January 2012 Archives
January 31, 2012
"THE LATIN-AMERICAN PHOTOBOOK: THE BEST KEPT SECRET IN THE HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY." — MARTIN PARR
A complex, multifaceted, historical and educational presentation of the history of the Latin-American photobook is currently on display at Le Bal in Paris. It is a lot to absorb in a single visit, but definitely worth the effort.
All of the following text and images were supplied by Le Bal:
"Photography," wrote August Sander, "is like a mosaic: it only achieves a synthesis when you can display it all at once."
In order to arrive at such a synthesis, [pre-digital] photographers have two forms at their disposal: the exhibition or the book, two continuous sequences of images structured into a comprehensive argument. FOTO/GRÁFICA thus constitutes an original approach insofar as it combines these two forms: an exhibition of photobooks as autonomous objects, accompanied by vintage prints, films and mock-ups.
This effort entailed more than three years of interviewing photographers, graphic designers, collectors, researchers and publishers on both sides of the Atlantic and combing rare bookstores and public and private libraries. Tracking down the ‘unknown’ on a continental scale transformed this investigation into a vertiginously exciting quest which had as its outcome an anthology of 150 books published between 1921 and 2009: The Latin American Photo Book.
The books which came to light are incisive, complex, unsettling and often forgotten, star-crossed or otherwise secret works. The exhibition FOTO/GRÁFICA presents forty of them, most of which are unknown to the public, and thus serves to reveal Latin America’s remarkable contribution to the world history of the photobook.
The idea of seeking and presenting the best photobooks of Latin America was born during the 2007 Latin American forum on photography in São Paulo. On this occasion we observed the critical lack of a cartography of the books published in the 20th century on the continent. A rigorous investigation was lead to offset this silence by a systematic rescue of unquestionably valuable works. The research focused exclusively on photobooks published in Latin America by Latin American authors involved in carrying out their work. During three years, through 19 countries from Cuba to Patagonia, we interviewed photographers, graphic artists, collectors, scholars, publishers, and sifted through their libraries and archives. Chasing the unknown on the scale of a continent has converted this investigation into a quest both breathtaking and electrifying. The result is surprising. Powerful, complex, troubling, often forgotten, cursed or secret books have emerged. Throughout the pages, unfolds ‘‘something that is part caress, complaint, appeal, complicity, bitter denunciation’’ (Julio Cortazar). Finally, this critical study reveals the remarkable contribution of Latin America in world history of the photobook.
— Horacio Fernández, curator
IN THE BEGINNING...
The exhibition begins with two major works echoing pre-Columbian America: one shows the landscape and its first inhabitants, the other, the cultures destroyed by colonisation.
In Amazônia (1978), by Brazilian photographers Claudia Andujar (Neuchâtel, Switzerland, 1931- ) and George Love (Charlotte, North Carolina, 1937-São Paulo, Brazil, 1995), the primeval America, Paradise lost and its inhabitants, the masters of the Earth are evoked through a dramatic, film-like narrative charged with emotion.
Alturas de Macchu Picchu (Heights of Machu Picchu, 1954) brings together one of the major poems of Nobel Prize laureate Pablo Neruda and the photographs of the great master Martín Chambi (Coaza, Peru, 1891-Cuzco, Peru, 1973). These archaeological photographs are devoid of any human presence, unlike Neruda’s verses, populated by ‘Juan Stonecutter, son of Wiracocha’ and other inhabitants of the vast Inca city lost for centuries before its rediscovery in 1911.
HISTORY AND PROPAGANDA
Photobooks of protest and propaganda trace a visual history of Latin America in the twentieth century which is fraught with implacable tensions between conservative and reformist ideologies. This history begins with the period of the great Mexican Revolution of the 1910s as related in the Álbum histórico gráfico (Graphic history album, 1921) of Agustín Víctor Casasola (Mexico City, 1874-1938).
The political, ideological version of history is propaganda. It found expression in Argentina during the government of General Juan Domingo Perón in anonymous collective works such as Argentina en marcha (Argentina on the march, 1950) and Eva Perón (1952). The same was true in Bolivia during the 1950s, when the government commissioned a heroic narrative on the miners, El precio del estaño (The price of tin, 1955) from Argentine photographer Gustavo Thorlichen (Hamburg, Germany, 1905-Málaga, Spain, 1986). In a more documentary vein, Candomblé (1957) by José Medeiros (Teresina, Brazil, 1921 L’Aquila, Italy, 1990) captures the secret, forbidden rituals of Afro-Brazilian culture.
The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 mobilised an entire generation of outstanding photographers and graphic designers. The books of the early years embody faith in the future and rejection of the past, as seen in Cuba: Z.D.A. (Cuba Agrarian Development Zone, 1960), Sartre visita a Cuba (Sartre visits Cuba, 1960) and El socialismo y el hombre en Cuba (Socialism and man in Cuba, 1965). This revolutionary hope for change spread throughout Latin America, as demonstrated by photobooks such as América, un viaje a través de la injusticia (America, a journey through injustice, 1970), a synthesis of observation, emotion and culture on a continental scale by Enrique Bostelmann (Guadalajara, Mexico, 1939-Mexico City, 2003).
The victory of reactionary forces in the 1970s set off a spiral of violence. In Chile, the 1973 military coup led by General Pinochet sought to justify itself with Chile ayer hoy (Chile yesterday today, 1975), an archetypal example of right-wing propaganda which was countered by works such as Chile o muerte (Chile or death, 1974), a collage of documents, photographs and caricatures. Uchuraccay: Testimonio de una masacre (Uchuraccay: Testimony of a massacre, 1983) attests to the terrible war between Peru and the Shining Path terrorist guerrilla mouvement, whilst the recent Los que se quedan /Those that are still here (2007) by Geovanny Verdezoto (Santo Domingo de los Colorados, Ecuador, 1984- ) examines the situation of those who choose to remain rather than emigrate.
Buenos Aires, by Horacio Coppola (1936).
Latin America’s cities have inspired major photobooks. Doorway to Brasilia (1959), a work by graphic designer Aloísio Magalhães (Recife, Brazil, 1927-Padua, Italy, 1982) and North American artist and printer Eugene Feldman, extols the architectural transformation of the landscape by means of an extraordinary demonstration of graphic ingenuity. More reserved, but just as monumental, Buenos Aires (1936) embodies the ‘photographic vision’ of Horacio Coppola (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1906- ), in an empty urban stage. By contrast, La Ciudad de Mexico III (Mexico City III) by Nacho López (Tampico, Mexico, 1923-Mexico City, 1983) celebrates the street life uniting architecture and city-dwellers.
In Buenos Aires Buenos Aires (1958) by Sara Facio (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1932- ) and Alicia D’Amico (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1933-2001), the only decoration is the crowd, the hustle and bustle of ordinary people. Similarly privileging the public over the setting, Avándaro (1971) by Graciela Iturbide (Mexico City, 1942- ) recreates the energy of Mexico’s first rock festival through the reframing and repetition of the images. Both of these books are distinguished by their graphic design, the work of Oscar Cesar Mara and Antonio Serna, respectively. Color natural (Natural colour, 1969) by Venezuelan photographer Graziano Gasparini (Gorizia, Italy, 1924- ), meanwhile, celebrates the gleaming, artificial colour of the city of Maracaibo.
Buenos Aires Buenos Aires, by Sara Facio (1958).
Sistema Nervioso, by Barbara Brändli (1975).
Sistema Nervioso, by Barbara Brändli (1975).
Sistema Nervioso, by Barbara Brändli (1975).
A certain number of Latin American photobooks stand out for the complexity of their narratives and the uniqueness of their form.
El rectángulo en la mano (The rectangle in the hand, 1963), for example, is a moving little artist’s book with a marvellous form, a fragile masterpiece by the mythical photographer Sergio Larrain (Santiago, Chile, 1931- ).
In Sistema nervioso (Nervous system, 1975), Venezuelan photographer Barbara Brändli (Schaffhausen, Switzerland, 1932- ), graphic designer John Lange and writer Román Chalbaud present the city of Caracas like a puzzle composed of enigmatic signs reflecting ‘the chaos, the improvisation, the humour, the grotesqueness . . . ’
In Fotografías (Photographs, 1983), photographer Fernell Franco (Versalles, Colombia, 1942-Cali, Colombia, 2006) sheds light on endless mysteries: ‘I liked to photograph the way the shadows gradually disappeared into total darkness and the light died’. Dissatisfied with the quality of the printing, Franco decided to destroy his book, and only a few copies are to be found today.
El cubano se ofrece (These are the Cubans, 1986), an essay by Iván Cañas (Havana, Cuba, 1946- ) on life in a Cuban village, shows the other side of official propaganda stereotypes. Retromundo (Retroworld, 1986), by Venezuelan photographer Paolo Gasparini (Gorizia, Italy, 1934- ) in close collaboration with graphic designer Álvaro Sotillo, contrasts two ways of looking: that of Europe and North America, which proliferates in a flood of chaotic images, and that of the New World, which goes beyond appearances to privilege direct contact with beings and things.
The more theatrical photographs of Brazilian artist Miguel Rio Branco (Las Palmas, Spain, 1946- ) refer explicitly to film and painting and, with the blood-red bestiary Nakta (1996), undertake a ‘journey of pain, of the material nature of suffering’.
Auto-photos by Gretta (1978).
During the 1960s, many artists considered the process of creation more important than its outcome, the final work. Photographs were thus a means of documenting creative acts which left no other trace. Among Latin American artists’ books stemming from this movement, we find records of performances like Auto-photos (Self-photos, 1978) by the Brazilian artist Gretta (Athens, Greece, 1947- ) or works on the body like Autocopias (Self-copies, 1975) by Venezuelan artist Claudio Perna (Milan, Italy, 1938-Holguín, Cuba, 1997), designed by Álvaro Sotillo.
There were also growing numbers of experimental works on the urban space, such as Sin saber que existías y sin poderte explicar (Without knowing you existed and without being able to explain, 1975) by Eduardo Terrazas (Guadalajara, Mexico, 1936- ) and Arnaldo Coen (Mexico City, 1940- ), which is at once an inventory of merchandise, a chromatic adventure and a celebration of graphic design.
The questioning of artistic language is at the heart of such outstanding books as Fallo fotográfico (Photographic verdict, 1981), a conceptual work by Eugenio Dittborn (Santiago, Chile, 1943- ), or Ediciones económicas de fotografía chilena (Affordable editions of Chilean photography, 1983), a short lived project for photocopied books which gave rise to works by photographers Paz Errázuriz (Santiago, Chile, 1944- ), Mauricio Valenzuela (Santiago, Chile, 1951- ) and Luis Weinstein (Santiago, Chile, 1957-).
LITERATURE AND PHOTOGRAPHY
Literature plays a central role in Latin American culture, which is often described as being more ‘literate’ than visual. Photobooks combining texts and images are noteworthy for their numbers and quality alike. When poetry reaches out to photography, the result goes beyond the impact of the words alone and the photographs read like a text, far from any attempt at illustration.
In Venezuela during the 1960s, the collective El Techo de la Ballena (The roof of the whale) devoted itself to ‘terrorism in the arts’. One of the results of their activity is Asfalto-Infierno (Asphalt-Inferno, 1963), by writer Adriano González León and artist Daniel González (San Juan de los Morros, Venezuela, 1934- ), which shows the full extent of the collective hell recorded on the pavements of Caracas.
Through the graphic design and photographs of Wesley Duke Lee (São Paulo, Brazil, 1931-2010), the poems of Robert Piva’s Paranóia (Paranoia, 1963) constitute a ‘hallucinatory vision’ of São Paulo.
With Versos de salón (Salon verses, 1970), Chilean poet Nicanor Parra invites readers on a roller-coaster ride which designer Fernán Meza joyously interprets through the flip-book style appearance, carving up, resurrection and final.
Photobook publishing has met with great success in Latin America these past years. More than ever, as Brazilian artist Rosângela Rennó puts it, the idea is "to use the book as an 'exhibition space,' with its own graphic characteristics."
Urban photography has enjoyed a revival with Siesta argentina (Argentine siesta, 2003) by Facundo de Zuviría (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1954- ) and Noturno São Paulo (São Paulo nocturnes, 2002) by Cássio Vasconcellos (São Paulo, Brazil, 1965- ).
Among noteworthy artist’s photobooks are the performance anthology created by Carlos Amorales (Mexico City, 1970- ), entitled los Amorales (The immoral ones [which is also a play on the artist’s name], 2000), and the surprising family album Miguel Calderón (2007) by the artist of the same name (Mexico City, 1971- ).
The archive is also a veritable genre in the visual arts of this new century, with such ambitious works as O arquivo universal (The universal archive, 2003) by Rosângela Rennó (Bela Horizonte, Brazil, 1962- ) and the compilation of photographs showing strollers from another time in Archivo porcontacto (Archive by contact, 2009) by Oscar Muñoz (Popayán, Colombia, 1951- ).
Last of all, several books demonstrate the renewed interest in documentary photography, such as On the Sixth Day (2005) by Argentine photographer Alessandra Sanguinetti (New York, US, 1968- ).
Foto/Gráfica: A New History of the Latin-American Photobook
Curator: Horatio Fernandez
January 20 - April 8, 2012
6, Impasse de la Défense
January 29, 2012
January 27, 2012
For the first time, the highly-regarded Michael Werner art gallery in Cologne (with other galleries in Germany and New York), will be presenting photography-based artworks.
From the gallery statement:
Michael Werner Kunsthandel, Cologne presents an exhibition by Jeff Cowen titled "Photographic Works” beginning on January 28th. The artist tests the boundaries between photography, painting, drawing and sculpture. Cowen works on a thick silver based paper, which he cuts, collages and attacks with various chemicals and specialized darkroom techniques. The evolution from the photographic image to the unique and painterly final print may take the artist months or even years. This process is consciously controlled only to some extent, but not entirely predetermined. Cowen is on a quest for something he rationally does not understand, but senses and knows exists. His photographic images transcend time and space. He writes: "Making a photograph for me is a paradox, a sacred and violent act. You kill a moment and eternalize it. There is a mysterious metamorphosis that transpires of which I am continuously surprised and in awe of. It’s a transformative process for the observer and the observed”.
Jeff Cowen was born in 1966 in New York City. In 1988 he graduated in Oriental Studies as a University Honors Scholar from New York University and Waseda University in Tokyo. Upon graduation, he continued photographing intensively on the streets of New York and worked as an assistant to Larry Clark. In the course of the 1990s his artistic approach was influenced and altered by his study of drawing and painting. This further informed the artist’s search for the relation between the photographic picture and abstraction. Cowen has been based in Paris and now Berlin since 2001. The Cologne exhibition reveals works of these past ten years including still life, landscape, figure, and abstraction. In many of the works, one senses Cowen’s interest with what he calls the “non-moment”, i.e. the point in time just before or after something has happened. “Like silence, my images can best be described by what they are not.”
Jeff Cowen: Photographic Works
January 28 - March 24, 2012
Michael Werner Kunsthandel Gallery
January 17, 2012
The world premiere screening of Lens Culture's International Exposure Awards winners from 2011 will take place in San Francisco at the San Francisco Art Institute this Friday, January 20, at 7:30 p.m. We're thrilled that the presentation of this award-winning work will be the opening act for the San Francisco PhotoAlliance 2012 Lecture Series.
The fast-paced, inspiring video presents very diverse winning works in Multimedia, Photography Portfolio, and Single Image categories, as well as examples from 25 honorable mention winners. The winning entries represent some of the best contemporary work (in all genres) submitted from 48 countries.
If you're in San Francisco, don't miss it. The PhotoAlliance photography lecture series is one of the best in the world. Photographer David Hilliard will present a mid-career retrospective of his work in an engaging talk just following the screening. Everyone is invited to stay after the presentations for some wine and lively conversation.
From San Francisco, the projection will travel to arts institutions, festivals, galleries, museums and photography schools around the world. Cheers, again, to all of the winners — it's remarkable work!
January 15, 2012
Young French photographer/activist/artist, JR, (he goes by his initials), has made the urban world his own outdoor photo gallery. He's posted his billboard-size photographs -- usually portraits of people who live in the area where he displays the photos -- on the sides of buildings, on rooftops, wrapped around whole train cars, on the houses that cover a ghetto slum hillside, and even on the wall that divides Israel from Palestine. His work is at once compassionate and provocative. He won the $100,000 TED prize in 2011, and here is his funny yet passionate speech about how he tries to use art to change the world. Inspiring!
TEDTalks are distributed under a Creative Commons (CC) license. © TED Conferences LLC. ted.com/talks
You can also see more of his work, and listen to an early audio interview he made with Lens Culture in 2007: lensculture.com/jr
January 12, 2012
Photographer and techno-wizard Adam Magyar has been working on a tricky time-based photographic series entitled Stainless since 2009. For this series, Magyar takes tack-sharp photographs of moving subway trains that look like they are stopped still. Owing to the technique he uses [compiling thousands of high-speed single pixel scanner images into one image], in the photograph below, it is impossible to see with the human eye what he is able to stitch together from high-definition slivers of reality — what you see at the left side of the train actually happened 12 seconds earlier than what you see on the right side of the train.
Recently, Magyar made this slow motion video to give an idea of how much time passes — and how much motion and activity takes place — during the making of one of his high-tech compressed images. The video shows how people inside the subway trains could see the platform and the people waiting there if the human brain could process what his camera can.
This clip contains 3 arrivals of Subway U2 to Alexanderplatz. It takes about 12 seconds for a train to leave the tunnel and stop at the station. These arrivals each are stretched in time to more than 8 minutes.
Magyar says: "With this video, all those magical scenes become visible that have captivated me from the very beginning. I also appear in the crowd with my camera taking images of the arriving train."
For more info about Adam Magyar, visit his very cool website (which includes an ingenious magnifying device to see sharp details), or visit a current exhibition of his prints in Berlin. You can see some of his earlier work in the Lens Culture archives here and here.
January 6, 2012
We're thrilled to announce that an all-new issue of Lens Culture, featuring outstanding contemporary photography from all over the world, is online now — free!
Discover intriguing work from Japan, France, Algeria, The Netherlands, Russia, Slovakia, Singapore, the United States, Panama, Iran, the UK, India, and the Caspian Sea. This edition presents reviews of some great new photobooks, as well as thoughtful commentaries from many of the photographers. Enjoy!
If you like it, please tell your friends, and "like" us on Facebook, and tweet about your favorites on Twitter. Thanks!