Publication Date

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Art History


Beverly Grindstaff


Collecting, Iturbide, Modotti, Photography

Subject Areas

Art history


The act of collecting has increasingly become a focus of art historians in the last

thirty years. Susan Pearce, Mieke Bal, Bruce Althuser and other scholars have written

theoretical perspectives illuminating the ways in which the collecting of art influences the identity of a particular collector and in turn the ways in which the process of collecting art itself attaches meanings to objects.

In the last twenty years, there has been a surge in the collecting of Mexican

photography dating from the 1920s to the contemporary period. Mexican photography

has a long history of being at once an art form and documentation meant to bring social

change to the people of Mexico. Tina Modotti was among the first to create photographs

of this type in Mexico beginning in the 1920s. Graciela Iturbide is a contemporary

photographer who continues to work in a similar manner.

This thesis examines specific collections of photographs taken in Mexico. Daniel

Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, a Los Angeles couple collects many art objects

including Graciela Iturbide photographs. Susie Tompkins Buell, a social activist living in

San Francisco also collects objects of art including Tina Modotti photographs.

Greenberg, Steinhauser, and Buell use their collections to underscore their own

Identities as socially conscious people. The collectors’ identities have come to enhance and perhaps supplant the original meanings gleaned from the objects they collect.