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Gabriel Figueroa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gabriel Figueroa
Born(1907-04-24)April 24, 1907
DiedApril 27, 1997(1997-04-27) (aged 90)

Gabriel Figueroa Mateos (April 24, 1907 – April 27, 1997) was a Mexican cinematographer who is regarded as one of the greatest cinematographers of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. He has worked in over 200 films, which cover a broad range of genres, and is best known for his technical dominance, his careful handling of framing and chiaroscuro, and affinity for the aesthetics of artists.

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Early life and career

Born in 1907, Figueroa grew up in Mexico City, where he studied painting at the Academy of San Carlos, and violin at the National Conservatory.[1] He was the grandson of the famous lawyer, journalist and liberal writer Juan A. Mateos and first cousin to Mexican president Adolfo Lopez Mateos.[2] His mother died after giving birth to him and his father, unable to cope with the loss of his wife, left Gabriel and his brother Roberto to be cared for by their aunts. He then fled to Paris, where he eventually succumbed to alcohol and despair.[3][4] When the family fortune ran dry, Figueroa "had to leave the Academy and go into the darkroom to make a living".[1] He first started learning photography, which became his source of income, with Lalo Guerrero. He worked in a studio on Colonia Guerrero, where people would get their pictures taken with painted curtains in the background and under natural light.[5] Towards the end of the 1920s, Figueroa went on to work with photographers Juan de la Peña and José Guadalupe Velasco,[6] before establishing his own studio with his friend Gilberto Martínez Solares.[7]

In 1932, thanks to his friend Gilberto, Figueroa met cinematographer Alex Phillips. Convinced by his talent, Phillips managed to start Figueroa's career in the movie industry as a still photographer for the film Revolución (1933), directed by Miguel Contreras Torres.[2] Figueroa and Phillips would continue to work alongside each other on several other films.[8] As a result of marked growth in the field of Mexican film production, in 1933 Figueroa was able to continue and develop his work as a still photographer on at least 9 films, some of them of enormous significance in the history of national cinema.[9] Towards the end of June 1933, Figueroa made his debut as a cinematographer in several shots of the medium-length documentary El vuelo glorioso de Barberán y Collar (1933), directed by René Cardona. And, between October and November, he was one of the camera operators of the multiple sequences filmed for Viva Villa! (1934), directed by Jack Conway.[10] On November 13, 1934, Figueroa would begin working on the film Tribu (La Raza indómita) (1935) with fellow collaborator Miguel Contreras Torres, who Figueroa had his first job as a still photographer in 1932.[8] Tribu marked another milestone in Figueroa's career, as it was the first time he shared credit with his teacher Alex Phillips, in addition to his stillman work.[11]

In 1935, Rico Pani, son of prominent politician Alberto J. Pani, approached Figueroa with a contract to work as a cinematographer for a newly founded production company.[12] To consolidate his knowledge, he obtained from the magnate a scholarship to go study in Hollywood, seeing closely the work of Gregg Toland, then considered one of the best cinematographers in the world.[13] As a student, he saw Toland work on the film Splendor (1935) and learned how to create foreboding shadows and render a melancholy ambiance.[1][14] Upon arrival, Figueroa checked-in to the famous Roosevelt Hotel from where he called the only person he knew in the city, Charlie Kimball, editor of the movie Maria Elena (1936), of which Figueroa had worked as an illuminator and stillman in February 1935.[15] The call was answered by Gerardo Hanson, producer of Maria Elena, who later took him out to a villa on Vine Street.[16] Figueroa always considered Toland as his teacher.[17] The following year, in 1936, Gabriel returned to Mexico and it was here that he began to produce his distinctive images. His first feature, Allá en el Rancho Grande (1936), which would become one of the most popular films in Mexico and Latin America, and is considered to be the one that started the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, gained international recognition when it won a prize at the Venice Film Festival and broke box-office records.[3][18][19]

He filmed 235 movies over 50 years, including Los Olvidados by Luis Buñuel, The Fugitive by John Ford, Río Escondido by Emilio Fernández, and The Night of the Iguana by John Huston for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 1964.

One of his main collaborators was Fernández, with whom he shot twenty films, some of which won prizes at the Venice Film Festival, the Cannes Film Festival, and the Berlin Film Festival. After collaborating with Fernández and Buñuel on their films with such actors as Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz, María Félix, Jorge Negrete, Columba Domínguez, and Silvia Pinal. Gabriel Figueroa has come to be regarded as one of the most influential cinematographers of México.



Year Title Director Notes
1934 El Escándalo Chano Urueta also as Lighting technician
1935 Tribu Miguel Contreras Torres Co-cinematographer with Alex Phillips
El primo Basilio Carlos de Nájera also as Lighting technician
1936 Allá en el Rancho Grande Fernando de Fuentes
Beautiful Sky Robert Quigley Co-cinematographer with Jack Draper
1937 Las mujeres mandan Fernando de Fuentes Co-cinematographer with Jack Draper
Beneath the Sky of Mexico
Jalisco nunca pierde Chano Urueta
1938 Song of the Soul
La Adelita Guillermo Hernández Gómez
Mi candidato Chano Urueta
Refugees in Madrid Alejandro Galindo
Los millones de Chaflán Rolando Aguilar
Padre de más de cuatro Robert Quigley
While Mexico Sleeps Alejandro Galindo
1939 The House of the Ogre Fernando de Fuentes
The Black Beast Gabriel Soria
Dark Night of the Mayas Chano Urueta
Papacito lindo Fernando de Fuentes
1940 Los de abajo Chano Urueta
The Miracle Song Rolando Aguilar
¡Que viene mi marido! Chano Urueta
Allá en el trópico Fernando de Fuentes
El jefe máximo
Con su amable permiso Fernando Soler
El monje loco Alejandro Galindo
1941 Neither Blood nor Sand
El rápido de las 9.15
Those Were The Days, Senor Don Simon! Julio Bracho
La casa del rencor Gilberto Martínez Solares
The Unknown Policeman Miguel M. Delgado
La gallina clueca Fernando de Fuentes
1942 Virgen de medianoche Alejandro Galindo
Mi viuda alegre Miguel M. Delgado
Cuando viajan las estrellas Alberto Gout
Story of a Great Love Julio Bracho
The Three Musketeers Miguel M. Delgado Cannes Film Festival Award
El verdugo de Sevilla Fernando Soler
The Saint Who Forged a Country Julio Bracho
1943 The Circus Miguel M. Delgado
Flor silvestre Emilio Fernández
The Spectre of the Bride René Cardona
Another Dawn Julio Bracho
1944 The Black Ace René Cardona
The Headless Woman
María Candelaria Emilio Fernández Cannes Film Festival Award
The Escape Norman Foster
The Black Pirate Chano Urueta
The Intruder Mauricio Magdaleno
Adiós, Mariquita linda Alfonso Patiño Gómez Co-cinematographer with Víctor Herrera
1945 The Abandoned Emilio Fernández
Bugambilia Nominated – Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
A Day with the Devil Miguel M. Delgado
1946 Cantaclaro Julio Bracho
Más allá del amor Adolfo Fernández Bustamante
The Last Adventure Gilberto Martínez Solares
Enamorada Emilio Fernández Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
1947 La casa colorada Miguel Morayta
The Pearl Emilio Fernández Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
Golden Globe Award for Best Cinematography
The Fugitive John Ford
1948 Río Escondido Emilio Fernández Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
María la O Adolfo Fernández Bustamante
Tarzan and the Mermaids Robert Florey Associate photographer
Maclovia Emilio Fernández
Dueña y señora Tito Davison
1949 Salón México Emilio Fernández
Pueblerina Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
Prisión de sueños Víctor Urruchúa
Midnight Tito Davison
El embajador
Opium Ramón Peón
The Unloved Woman Emilio Fernández Venice Film Festival Award for Best Cinematography
Un cuerpo de mujer Tito Davison
1950 Duelo en las montañas Emilio Fernández
Nuestras vidas Ramón Peón
The Torch Emilio Fernández
Un día de vida
Los Olvidados Luis Buñuel Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
1951 Víctimas del Pecado Emilio Fernández Nominated – Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
Pecado Luis César Amadori
Los pobres siempre van al cielo Jaime Salvador
El gavilán pollero Rogelio A. González
Maria Islands Emilio Fernández
La bienamada
1952 The Atomic Fireman Miguel M. Delgado
Siempre tuya Emilio Fernández
Un gallo en corral ajeno Julián Soler
El mar y tú Emilio Fernández
El enamorado Miguel Zacarías
Here Comes Martin Corona
Hay un niño en su futuro Fernando Cortés
Soledad's Shawl Roberto Gavaldón Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
Cuando levanta la niebla Emilio Fernández Nominated – Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
1953 Dos tipos de cuidado Ismael Rodríguez
Anxiety Miguel Zacarías
Él Luis Buñuel
The Photographer Miguel M. Delgado
Neither Rich nor Poor Fernando Cortés
The Boy and the Fog Roberto Gavaldón Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
1954 Camelia
Take Me in Your Arms Julio Bracho
The White Rose Emilio Fernández
Íñigo de Martino
La rebelión de los colgados Alfredo B. Crevenna
1955 El monstruo en la sombra Zacarías Gómez Urquiza
Madame X Julián Soler
Estafa de amor Miguel M. Delgado
La Tierra del Fuego se apaga Emilio Fernández
1956 La doncella de piedra Miguel M. Delgado
Historia de un amor Roberto Gavaldón
Pueblo, canto y esperanza Alfredo B. Crevenna
Rogelio A. González
Julián Soler
La escondida Roberto Gavaldón Nominated – Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
Canasta de cuentos mexicanos Julio Bracho
1957 El bolero de Raquel Miguel M. Delgado
1958 Sueños de oro Miguel Zacarías
Aquí está Heraclio Bernal Roberto Gavaldón
Mujer en condominio Rogelio A. González
Una cita de amor Emilio Fernández
El rayo de Sinaloa (La venganza de Heraclio Bernal) Roberto Gavaldón
La rebelión de la sierra
Una golfa Tulio Demicheli
La sonrisa de la Virgen Roberto Rodríguez
Carabina 30-30 Miguel M. Delgado
1959 Café Colón Benito Alazraki
Nazarín Luis Buñuel
Beyond All Limits Roberto Gavaldón
Sonatas Juan Antonio Bardem Co-cinematographer with Cecilio Paniagua
Isla para dos Tito Davison
The Soldiers of Pancho Villa Ismael Rodríguez
La Fièvre Monte à El Pao Luis Buñuel
1960 Impaciencia del corazón Tito Davison
La estrella vacía Emilio Gómez Muriel
The Young One Luis Buñuel
Macario Roberto Gavaldón
Juana Gallo Miguel Zacarías
1961 Rosa Blanca Roberto Gavaldón
Ánimas Trujano (El hombre importante) Ismael Rodríguez
1962 The Exterminating Angel Luis Buñuel
El tejedor de milagros Francisco del Villar
La bandida Roberto Rodríguez
Um Dia de Vida Augusto Fraga Co-cinematographer with João Moreira
1963 The Paper Man Ismael Rodríguez
Autumn Days Roberto Gavaldón Mexican Film Journalists Award for Best Cinematography
Immediate Delivery Miguel M. Delgado
1964 The Night of the Iguana John Huston Nominated – Academy Award for Best Cinematography
En la mitad del mundo Ramón Pereda
El gallo de oro Roberto Gavaldón
1965 Simon of the Desert Luis Buñuel
Escuela para solteras Miguel Zacarías
Los tres calaveras Fernando Cortés
Un alma pura Juan Ibáñez
Lola de mi vida Miguel Barbachano-Ponce
1966 Los cuatro Juanes Miguel Zacarías
¡Viva Benito Canales! Miguel M. Delgado
Cargamento prohibido
1967 Pedro Páramo Carlos Velo
Su Excelencia Miguel M. Delgado Co-cinematographer with Rosalío Solano
Domingo salvaje Francisco del Villar
El asesino se embarca Miguel M. Delgado
1968 Los ángeles de Puebla Francisco del Villar
El escapulario Servando González
Mariana Juan Guerrero
Corazón salvaje Tito Davison Co-cinematographer with Alex Phillips
The Chinese Room Albert Zugsmith
1969 The Big Cube Tito Davison
La puerta y la mujer del carnicero Luis Alcoriza
Ismael Rodríguez
Chano Urueta
Co-cinematographer with Alex Phillips
The Great Sex War Norman Foster
1970 Narda o el verano Juan Guerrero
Two Mules for Sister Sara Don Siegel Co-cinematographer with Robert Surtees
The Phantom Gunslinger Albert Zugsmith
Kelly's Heroes Brian G. Hutton
1971 La generala Juan Ibáñez
El profe Miguel M. Delgado
El cielo y tu Gilberto Gazcón
1972 María Tito Davison Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
Hijazo de mi vidaza Rafael Baledón
Los hijos de Satanás
El festin de la loba Francisco del Villar
1973 Interval Daniel Mann
Once Upon a Scoundrel George Schaefer
El monasterio de los buitres Francisco del Villar
El amor tiene cara de mujer Tito Davison
1974 El señor de Osanto Jaime Humberto Hermosillo Nominated – Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
Los perros de Dios Francisco del Villar
Presagio Luis Alcoriza Nominated – Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
1975 El llanto de la tortuga Francisco del Villar
1976 Coronación Sergio Olhovich Nominated – Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
La vida cambia Juan Manuel Torres
1977 Maten al león José Estrada
Balún Canán Benito Alazraki
1978 Divinas palabras Juan Ibáñez Ariel Award for Best Cinematography
Cananea Marcela Fernández Violante
The Children of Sanchez Hall Bartlett
La casa del pelícano Sergio Véjar
1979 Te quiero Tito Davison
1980 Border Cop Christopher Leitch
1981 D.F./Distrito Federal Rogelio A. González
El héroe desconocido Julián Pastor
1983 México 2000 Rogelio A. González
Mundo mágico Luis Mandoki
Alejandro Talavera
Raúl Zermeño
1984 El corazón de la noche Jaime Humberto Hermosillo
Under the Volcano John Huston
1986 El maleficio II Raúl Araiza Co-cinematographer with José Ortiz Ramos

Camera operator

Year Title Director Notes
1933 El vuelo glorioso de Barberán y Collar René Cardona
1934 Viva Villa! Jack Conway
1936 María Elena Raphael J. Sevilla also as Lighting technician
Let's Go with Pancho Villa Fernando de Fuentes

Still photographer

Year Title Director
1933 Revolution Miguel Contreras Torres
Antonio Moreno
Profanación Chano Urueta
1934 Almas encontradas Raphael J. Sevilla
Enemigos Chano Urueta
Juarez and Maximilian Miguel Contreras Torres
Raphael J. Sevilla
The Woman of the Port Arcady Boytler
Raphael J. Sevilla
The Call of the Blood José Bohr
Raphael J. Sevilla
Chucho el Roto Gabriel Soria

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result
1965 The Night of the Iguana Best Cinematography Nominated

Golden Globe Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result
1949 The Pearl Best Cinematography Won

Ariel Awards

Year Work Category Result
1946 Bugambilia Best Cinematography Nominated
1947 Enamorada Won
1948 The Pearl Won
1949 Río Escondido Won
1950 Pueblerina Won
1951 Los Olvidados Won
1952 Víctimas del Pecado Nominated
1953 Soledad's Shawl Won
Cuando levanta la niebla Nominated
1954 The Boy and the Fog Won
1957 La escondida Nominated
1973 María Won
1974 El señor de Osanto Nominated
1975 Presagio Nominated
1976 Coronación Nominated
1978 Divinas palabras Won

Film festivals

Year Festival Category Work Result Ref.
1946 Cannes Film Festival Best Cinematography María Candelaria
The Three Musketeers
Won [20]
1947 Locarno International Film Festival María Candelaria Won [21]
Venice Film Festival The Pearl Won [22]
1949 The Unloved Woman Won [23]


  • 2011: Rencontres d'Arles Festival, France.
  • 2013-2014: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles. Detailed retrospective of Figueroa's photography, cinematography, and progressive politics.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) organized the retrospective exhibition titled "Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel Figueroa—Art and Film." The exhibit, featuring Figueroa's work from the early 1930s to the early 1980s, included film clips, paintings, photographs, posters and documents both from Figueroa's archive and the Televisa Foundation collections. "Under the Mexican Sky" recognizes Figueroa's contribution to Mexico's Golden Age of Film, both technically, and stylistically. LACMA curators highlight the artist's works across genres that "…helped forge an evocative and enduring image of Mexico." The exhibit ran from September 22, 2013, through February 2, 2014 in the Art of the Americas Building, Level 1.[24]


On 24 April 2013, Google celebrated Gabriel Figueroa's 106th Birthday with a doodle.[25][26]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Dey, Tom (September 18, 2019). "Gabriel Figueroa: Mexico's Master Cinematographer". American Society of Cinematographers. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Figueroa et al. 2008, p. 31.
  3. ^ a b Maza, Maximiliano. "Directores del Cine Mexicano: Gabriel Figueroa". Más de Cien Años de Cine Mexicano. Archived from the original on 2011-05-18. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  4. ^ Johnson, Reed (September 21, 2013). "The cinematic 'murals' of Gabriel Figueroa". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  5. ^ Figueroa et al. 2008, p. 13.
  6. ^ Isaac 1993, p. 20.
  7. ^ Figueroa et al. 2008, p. 19.
  8. ^ a b Figueroa et al. 2008, p. 48.
  9. ^ Figueroa et al. 2008, p. 36.
  10. ^ Figueroa et al. 2008, p. 46.
  11. ^ Figueroa et al. 2008, p. 49.
  12. ^ Figueroa et al. 2008, p. 51.
  13. ^ Figueroa et al. 2008, p. 52.
  14. ^ Preston, Julia (April 30, 1997). "Gabriel Figueroa Mateos, 90; Filmed Mexico's Panoramas". The New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  15. ^ Figueroa et al. 2008, p. 54.
  16. ^ Figueroa et al. 2008, p. 56.
  17. ^ "110 años de Gabriel Figueroa y la cinefotografía mexicana". April 24, 2017. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  18. ^ "Strachwitz Frontera Collection "Allá en el Rancho Grande:" The Song, the Movie, and the Dawn of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema". November 1, 2016. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  19. ^ "La Visión del Mago. Gabriel Figueroa". June 26, 2017. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  20. ^ "Cannes Film Festival - 1946 Awards". IMDb. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  21. ^ "Locarno International Film Festival - 1947 Awards". IMDb. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  22. ^ "ASAC Data: Awards" (in Italian). Venice Biennale. Archived from the original on 25 July 2019.
  23. ^ "Venice Film Festival - 1949 Awards". IMDb. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  24. ^ "Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel Figueroa—Art and Film". LACMA. August 29, 2013. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  25. ^ Desk, OV Digital (2023-04-24). "24 April: Remembering Gabriel Figueroa on Birthday". Observer Voice. Retrieved 2023-04-24.
  26. ^ "Gabriel Figueroa's 106th Birthday". Retrieved 2023-04-24.


External links

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