14 to June 2, 2002
  • Walker Art Center, (Minneapolis), November 10, 2002 to February 9, 2003