Biographical notes of Don Arturo Suárez García
Mr. Arturo Suárez García was born in San Miguel de Allende, Gto. On August 7, 1910; At age ten he lost his mother, Doña Francisca García, who died of pneumonia. He attended elementary school at one of those private institutions with a single teacher and a single room where all the grades were taught; It is worth mentioning that among his classmates there was one, older than him, Pedro Vargas, who in the end would be called “The Continental Tenor” and another of his own age, Dr. Roque Carbajo, author of the famous bolero “La Hoja Seca” and of our song “San Miguelito “.
In his final years of adolescence, he was administrator of the Támbula Hacienda. He once was returning to San Miguel, riding a skinny horse, that had been abandoned by the revolutionaries in the countryside after looting the hacienda; unfortunately, this horse had the brand of the Mexican Army and when he ran into a detachment of soldiers. They took him as a revolutionary spy and summarily sentenced him to the “paredón”; When they were about to shoot him, Don Julián Ramírez, owner of the ranch of San Julián, happened to pass by., Don Julian spoke with the commander of the detachment to guarantee the identification of the young Arturo, who thus left the situation. Unfortunately, he had to continue his walk to San Miguel on foot. This fact convinced him to change his career.
It was then that a traveling photographer passed by San Miguel, who as it was customary at that time, went from town to town, announcing himself in advance in each one. He then spent a few days in each town making portraits. The young Arturo, had a couple of portraits taken, dressed in his ranch hand clothes. And to this day; these pictures, the family still conserves. But the most important thing is that he was so impressed by that technology that he asked for employment to the master photographer. The photographer needed an assistant; and it was with this teacher that he learned all the technical steps of photography. Such as how to prepare the plates to make the negatives, which were then made of glass, and that they were not usually made prefabricated, and of course to develop the photographs and understand the operation of the cameras and their different lenses, contact printers and amplifiers. And the use of lighting, both natural and artificial, the purpose of the focal length and the luminosity of the lenses, according to the object of the photo, etc.
Eventually, after learning everything that the generous teacher could teach him, he decided to settle permanently in San Miguel. He calculated that the plaza was big enough to support a permanent photographer. It was then when he met who would be his partner for the rest of his life, the then, Miss Antonia Oliden Loredo, with whom he married on June 24, 1934.
By then he had developed two skills that never left him, the “Artist Photographer” and the merchant. Being a merchant came as a family trait, since his father was Don Victoriano Suárez Rangel, who for many years had his store “La Esmeralda” in front of the church of San Francisco. These two skills, well balanced, were the key to his success. Photography, being a very noble profession, is often not enough to decently maintain a family, especially one as large as that of Don Arturo.
He had a natural curiosity about technology. It allowed him to always be at the cutting edge of the same, one of his most dramatic and most awarded photographs, was taken with infrared film, which had been developed for military reconnaissance during the Second World War. This film not only captures light but also high temperatures. This capacity was exploited by artists like Don Arturo, to achieve more dramatic photographs. One such photograph was taken from the highest part of the Callejón del Tecolote, it had the tower of the Parróquia and the church of San Francisco in the background, with a dense sky of incredible clouds that show a dark underground, effect of the infrared film. This photo is worthy of being next to the work of the best artists, be they photographers or painters.
When Don Felipe Cossío del Pomar, thanks to a contract with the US government, opened “The School of Fine Arts”, one of the first teachers was Don Arturo, who then had the opportunity to associate with professional photographers and famous painters. Among them are David Alfaro Siqueiros. He created endearing friendship with prominent Master of Photography such as John G. Roberts and artists such as Stirling Dickinson, Leonard Brooks and his wife Reva (also a photographer) and James Pinto.
For political reasons that have nothing to do with art, the School of Fine Arts was divided into two factions; no mention will be made of the details, since that is another story. We will say that that fact led to the creation of the “Instituto Allende” that was founded by the aforementioned Cossío del Pomar and by the ex-governor of the State of Guanajuato, Don Enrique Fernández Martínez, who for that purpose acquired the family summer home of the De La Canal family in La Calle Ancha in San Antonio. This home was then in ruins, which is why, Don Arturo, who at the time was renting what had been the Colegio Salesiano, on Insurgentes Street, behind the old municipal market, facilitated this building to temporarily house the new Instituto Allende. This new and completely restored building was occupied a short time later.
Don Arturo continued as a photography teacher at that institution for many years in which he accumulated a very significant photographic collection, both in quality and quantity. He was always, de facto, the official photographer of the Instituto Allende. He was in charge of taking photos of the events held there, such as art exhibitions, visits of distinguished guests such as Rita Hayworth, the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who visited San Miguel as a guest of Mr. Cossío del Pomar and his wife Mrs. Estrella. He took a photographic history of the painting “The Cosmic Man” by Rufino Tamayo, which was painted in the Institute itself.
Another example of his ability and initiative was evident. On one occasion, Mr. Cossío del Pomar needed reproductions of works of art for a publication he was working on. He commissioned Don Arturo, one of the conditions was that the negatives had to be by force 5×7 inches. Don Arturo accepted the commission without any hesitation. At that time, he did not have a camera of that size. He always had an infinity of parts for photographic equipment among them, this time, had a new bellows with which he thought to replace one that was already damaged, a rack and pinion set and a big number of different lenses. The fact is that neither slow nor lazy, he left immediately to the shop of a carpenter who was very capable and between the two of them built a 5×7 camera that afternoon. He took the required reproductions and, as a good trader, eventually sold at a very good price.
His friendship with his fellow teachers at the Instituto Allende, allowed him to always be aware of the latest developments, both in art and technology. Among his Mexican colleagues was Simon Ybarra, a master of sculpture; Don Felipe Vázquez, master of ceramics and others whose names escape the memory. It is important to mention that among his colleagues who came from the USA, was the afore mentioned John G. Roberts with whom he experienced revolutionary photographic techniques. Such as forcing the ISO index of a given film and compensating with the development time and of course the technology that coincidentally, these days is coming to the market as technology for practical use and is the field camera of light. Although someone devised this since 1908, until the advent of electronic computers, its use and function were difficult and very expensive. This technology promises to be the future of photography, and fortunately, Don Arturo had the opportunity to experiment with it. This was a limited technology of that time, but, thanks to his friendship with his American colleagues he was able to experiment with it.
Another technology in which he participated, although in a limited way, was in sound recording since he had a small part in the production of the 10-inch, 33 1/3 RPM disc that was initially released under the name: “Sounds of San Miguel” in the 50s by Marge and Fred Hillman. Later the rights of the disc were acquired by Lic. Luis Rayas, intimate friend of Don Arturo, and published in the version of 12 inches under the new name: “Imágenes Sonoras de San Miguel.
For many years he had his shop in the street of Mesones and was called “La Casa del Pueblo”. In that store everything was sold except food. Don Arturo liked to say: “here we sell from a needle, to a locomotive” and of course it could not be lacking for a laboratory and photographic material. He was for not less than forty years the distributor of the Kodak Mexicana company in San Miguel de Allende. So, it continued until closing the store and semi-retiring and without stopping, having a study and laboratory in his house in Calle de Jesús # 14. Until his faculties no longer enabled him to do his work. Just a few weeks before his death in 2001, the Instituto Allende celebrated an important anniversary and Don Arturo was recognized, although not in person because he was unable to attend, as one of the founders of that institution. What an honor for him, he served San Miguel well.
Rest in peace, Don Arturo Suárez García.