After spending his teenage years at a military academy in Mexico, Carrillo moved to New York where he lived for eight years. During that time, he often returned to Mexico to work for the Illinois Central Railroad. At age forty-nine he joined the Club Fotográfico de México and the Photographic Society of America, and began a second career as a photographer.
Carrillo's first international solo exhibition, Mi Pueblo (My People), took place at the Chicago Public Library in 1960. He became known for his descriptions of daily life in rural Mexico and his exploration of personal, cultural, and national identity in Mexico's post-revolutionary era. He brought together documentary, cinematic, and modern formalist approaches in black-and-white prints that often portray the relationship between people and the natural landscape.
In Mexico City, D. F, and old woman appears alone in an alley, dwarfed by a stark geometric shadow looming behind her. The dramatic contrast of light and dark recalls Hollywood film noir of the 1940s and '50s, as well as the geometric abstraction of American modernist photographers Paul Strand and Edward Weston.
By the time of his death in Mexico City at age eighty-three, Manuel Carrillo had exhibited his work in hundreds of exhibitions and established an international reputation. His distinctive vision earned him the moniker "El Maestro Mexicano."
Adapted from text by Brenda Mitchell in Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008