Alissa Goldring (1921-)

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"I Respond": Alissa Goldring's Photographs of Mexico in the 1950s

For the complete text [PDF] of "I Respond": Alissa Goldring's Photographs of Mexico in the 1950s (E-Scholarship)

For the complete text [PDF] of "I Respond": Alissa Goldring's Photographs of Mexico in the 1950s (UCSC Library Digital Collections)

2007, xvii, 80 pp., 1 illus.

This oral history, conducted by Lizzy Gray of the Regional History Project, centers on the photographs Goldring took in Mexico between 1955 and 1971. It is intended as a guide and supplement to Goldring's Mexican photos, slides and negatives, now preserved in the Special Collections Department of the UCSC Library. A finding aid to that collection is available at http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt9x0nd1bc/


Alissa Goldring was born Alice Berman in lower Manhattan in 1921 and knew from an early age that she wanted to be an artist. She majored in art at Brooklyn College and also studied photography and other forms of art at the American Artists' School in Manhattan. Through these years Goldring was rarely without her sketchbook, and developed a beautiful abbreviated ink style capturing the character of people, boats and buildings in Manhattan. Two of these pieces appeared in The New Yorker magazine under the name Alice Reiner. She eventually earned a Masters in Art from Teachers College of Columbia University.

In 1954, newly divorced and with two children, Goldring flew to Mexico, despite not speaking Spanish, and knowing no one there. Her photography enabled her to support herself and gave her an avenue into the local culture. Initially, she did photographic portraits of children. She then worked on assignment for Mexican magazines, such as Gente and Claudia, as well as for local newspapers and non-profit organizations such as Planned Parenthood. She was sent to schools and monasteries, psychiatric hospitals and rural villages. On her own, she roamed through open markets and mountain towns with her camera, unobtrusively capturing rituals, such as children floating candles on water on the night of el Dia de los Muertes (the Day of the Dead), and services at a tiny Jewish temple in Venta Prieta. Goldring was especially intrigued by Lacondonian and Chomula cultures. She also met well-known figures such as Erich Fromm and Daiset Suzuki, and the archive contains photographs of Rufino Tamayo, Dolores del Rio, Alma Reed, architect Juan O'Gorman, and the clowns Firulais and Cantinflas.