The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
This article introduces one of the oldest studio photographers in Mexico City: José P. Arriaga, who was fifty years old at the time the article was published. He began as an amateur photographer and in less than six years became so proficient with the camera that he started using it professionally. The photographs that are published in this issue of El Fotógrafo Mexicano [The Mexican Photographer] are worthy examples of nineteenth-century art of the period as they capture a segment of the Mexican middle class. The article praises the work of this “professional photographic artist, who is one of the best in the country.” It also helps to explain how nineteenth-century photographers sought to improve their skills by visiting studios in other countries in search of brand-new information. The anonymous writer of this article says that, “. . . through constant exploration and experimentation [Arriaga] has managed to master, if that is the correct term, the beautiful art of light and shadow that is photography.” This 1901 article on Arriaga is an unquestionably important document, as are the photographs published in the magazine, which have never been included in a historiography of Mexican photography.
Written in 1901, this article is very important because it shows how nineteenth-century forms of expression persisted in the waning years of the century. There is scant information about photographers like José P. Arriaga in the national historiography. Identifying the man and showing his photographs, as in this article, is part of the process of reconstructing the history of Mexican photography. There are still many photographers whose work must be studied. Introducing Arriaga is important because he was very likely the father of Ana and Elena Arriaga, who opened their photography studio in 1904, at 19, Hidalgo Avenue (which used to be called Hombres Ilustres). The studio—“Foto Arriaga”—survived the revolution of 1910 to 1920 and was still catering to clients and friends in 1926. These details substantially contribute to part of the history that has not yet been told and remains to be written.