Carrillo in Color: Newly Discovered Images from Celebrated Mexican Photographer Manuel carrillo

In 2018 the C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department exhibited almost 60 color images by celebrated Mexican photographer Manuel Carrillo (1906-1989) in the University of Texas at El Paso Library. Many of these photographs had never been exhibited or published before. Carrillo was primarily known for his black-and-white photographs of traditional Mexico.

The following online exhibit includes examples of color images from Manuel Carrillo's papers, MS288, which are held in Special Collections. Carrillo generally did not title or date his work, so all of these images are untitled and not dated.

Born into a wealthy family in Mexico City, Manuel Carrillo attended a private school, but struggled academically. As a young adult, he worked at a variety of jobs including as a dishwasher, dance instructor, and tourism promoter. Carrillo later worked for the Illinois Central Railroad in Mexico for 36 years.

During the mid-1950s, a friend of Manuel Carrillo's at the Illinois Central Railroad suggested that Carrillo purchase a camera since he frequently traveled. After buying one, Carrillo joined a photography club in Mexico. Carrillo soon won a record number of prizes in photography competitions. In 1958, he was crowned club champion, and in 1966, The Photography Yearbook, the premier photographic journal at the time, listed six of Carrillo's photographs as the most prestigious in the world. Carrillo won the International Grand Prize in Photography in 1967.

Manuel Carrillo had strong ties to El Paso and felt the city would make a good home for his photographs and papers. His friends, Bea Bragg and Don Moss, approached the University of Texas at El Paso Library about acquiring the collection in 1986.

A special allocation from the Permanent University Fund of The University of Texas System allowed the Library to purchase the collection.

In 1991, the University Librarian Robert Seal, Don Moss, and Special Collections Librarian Cesar Caballero personally traveled to Mexico to meet with Manuel Carrillo's widow Consuelo and take possession of the collection.

A preliminary inventory revealed that the Manuel Carrillo papers contained about 14,000 negatives, 10,000 prints, 3,000 slides, and seven linear feet of papers.

The prints are in many forms -- from contact sheets to giant mural-style enlargements. Additionally, there are numerous publications which contain examples of Manuel Carrillo's work or provide biographical information.

By 1986, Carrillo's work had been seen in 209 individual exhibits and 27 group exhibits in Mexico, the United States, and other countries around the world.

Carrillo's work has been published in a variety of photographic anthologies and journals over the years.

Many private collectors, universities, and museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, have acquired Carrillo's images

Several books document Manuel Carrillo's photography career and exhibitions. These include Mi pueblo: Manuel Carrillo, obra fotográfica (1980); Manuel Carrillo: fotográfias de México (1987); and Manuel Carrillo: mi querido México (2014).

Manuel Carrillo died on January 20, 1989, leaving behind a monumental artistic legacy. The Carrillo in Color exhibit highlighted a previously unexamined, yet significant, aspect of Carrillo's work.

To view more images by Manuel Carrillo and other photographers whose work is held in the Special Collections Department, please visit https://www.utep.edu/library/special-collections/collections/images.html.


Manuel Carrillo papers, MS288, C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department, The University of Texas at El Paso Library.