Posts Tagged ‘fotografia’

The Effervescence of the Photobook. Interview with Irene de Mendoza, co-curator of “Photobook Phenomenon”

June 9th, 2017 No Comments
Irene de Mendoza © CCCB, 2017. Elisenda Pallarés

Irene de Mendoza © CCCB, 2017. Elisenda Pallarés

The best-known photobooks are those that we make ourselves with photos of our holidays and that we show to friends and family on our return. At the “Photobook Phenomenon” exhibition, the term “photobook” adopts another dimension and historical significance. The photobooks exhibited at the CCCB and at the Foto Colectania Foundation are creative projects, stories in images, graphic accounts of the visual culture of our times. They are artistic objects where the creativity and choral work of many professionals (designers, printers, illustrators, photographers, etc.) all come into play. Their themes are as varied as suicide and the story of Spain’s first serial killer. They can also have different formats: from a traditional book to a cigarette pack or a Chinese sewing box. However, not all these photobooks contain photographs taken by the author; some contain archive images, photographs purchased at flea markets, drawings, etc.

At the height of the digital era, more photobooks are being published than ever before, and increasing numbers of professional find in this formula a pathway for expressing themselves and telling stories. “The photobook has the capacity to change the lives of these people” affirmed collector Martin Parr at the exhibition’s opening event.

We talked about the diversity and richness of photobooks and the fundamental role they play in heightening visibility of the work of contemporary artists and photographers with Irene de Mendoza, artistic director of the Foto Colectania Foundation and one of the curators of the “Photobook Phenomenon” exhibition.

Elisenda Pallarés: These days we can talk about the appearance of the “photobook phenomenon”. Many circuits and festivals exist dedicated to this format where artists and collectors make themselves known. This is not the first exhibition on this subject, so what is different about “Photobook Phenomenon”?

Irene de Mendoza: The “Photobook Phenomenon” exhibition produced jointly by the CCCB and the Foto Colectania Foundation aims to move away from the classic exhibition of photobooks by a photography centre. Exhibitions have already been held internationally on this subject, but always from the viewpoint of the photography. This time we have ventured to talk about the photobook in more general terms, as the exponent of the visual culture of an era, following to a certain extent the example of the Tate Modern, which has just acquired Martin Parr’s collection. We should not understand the photobook as exclusively an art of photography; it is an art that embraces many more disciplines. A key feature of the exhibition has been having seven curators who have presented very different themes.

EP: There are many women authors in the contemporary photobooks section. However, the same does not occur with the other sections. Is the world of the photobook a world of male creators and collectors?

IM: It is true that proportionally we find more men, even though history is full of women photographers. This is also reflected in the art world and in curatorship. However, now we are experiencing a total change, above all in the area of creation, where very powerful female photographers are starting to make their names known. In Spain, there are more women than men enjoying international recognition, as is the case of Cristina de Middel whom Martin Parr always cites as a reference artist. She consolidated her career starting with the self-publishing of a book.

EP: Does the same happen with photojournalism? Right now the exhibition World Press Photo is being presented in Barcelona and every year we observe more male prize-winners than female ones.

IM: It has always been more difficult for women in every sphere. Joana Biarnés, considered the first Spanish female photojournalist, is a good example. The documentary Joana Biarnés, una entre todos explains the difficulties she had to overcome to become a photographer. Although proportionally there have always been more male photographers it is also true that it has been easier for them to make themselves known. We don’t know if, in the future, archives will be found of unknown women photographers, as in the case of Vivian Maier, who spent her whole life taking photographs but never disseminated them.

Irene de Mendoza © CCCB, 2017. Elisenda Pallarés

EP: The exhibition features photobooks in different formats, from the more traditional book to Xian, by Thomas Sauvin, in which each reader takes a different journey and, consequently, has a different reading. What differentiates photobooks?

IM: At the height of the digital era, photographers have found in the photobook the ideal medium for showing a project in a coherent way. On the Internet the tendency exists for photographs to be circulated and separated from their context. The photobook, however, is something physical that enables coherence to be given to a project and allows artists to experiment with the format, the paper, deciding on the cover, etc.

The dream of authors who create photography books is for people to consider them like a novel: with a cover, a title, an introduction, a core and a denouement. There are also authors who break with this line, but it should still be understood as a reading. Often we start leafing through a book of images from the end, but nobody starts reading a novel from the end.

EP: The creation of the photographic book is a collective endeavour.

IM: Yes, it is a choral work. Often we relate it with the world of cinema. In a film, the director obviously plays an important part but the film is the result of the work of an entire team. In the creation of a photobook, the designer or the editor, for example, also play an extremely important role. Moreover, younger people have received a better education, they travel, speak English and use social media networks and all this is reflected in their work.

EP: What prominent names do we find among this new generation of Spanish photographers?

IM: There are major authors such as Carlos Spottorno, Cristina de Middel, Ricardo Cases and Óscar Monzón, who won the Paris Photo with Karma. All of them are internationally recognised for their photobooks. And also Laia Abril and Julián Barón, whose most recent works we can find at the exhibition.

EP: How do they make their work known?

IM: Through the book. Twenty years ago they thought more about doing an exhibition and making a catalogue as a record of the exhibition. But an exhibition is more limited. Which is better: an exhibition in Berlin, for example, or publishing a book that will also be seen in the MoMA bookstore? These photographers aim to reach a lot of people and they focus on this. Also, today, all the photography fairs and festivals devote a significant section to the photobook.

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EP: Are there talent-spotters in the world of the photobook?

IM: Yes, there are gurus or opinion leaders, such as Horacio Fernández, Gerry Badger and Martin Parr, and we have been lucky enough to see many of them at “Photobook Phenomenon”. But we must not forget the fundamental role played by the publishers. In this case, Editorial RM, with whom we have co-published the exhibition catalogue, are spokespersons and supporters of projects. They personally take the books that they publish to the major opinion leaders in the world of photography.

EP: Apart from the viewpoint of these opinion leaders, is there space for participation in the world of photobooks?

Yes. “Photobook Phenomenon” shows that the world of the photobook is not relegated exclusively to photography as a speciality. The photobook is not something exclusively for artists of photography, but the subjects dealt with can spark anyone’s interest. It is a vehicle that uses photographs, or images – because these days talking about photography means talking about images – to deal with very diverse issues. At the exhibition, many photobooks can be seen whose images were not made by the author, following the line of post-photography, so widely written about by Joan Fontcuberta. Photos from public or private archives are also published.

The idea is to narrate using images and this connects very well with the era in which we live. Between getting up and eating lunch we receive more visual impacts than a 14th century person received in their entire lifetime. There is a tsunami of images. I think that all those people who tell stories through images have a fundamental role to play. In the field of education there is still much to be done, because visual language is not being taught. However, many young people communicate with each other using this language: they no longer write about what they are doing, they send a photo. That is what is happening today, we communicate through images.

EP:  In the section on contemporary practices you highlight the work of Laia AbrilJulián BarónAlejandro CartagenaJana RomanovaVivianne SassenThomas Sauvin and Katja Stuke & Oliver Sieber. Why did you choose these authors?

IM: We have tried to select a series of authors who not only have created interesting photobooks, but for whom the photobook is almost their identity. As Moritz Neumüller says, they live for and with photobooks. They are artists who have found in this format the most coherent way of expressing themselves, and we have asked them to explain the book’s creation process.

EP: As a finishing touch to the exhibition, there is the Espai Beta with 150 photobooks published over the last two years. Can you tell us about some of them?

We were very sure that we wanted to create a reading space at the Espai Beta that would reflect the effervescence in contemporary photobook creation. You can find such marvels as Silent Histories by Kazuma Obara. The book explores the consequences of the Second World War in Japan, a subject that has received little coverage. It tells the story of a group of people through their own accounts, with archive images, current photographs and other elements such as a passport or the drawings of a lady who was only able to tell her story through them.

The Photograph That Narrates

June 7th, 2017 No Comments

At the “Photobook Phenomenon exhibition, projects can be seen by contemporary artists such as Laia AbrilJulián BarónAlejandro CartagenaJana RomanovaVivianne SassenThomas Sauvin, Katja Stuke and Oliver Sieber, who have all opted to self-publish books to boost their career.

“Photobook Phenomenon” is not an exhibition about a subject, but about a format. “The book is a vehicle for communication, a cartridge of information, it activates reading, increases the experience, it can be a work of art,” explains designer Eloi Gimeno in his essay Libro (Eloi Gimeno, Libro, Barcelona, RM, 2014). This exhibition co-produced by the CCCB and Fundació Foto Colectania shows us how the book of photographs has evolved and how it has visibly flourished over the last twenty years thanks to new technologies.

In the last section of the exhibition, Contemporary Practices, we have a chance to discover seven publications by artists who have promoted their career through the photobook. “We have selected authors who, in addition to having created interesting books, share in common the fact that the photobook is their identity” explains Irene de Mendoza, curator of this chapter and art director of the Fundació Foto Colectania.

Seven contemporary photobooks

Katja Stuke & Oliver Sieber, Japanese Lesson. A Future Book, 2016

Katja Stuke & Oliver Sieber, Japanese Lesson. A Future Book, 2016

Japanese Lesson, an unfinished photobook, opens up the section dedicated to contemporary artists at “Photobook Phenomenon”. On the wall different possible designs of the pages that form the book can be seen, along with the process of creation of German photographers Katja Stuke and Oliver Sieber. “We have travelled widely around Japan and we wanted to produce a book on the people in the street. We are very interested in the subject of protests in that country,” explains Katja Stuke on the day the exhibition opens.

Jana Romanova, Shvilishvili, 2015

Jana Romanova, Shvilishvili, 2015

The next installation presents Shvilishvili by Jana Romanova. The Russian photographer unfolds, literally, on the table, her family album. On the one side we can see the photographs that her grandmother sent to the family in Georgia when she had to emigrate to Russia. On the other, a chain of portraits of her Georgian relatives, whom she met recently. Between the years 2013 and 2015, the author manually produced 67 copies and this process became a reflection on the catastrophe of the murder of her grandparents at the hands of a cousin. “My family has been separated by a border and by this murder. With this book I wanted to find out who my grandmother was,” Romanova points out.

Viviane Sassen, Umbra, 2015

Viviane Sassen, Umbra, 2015

The chapter also includes Umbra, where Viviane Sassen focuses on a recurring theme in her photographs, shade. “Umbra takes an in-depth look into the world of shadows. A darkness that is seductive and deceptive at the same time. It also deals with light, from its blinding qualities to a fragile glimmer,” the Dutch artist explains. An entire visual experience somewhere between realism and abstraction.

Julian Baron, Memorial, 2016

Julian Baron, Memorial, 2016

“This book wants to be a contribution to the construction of the Peruvian identity” affirms Julian Barón, author of Memorial. The photographer from Castellón saw the play Sin título, técnica mixta by the Peruvian theatre group Yuyachkani and asked if they would let him work with the documentation that formed part of the play’s props. Thus, by copying photocopies, he has constructed a narrative where he has also involved the public.

Laia Abril, Lobismuller, 2016

Laia Abril, Lobismuller, 2016

Manuel Blasco Romasanta was tried in 1853 for various murders in Galicia. He said that he was a werewolf. It is a case shrouded in mystery that remains alive in the collective imagination. Reconstructing that story, of which no photographs are available, was a real challenge, points out Laia Abril, author of Lobismuller. The investigators now believe that Romasanta was a hermaphrodite and the photobook narrates the case from this new perspective. At the exhibition the entire investigation process followed by the photographer can be viewed.

Alejandro Cartagena, Santa Barbara Return Jobs to US, 2015-16

Alejandro Cartagena, Santa Barbara Return Jobs to US, 2015-16. © CCCB. La fotogràfica, 2017.

Alejandro Cartagena exhibits Santa Barbara Return Jobs Back to US, an anti-portrait of the United States with photographs taken in this city in California. It is an attractive book on the outside, with a deep red velvet cover and golden letters, and with paper and ink of little quality inside. A metaphor of a container with a critical content. “We can read Santa Barbara Return Jobs Back to US on the registration plate of a car manufactured in Japan. We can also see commercial messages in Spanish aimed at Latinos, in other words, they want their money but they don’t want them,” the Mexican criticises.

Thomas Sauvin, Xian, 2016

Thomas Sauvin, Xian, 2016

Artist Thomas Sauvin transfers us to Chinese second-hand markets with Xian. His work is elaborated with 59 boxes made of folded paper, that housewives would use to store needles and threads, and which he has stuffed with the photographs that he collected during the twelve years that he lived in China. “I’m interested in collecting photographs but I also want to share them, that is why I have produced this photobook”, Sauvin explains.

A commitment to self-publishing

At the height of the digital era “there is a clear tendency to return to the printed object,” points out Moritz Neumüller, the exhibition’s executive curator. For photographer and collector of photobooks Martin Parr, the photobook is the perfect display case for many photographers. “There is a new generation of young artists who have been capable of self-publishing their work and that has given them an international echo,” Parr highlights.

Self-publishing means having self-financing and it can be a risky practice. Alejandro Cartagena affirms that the edition of the book opened up the road to him becoming known and achieving new projects and commissions. “It’s not only your photographic work that is valued, but also your capacity to produce a project from the idea to the final result.” Other formulas exist to narrative stories through images, but the photobook has become a key format in contemporary culture.

Antoni Arissa. The Shadow and the Photographer

November 4th, 2014 No Comments

Antoni Arissa Asmarats (Sant Andreu, 1900 – Barcelona, 1980) was one of the most prominent Spanish representatives of the photographic avant-garde, although his beginnings were influenced by the postulates of pictorialism which had deep roots in the Catalan and Spanish photography of those years. His position evolved towards an aesthetic that was close to the European New Vision. This change was fuelled, furthermore, by his career as a printer and his knowledge of typography and editorial development, where the photographer adapted numerous visual tools in search of a truly modern photography.

During his first ventures as a photographer, in the early 1920s, he obtained his first prize in the magazine Criterium at the age of just 22 years. In 1924, he was awarded a prize by the Workers’ Civic Centre of Gijón and in 1925 he received the prize of honour at Figueres. He also won several international prizes and attended important exhibitions such as the II Exposition internationale d’Art Photographique in Saint Etienne, together with avant-garde authors such as Frantisek Drtikol and Jaromír Funke. By the year 1922, Arissa had founded – together with Josep Girabalt and Lluís Batlle – the Saint-Victor Photography Group, in the Sant Andreu neighbourhood in Barcelona, a year before the emergence of the significant Photography Group of Catalonia (Agrupació Fotogràfica de Catalunya).

In the early 1920s, the city of Barcelona showed us a photographic scenario where the pictorialism current was at the forefront in all activities, as in the rest of the country, and in a large part of Europe. Photographers had found their inspiration in the different artistic movements of the 19th century such as Pre-Raphaelitism, Arts & Crafts, and Symbolism. Their works were subjected to a range of manipulations through pigmentary and chemical procedures, which they qualified as noble.

In this early phase, in the years between 1922 and 1928, Arissa produced his first images, reflecting rural scenes from the environs of Sant Andreu. These were photographs organized as stagings, to recreate picturesque situations in real contexts.

In the early 1930s, Antoni Arissa completed the process of change in the way he conceived his photographic production. The peaceful scenes of the previous decade were now compressed, conceptualised, and reduced by a visual treatment closer to graphic components. Angulation, together with strong lighting, with increased light and shade, converted his photographs into conscious elements and into transforming tools that would allow him to add emotional accents.

In his visual adventure, Arissa would not need major monuments, nor journeys to remote places, nor majestic sceneries, nor famous figures. He found the spectacular in little things. Trivial personal belongings, and the shadows they project, would allow him to produce great images. Their importance lies in his highly personal vision.

In 1935, the magazine Art de la Llum devoted a special issue to Antoni Arissa, coinciding with the exhibition held at the Exhibition Hall of the Catalanist People’s Centre of Sant Andreu.

At the end of the Civil War, many of the tribunes for the dissemination of modernity disappeared and Arissa’s artistic activity, like that of many other creators of his generation, decreased notably as, gradually, he fell into oblivion. In the early 1990s, a small process began of recovering his figure at various exhibitions.

This anthological exhibition on Antoni Arissa aims to offer a journey through his photographic career, from the early 1920s to the Spanish Civil War, where he practically stopped photography to continue with his work as a printer and typesetter at his family’s printing press. This project represents the conclusion of a long process of consolidation and restoration of his main negatives, as well as the search for originals from the author’s era. Thus, the exhibition contains original images by the author sourced from different institutions, as well as current productions from recovered negatives by Arissa, which show what the works that have been lost must have been like.

Rafael Levenfeld and Valentí Vallhonrat are the curators of the exhibition Arissa. The shadow and the photographer, 1922-1936, that opens on November 14th at CCCB.



Miquel Dewever-Plana: «Internet will be the medium that will allow us, as photojournalists, to continue working and reporting»

October 30th, 2013 No Comments

Interview with the winner of the first prize in the Interactive Documentary category of the multimedia section at World Press Photo 13.

Pòster “Alma. Hija de la violencia”

Increasingly, photography tends to converge with other means of visual, textual and audiovisual expression; at the same time, on both a professional and an amateur level, photographic images are not impervious to the social importance of the Internet.

Within this context, two years ago the World Press Photo foundation launched the Multimedia Contest: a competition that it views as complementary to its original photo contest and which responds to its commitment to provide a platform for innovative practices in the field of visual journalism. According to the contest rules, the multimedia works submitted must be produced specifically for the web and have to include photography and/or video in combination (as a minimum) plus animations, graphics, illustrations, sound or text.

At the ninth edition of World Press Photo in Barcelona, the Catalan capital will be the only city in Spain (and almost in the world) to show the nine winning works of the third Multimedia Contest, which covers three categories (Online Shorts, Online Features and Interactive Documentaries), each of them with a first, second and third prize.

This year, two of the first prizes awarded by the jury of this contest went to Spanish photographers. The top award in the Online Shorts category went to Mallorcan photographer Pep Bonet for his work Into the shadows, and the highest distinction in the Interactive Documentaries category to Palafrugell photojournalist Miquel Dewever-Plana, who, together with French writer Isabelle Fougère, produced Alma. A tale of violence, the spine-chilling story of a young woman who is an ex-gang member in Guatemala.

Fotografia d’”Alma. Hija de la violencia”
© Miquel Dewever-Plana

As Dewever-Plana explains to us, the genre for which the prize was awarded consists of “a documentary conceived and designed for the web, where we ask the Internet user to be active, not passive, before the screen, and thus become, somehow, an indirect actor in the story.” “It’s a very recent tool,” he affirms, “where everything can still be and must be invented.”

Dewever-Plana details how production began when “Alma agreed to give us her account because she wanted to help other young people – no matter where they were from: Guatemala, France, Spain, the United States, etc. – to avoid ending up, at age fifteen or twenty, like all her friends from that era: in prison or in the cemetery.” To respond to the young woman’s wish, he and Isabelle Fougère chose to use multimedia tools.

“The story told to us by Alma is universal,” says Dewever-Plana. “We are all Alma. Or, rather, we all could be Alma. Only the environment in which a human being grows up will facilitate, or not, people falling into such extremes and using violence as a language to exist. The Internet enables us to go into people’s homes and, thus, to take this reflection everywhere.” In addition, the film’s author highlights the fact that another attraction of the web documentary is that it has no limit in terms of time or space. “In Alma,” he explains, “apart from forty minutes of confession by the protagonist, we included hundreds of informative pages to help people better understand the situation. No other medium could have offered us this freedom.”

The information pages and other more journalistic elements of Alma were produced under the direction of Isabelle Fougère, while Dewever-Plana took charge especially of the part relating to the production’s images and videos.

Alma, Isabelle Fougère i Miquel Dewever-Plana
© Miquel Dewever-Plana

“I don’t believe any standard team model exists for producing a web documentary,” the photojournalist affirms. “It all depends on the story.” In this case, Dewever-Plana maintains that, since this was a story of a men’s world told by a woman, “it was essential that it was another woman who interviewed Alma during the filming. That is why I asked Isabelle to form part of this adventure. She was the person who directed the interview and I think the fact that Alma was responding to another woman allowed her to be extremely honest when shedding light on the most painful part of her experiences.” Alma’s story is also the basis for the book ALMA (Blume, 2012), with a literary account by Fougère and images by Dewever-Plana.

Asked about the potential of multimedia tools in the world of professional photography, Dewever-Plana asserts that, in the face of the economic crisis affecting the traditional media, “Internet will undoubtedly be the medium that will allow us [photojournalists] to continue working and reporting.” By way of example, the photographer explains to us that, to date, Alma has registered over a million connections (via the Internet and a free app for tablets). “It’s an unprecedented result that means that our work could reach a much larger audience by using the Internet,” says Dewever-Plana. Even so, the co-director of Alma confesses that this web documentary has not generated any kind of economic benefit for its creators and that in the field of photojournalism it will be necessary to “create a viable economic model that doesn’t yet exist.”

World Press Photo: exhibition and parallel activities

Fotografia d’”Alma. Hija de la violencia”
© Miquel Dewever-Plana

The World Press Photo Barcelona exhibition can be visited from 6 November to 8 December 2013 at the CCCB, with opening times from Tuesday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Coinciding with the exhibition, on 6 November at 12 noon, Miquel Dewever-Plana will be offering a Masterclass in Hall -1 of the CCCB. The photographer will share his experience in the creation, development and dissemination of the web documentary Alma, which was also the winner of the Web Documentary Visa d’Or Award at the Visa pour l’Image Festival 2013, in Perpignan.

In addition to this Masterclass, World Press Photo will also include other parallel activities.

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Twitter: #WPP13BCN