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FIGUEROA, Gabriel

PORTRAIT_FIGUEROABorn in 1907 in Mexico City.

Died in 1997 in Mexico City.


Gabriel Figueroa lost his father and mother shortly after his birth. Cared for by his aunts, he was encouraged to pursue his interest in the arts, and a family bankruptcy led to him working, at the age of fourteen, in the darkroom of a photography studio. In 1932 he made his debut in the movie industry as a stills photographer, with the help of cameraman Alex Phillips Sr. Phillips then found him a scholarship to go to Hollywood, and under the auspices of Gregg Toland he learnt all about lighting in Sam Goldwyn’s studio.

Back in Mexico, in 1936 he made his first film as cameraman, Allá en el Rancho Grande, with director Fernando de Fuentes; the film took first prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1938. The Figueroa style really took shape when he met Emilio Fernández in 1943: they would go on to make twenty-six films together during what was the golden age of Mexican cinema. In 1950 he met Luis Buñuel, with whom he made seven films. Despite many attempts to put him under contract—by Orson Welles and Walt Disney, among others—Figueroa never gave up the creative freedom he found in his home country.


Gabriel Figueroa’s work was presented at the Rencontres d’Arles in 2011, as part of the exhibition The Wide-Ranging Eye Director of Photography of Luis Buñuel at the Eglise des Frères-Prêcheurs.