Gabriel Figueroa is one of Mexico's greatest artists. Indeed, some have called him the "fourth muralist", after the three great ones, Rivera, Siqueiros, and Orozco. Figueroa was friendly with all three, and the cinematographer admittedly borrowed pictorial elements from the muralists, and, surprisingly, the painters admitted they borrowed from the filmmaker as well.
Like the muralists, Figueroa's subject was Mexico itself, which he lit and photographed as the biggest, greatest movie star in the world. He made her landscapes gorgeous and, yes, even glamorous with a shimmering texture that rivaled the erotic; but also harsh, lonely, and sometimes cruel. But he was not merely a landscape photographer; he also explored the topographies of the human face, the luscious openess of smiles, the weight of centuries of sadness behind a poor woman's gaze, the grisly and grimmest gravity of a bad man's grin. Like the muralists, Figueroa took elements that seemed classically Mexican and made them universal.