Mexico

Echoing

Vanessa Alcaíno & Alejandro Malo

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sartore kingfisher
Brown Hooded Kingfisher, (Halcyon albiventris), Chitengo Camp, Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, 2011. By Joel Sartore

When we choose to address a landscape issue and, soon after, we realized its relationship with the theme of the FotoFest 2016 Biennial: Changing Circumstances: Looking at the Future of the Planet, we thought it appropriate to echo the concerns expressed during the festival. A few contents presented in this issue offer a digital version of the same exhibitions for our audience. However, this observation would be insufficient without emphasizing some of the ideas included in the book of the same name that drives us to insist on the invitation to peer into its pages.

Conceived as a collaboration between Frederick Baldwin and Wendy Watriss, founders of FotoFest, with Steven Evans, Executive Director of the festival, it integrates a diverse and broad mosaic of artists. In his introductory text, Steven Evans highlights the need to promote the exchange of ideas between artists who use different strategies to address the issue. It also contrast the divergence of gazes with the unifying leitmotif of Thomas E. Lovejoy and Geof Rayner essays that show an intrinsic connection between all artist’s concerns. Both essays provide strong arguments on the urgent need for action on climate change; the first, from the perspective of the Earth as a living organism, and the second by demonstrating the decisive role of human beings in their environment.

barker birds nest
Bird’s Nest, 2011. Por Mandy Barker

Finally, Wendy Watriss gives voice to some questions that resonate with concerns we encountered during our research on the theme of landscape: "We have responsibility not only for our own well-being but that of the rest of the natural world? Can art stimulate new perspectives and new ways of seeing?” Photography has in its hands the potential to share with us realities that otherwise would be inaccessible. The images are not neutral, they feed imagination and foster reflections, being a very effective means to make any problem palpable, visible and close, to the point of being able to bring them into the political sphere and encourage agreements. We agree with Wendy’s view that art can itself stimulate and expand our world view and present innovative ways to address the issue of climate change. We should not allow ourselves to have skewed visions that only address and speak from a knowledge area or a region of the world. We must open to different cultures, include divergent views, draw new and different boundaries, create unique maps, put the world upside down, stir and divide it in various ways. That is the only way to visualize a future where rather than dominate nature, we can collaborate for its survival and ours. And this way of ‘seeing’ the world, and the new paths to our future, is what art may best express.

Vanessa AlcaínoVanessa Alcaíno Pizani (Venezuela, 1980). Lives and works in Mexico. Visual artist. She graduated in Philosophy at the Central University of Venezuela and has a Master’s degree in Spanish and Latin American Thought at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). Since 1994, she has worked in the field of photography at various institutions and organisations in Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico. At the moment, she is part of the editorial team of zonezero.com.
 
Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.



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sartore kingfisher
Brown Hooded Kingfisher, (Halcyon albiventris), Chitengo Camp, Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, 2011. By Joel Sartore

When we choose to address a landscape issue and, soon after, we realized its relationship with the theme of the FotoFest 2016 Biennial: Changing Circumstances: Looking at the Future of the Planet, we thought it appropriate to echo the concerns expressed during the festival. A few contents presented in this issue offer a digital version of the same exhibitions for our audience. However, this observation would be insufficient without emphasizing some of the ideas included in the book of the same name that drives us to insist on the invitation to peer into its pages.

Conceived as a collaboration between Frederick Baldwin and Wendy Watriss, founders of FotoFest, with Steven Evans, Executive Director of the festival, it integrates a diverse and broad mosaic of artists. In his introductory text, Steven Evans highlights the need to promote the exchange of ideas between artists who use different strategies to address the issue. It also contrast the divergence of gazes with the unifying leitmotif of Thomas E. Lovejoy and Geof Rayner essays that show an intrinsic connection between all artist’s concerns. Both essays provide strong arguments on the urgent need for action on climate change; the first, from the perspective of the Earth as a living organism, and the second by demonstrating the decisive role of human beings in their environment.

barker birds nest
Bird’s Nest, 2011. Por Mandy Barker

Finally, Wendy Watriss gives voice to some questions that resonate with concerns we encountered during our research on the theme of landscape: "We have responsibility not only for our own well-being but that of the rest of the natural world? Can art stimulate new perspectives and new ways of seeing?” Photography has in its hands the potential to share with us realities that otherwise would be inaccessible. The images are not neutral, they feed imagination and foster reflections, being a very effective means to make any problem palpable, visible and close, to the point of being able to bring them into the political sphere and encourage agreements. We agree with Wendy’s view that art can itself stimulate and expand our world view and present innovative ways to address the issue of climate change. We should not allow ourselves to have skewed visions that only address and speak from a knowledge area or a region of the world. We must open to different cultures, include divergent views, draw new and different boundaries, create unique maps, put the world upside down, stir and divide it in various ways. That is the only way to visualize a future where rather than dominate nature, we can collaborate for its survival and ours. And this way of ‘seeing’ the world, and the new paths to our future, is what art may best express.

Vanessa AlcaínoVanessa Alcaíno Pizani (Venezuela, 1980). Lives and works in Mexico. Visual artist. She graduated in Philosophy at the Central University of Venezuela and has a Master’s degree in Spanish and Latin American Thought at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). Since 1994, she has worked in the field of photography at various institutions and organisations in Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico. At the moment, she is part of the editorial team of zonezero.com.
 
Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.



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In Search of Lost Innocence

Alejandro Malo

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paisaje

Cloud Phenomena of Maloja. Film by Arnold Fanck, 1924

Landscape, long before being image, was literature and longing. Since ancient times, almost every civilization led an educated class that longed to return to the simple life of the countryside, back to nature with its deeper order and less troubled appearance. In the West, despite its widespread tradition against the city life and akin to recover the rural simplicity, it is only during the Renaissance that the joy of those running away from the maddening crowds turns into the full enjoyment of nature, first in poetry and only afterwards as a growing presence in paintings. In the East, at least since China’s Tang Dynasty, a fertile dialogue is established around the landscape between poetry and painting, and the genre develops very soon and evolves in multiple aspects.

Centuries later, while other visual media were confronted by the emergence of photography to take in and emphasize the subjectivity of their gaze over this topic, photographic landscapes devote their attention to exoticism or the magnificence of natural views and offered a deceptive closeness to a naturalist interpretation. The romantic vision of nature took root strongly across images ranging from the Bisson brothers to Ansel Adams. In them, beauty was something external to be captured in each shot, a reserve where solitude was a regained innocence and open spaces offered an inexhaustible source of peacefulness for the contemplative eye under the changing light’s mantle.

Gradually, as these perspectives became advertising and marketing leitmotifs, this genre had to be reinvented and new possibilities sought elsewhere. Already in 1975, with the exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, it became clear that human intervention was inseparable from our new perception of landscape. The aseptic style of the authors gathered in this exhibition, considered almost forensic and where the emotional charge seemed absent, caused the sensation of being somehow close to a crime scene’s lingering memories, but devoid of its dramatic charge. During the following years, some authors, with a similar methodology but against this trend, looked after landscapes as representation of their own temperament, metaphor of an inner life that finds in the environment an affinity and a strong individual expressive capacity. Finally, photography assumed the same subjectivity of other means. As an example, Hiroshi Sugimoto wrote about his Seascapes: "Every time I view the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home". In that phrase, anyone can guess a sort of poetic inclination and a strong artistic weight that facilitates dialogue with paintings, as was done in 2012 by exposing this series with Mark Rothko’s work.

However, Eden’s innocence became impossible in a world where human presence outreach tainted glaciers and forests with the same nonchalance. In the second half of the twentieth century, the landscape was transformed from man facing nature, to be a metaphor for our own humanity and, at the same time, scene of our fears, hopes and tragedies. We read as landscape every place where a scenario simulates an open space, no matter whether an emotional or conceptual projection of ourselves, but also we read it under the titanic action of mining, between the megalopolis’ streets or against the inventiveness of major transformation projects. Hybridization of genres has allowed the unreal calm of sensationalist scenes as in Fernando Brito’s pictures and the catastrophe of Chinese dumping sites of Yao Lu to be shown as images of bucolic appearance. We bit the fruit of our pride and today paradise is a shy promise. We need to build works, with concrete actions to transform the announced catastrophe in a redemptive epiphany. The landscape is, with its potential for imagination and denunciation, the much needed tool.

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

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paisaje

Cloud Phenomena of Maloja. Film by Arnold Fanck, 1924

Landscape, long before being image, was literature and longing. Since ancient times, almost every civilization led an educated class that longed to return to the simple life of the countryside, back to nature with its deeper order and less troubled appearance. In the West, despite its widespread tradition against the city life and akin to recover the rural simplicity, it is only during the Renaissance that the joy of those running away from the maddening crowds turns into the full enjoyment of nature, first in poetry and only afterwards as a growing presence in paintings. In the East, at least since China’s Tang Dynasty, a fertile dialogue is established around the landscape between poetry and painting, and the genre develops very soon and evolves in multiple aspects.

Centuries later, while other visual media were confronted by the emergence of photography to take in and emphasize the subjectivity of their gaze over this topic, photographic landscapes devote their attention to exoticism or the magnificence of natural views and offered a deceptive closeness to a naturalist interpretation. The romantic vision of nature took root strongly across images ranging from the Bisson brothers to Ansel Adams. In them, beauty was something external to be captured in each shot, a reserve where solitude was a regained innocence and open spaces offered an inexhaustible source of peacefulness for the contemplative eye under the changing light’s mantle.

Gradually, as these perspectives became advertising and marketing leitmotifs, this genre had to be reinvented and new possibilities sought elsewhere. Already in 1975, with the exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, it became clear that human intervention was inseparable from our new perception of landscape. The aseptic style of the authors gathered in this exhibition, considered almost forensic and where the emotional charge seemed absent, caused the sensation of being somehow close to a crime scene’s lingering memories, but devoid of its dramatic charge. During the following years, some authors, with a similar methodology but against this trend, looked after landscapes as representation of their own temperament, metaphor of an inner life that finds in the environment an affinity and a strong individual expressive capacity. Finally, photography assumed the same subjectivity of other means. As an example, Hiroshi Sugimoto wrote about his Seascapes: "Every time I view the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home". In that phrase, anyone can guess a sort of poetic inclination and a strong artistic weight that facilitates dialogue with paintings, as was done in 2012 by exposing this series with Mark Rothko’s work.

However, Eden’s innocence became impossible in a world where human presence outreach tainted glaciers and forests with the same nonchalance. In the second half of the twentieth century, the landscape was transformed from man facing nature, to be a metaphor for our own humanity and, at the same time, scene of our fears, hopes and tragedies. We read as landscape every place where a scenario simulates an open space, no matter whether an emotional or conceptual projection of ourselves, but also we read it under the titanic action of mining, between the megalopolis’ streets or against the inventiveness of major transformation projects. Hybridization of genres has allowed the unreal calm of sensationalist scenes as in Fernando Brito’s pictures and the catastrophe of Chinese dumping sites of Yao Lu to be shown as images of bucolic appearance. We bit the fruit of our pride and today paradise is a shy promise. We need to build works, with concrete actions to transform the announced catastrophe in a redemptive epiphany. The landscape is, with its potential for imagination and denunciation, the much needed tool.

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

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Appropriation and remix

Alejandro Malo

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In Postproduction, I try to show that artists' intuitive relationship with art history is now going beyond what we call "the art of appropriation," which naturally infers an ideology of ownership, and moving toward a culture of the use of forms, a culture of constant activity of signs based on a collective ideal: sharing. —Nicolas Bourriaud.

metropolis
Scene of the film Metropolis by Fritz Lang, 1927.

For some time now, the resource of appropriation in photography has gone from being a subversive and provocative act to being, in many cases, the catch phrase which seeks to associate the prestige of previous artworks and contexts with fresh projects. The very concept of appropriation assumes the possibility of appropriating a material aspect of an image which is becoming more and more intangible. Due to the increasing production, consumption and transformation of images in a digital format, there is now an infinite number of possible reincarnations of not only every photograph, but also of its copies and variants, and of other photographs which it references, parodies or recreates. This never-ending cascade of repetitions and similarities has rendered unnecessary any fight against the concepts of originality and authorship, which only a few decades ago, it seemed essential to question. Originality, at risk of showing itself up with touching naivety, has not evolved from being a different arrangement of very well-known elements. Similarly, authorship hardly ends up as the top hat from which, like a rabbit, a well-edited design made up of materials uploaded from almost indistinguishable references will appear. In such a scenario, what does artwork openly based on somebody else’s material suggest? What question does it raise and what answer does it provide? Or, ideally, what question would it raise and what answer would it give so as not to remain merely a superficial resource?

The first step in formulating a response is to recognize that the boundaries of this practice are imprecise. It is impossible to define the point at which the reinterpretation of archived material or their intervention turns into a practice of visual recycling and rewriting of its meaning. If we add to this catalogue of practices, collages and photo montages, as well as the found footage and the capture of three- dimensional representations (for example, Street View or Apple Maps), then the territory becomes immeasurable. However, perhaps it is this complexity itself that is the first supporting point: a project that is constructed from a remix does not conceal its debt to other sources, and instead demonstrates its aim of proposing a new interpretation of them, albeit in a modest way. This in itself highlights an ethical concern with respect to the rule of images. Here lies a commitment to not only inviting a reflective way of looking at a universe that already exists but also a desire to add meaning to this universe. This leads us to the following conclusion: a project of this kind calls for contextual boundaries to be fixed. In order to create a new meaning it is fundamental to acknowledge previous meanings and references. Whether this is achieved by means of footnotes, marginal notes or definition by the micro universe itself regarding the selection and shots it comprises, or even the sum of a variety of these resources, the result is always one step further away from the original sources.

Finally, making the effort to acknowledge the fact that an image derives from previous artwork and that it aspires to become part of a context allows us to deduce a final characteristic of these designs, a characteristic that we can call the ecology of photographic recycling. In a world in which images are created at an extraordinary pace and in which every image can be disposable, appropriation acknowledges that images can take on new meanings and be enriched by broader meanings. The unstoppable avalanche of production comes face to face with the reasoned observation of reproduction and the modest judgment of post-production. The decreasing value of originality counters analysis, and the curator’s panoramic vision opposes the author’s perspective.

If we admit that in between the practices of appropriation and remix lies a need for ethics and ecology, which themselves require individual assessment and research, perhaps we can better measure the current relevance of the latest designs and recognize the scope of each one. If we accept that this new economy of shared property adds as much economic value as it does symbolic value, perhaps we will then have more factors related to our notions about intellectual property to adjust to a more progressive framework. The questions from the photographic world - in which there is so much to see and so much to understand - are timely and certainly worth acknowledging. Are we capable of doing so?

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

 

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In Postproduction, I try to show that artists' intuitive relationship with art history is now going beyond what we call "the art of appropriation," which naturally infers an ideology of ownership, and moving toward a culture of the use of forms, a culture of constant activity of signs based on a collective ideal: sharing. —Nicolas Bourriaud.

metropolis
Scene of the film Metropolis by Fritz Lang, 1927.

For some time now, the resource of appropriation in photography has gone from being a subversive and provocative act to being, in many cases, the catch phrase which seeks to associate the prestige of previous artworks and contexts with fresh projects. The very concept of appropriation assumes the possibility of appropriating a material aspect of an image which is becoming more and more intangible. Due to the increasing production, consumption and transformation of images in a digital format, there is now an infinite number of possible reincarnations of not only every photograph, but also of its copies and variants, and of other photographs which it references, parodies or recreates. This never-ending cascade of repetitions and similarities has rendered unnecessary any fight against the concepts of originality and authorship, which only a few decades ago, it seemed essential to question. Originality, at risk of showing itself up with touching naivety, has not evolved from being a different arrangement of very well-known elements. Similarly, authorship hardly ends up as the top hat from which, like a rabbit, a well-edited design made up of materials uploaded from almost indistinguishable references will appear. In such a scenario, what does artwork openly based on somebody else’s material suggest? What question does it raise and what answer does it provide? Or, ideally, what question would it raise and what answer would it give so as not to remain merely a superficial resource?

The first step in formulating a response is to recognize that the boundaries of this practice are imprecise. It is impossible to define the point at which the reinterpretation of archived material or their intervention turns into a practice of visual recycling and rewriting of its meaning. If we add to this catalogue of practices, collages and photo montages, as well as the found footage and the capture of three- dimensional representations (for example, Street View or Apple Maps), then the territory becomes immeasurable. However, perhaps it is this complexity itself that is the first supporting point: a project that is constructed from a remix does not conceal its debt to other sources, and instead demonstrates its aim of proposing a new interpretation of them, albeit in a modest way. This in itself highlights an ethical concern with respect to the rule of images. Here lies a commitment to not only inviting a reflective way of looking at a universe that already exists but also a desire to add meaning to this universe. This leads us to the following conclusion: a project of this kind calls for contextual boundaries to be fixed. In order to create a new meaning it is fundamental to acknowledge previous meanings and references. Whether this is achieved by means of footnotes, marginal notes or definition by the micro universe itself regarding the selection and shots it comprises, or even the sum of a variety of these resources, the result is always one step further away from the original sources.

Finally, making the effort to acknowledge the fact that an image derives from previous artwork and that it aspires to become part of a context allows us to deduce a final characteristic of these designs, a characteristic that we can call the ecology of photographic recycling. In a world in which images are created at an extraordinary pace and in which every image can be disposable, appropriation acknowledges that images can take on new meanings and be enriched by broader meanings. The unstoppable avalanche of production comes face to face with the reasoned observation of reproduction and the modest judgment of post-production. The decreasing value of originality counters analysis, and the curator’s panoramic vision opposes the author’s perspective.

If we admit that in between the practices of appropriation and remix lies a need for ethics and ecology, which themselves require individual assessment and research, perhaps we can better measure the current relevance of the latest designs and recognize the scope of each one. If we accept that this new economy of shared property adds as much economic value as it does symbolic value, perhaps we will then have more factors related to our notions about intellectual property to adjust to a more progressive framework. The questions from the photographic world - in which there is so much to see and so much to understand - are timely and certainly worth acknowledging. Are we capable of doing so?

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

 

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Activist, documentary and collaborative photography

Ehekatl Hernández

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03
Dmitry Chizhevskiy, 27, had his left eye permanently destroyed by homophobes - Mads Nissen

The question is, what is the function of competitions and calls for submissions of activist, documentary or collaborative photography? There are countless initiatives with discourses calling for justice, change and equality, with excellent intentions and attempts to “give a presence to the least fortunate persons worldwide”, with a proposal that stifles these communities’ capacity to represent themselves, or construct their own imagination from the trenches, ghettos, neighborhoods or shanty towns.

The apparent contradiction of these initiatives is reflected in irregular results, often selected solely for their aesthetic value, which undoubtedly reflects the vision, perspective and conceptual and formal decisions of an author. In this regard, it is naïve to seek to “reflect reality”, and it is perhaps worth reconsidering the uses of photography to represent and document from other perspectives, the sum of which approaches offers a more reliable record, and must be completed by a vision from within the communities themselves. After all, it is the individuals immersed in them who experience most closely their own dynamics and value systems, and the aspects of greatest interest to them.

This does not mean that being external makes a vision invalid or unworthy. On the contrary, the reflection proposes that a register be adopted that involves the photographer more actively. Therefore, all these calls for submissions, competitions and participative initiatives, as well as photographers and producers, must distance themselves from traditional documentalism. The context of the individual or community photographed must be understood and assimilated by offering an interpretation that presents the authorial contribution and its specific approach to the topic, thus establishing an authentic dialogue, a means of integration, a to-ing and fro-ing, and ultimately a better understanding of the subject photographed and his environment. Indeed, the greatest value lies in experience and the dialogue established, always assuming that the final result is merely the interpretation and assimilation of this experience, rather than a distant discourse outside the community documented.

This poses a challenge to the entire system of values, conception, production and consumption of documentary photography, and though this idea has already been applied in photojournalism for several decades, it questions the validity of these reflections and criticism in an era in which technology is rethinking all photographic activity. Today, communities are representing themselves as never before thanks to the availability of capture devices and the almost immediate spread and distribution of images, as a first-hand record that is unintentionally documenting events in specific environments in every corner of the world from various angles. Undoubtedly, these competitions and calls for submissions will gradually increase in scope and number, although paradoxically, their selection criteria and consequently, objectives, are increasingly being questioned. Neither renown nor tradition exempts these initiatives from these new reflections and questioning, with targets ranging from the prestigious World Press Photo to modest announcements by NGOs, academic institutions or civil organizations.

01
Children from Idinthakarai. Amirtharaj Stephen

This phenomenon does not diminish the importance of those initiatives in which the resources obtained from scholarships and prizes contribute directly to financing NGOs, social organizations and charities, and the management of these funds reflects other spheres. Moreover, there is a clearly-defined market for these projects, whose results correspond perfectly to the particular needs of various governments and official institutions but also social institutions and the public that consumes these images. In any case, what is questionable is the banner under which these works are disseminated, with the false premise of giving a face to the oppressed. This raises the same question: who is being represented, and why? Failing this, do these communities genuinely want to be represented in this manner?

However, we can afford to be optimistic, since several organizations have gradually begun toask themselves these questions, and are redefining their objectives and selection criteria. New participation dynamics for documentary makers and journalists are being established, which record and document the circumstances of their own environments. One example is CatchLigth (formerly Photo Philantropy) a platform for building ties based in California, which goes beyond being a renowned annual prize for photographic activism, basing its selection criteria mainly on the narrative value of the work, while also supporting the directors of audiovisual projects with social content through a system of liaisons with technological sponsors for the production and dissemination of the works produced.

Thus, given this outlook, we may be closer to obtaining an answer to the initial questioning process, which suggests that the true contribution and function of these events and calls for submissions should be to bring together all these points of view, to construct a broader experience based on a three-dimensional record approached from all angles, as is done by Donald Weber and its questioning of the crisis of photojournalism and documentalism. To achieve this new point of view, the objectivity once so zealously pursued must cease to be the canon on which to base the selection and judgment criteria of social competitions and calls for submissions, in order to achieve a closer approximation and better understanding of these other realities.

Ehekatl HernándezEhekatl Hernández (México, 1975) received a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas at UNAM in Mexico, and a Master’s Degree in Multimedia Applications from the Universidad Poltécnica de Catalunya in Spain. He has over 15 years’ experience in graphic design and planning, developing and implementing web projects. Hernández has given diploma courses in web design at UNAM. He has spent nine years contributing to the web design and multimedia area at zonezero.com, and also works as a consultant for various companies as well as coordinating the e-learning system of the Virtual Campus of the Pedro Meyer Foundation.

 

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03
Dmitry Chizhevskiy, 27, had his left eye permanently destroyed by homophobes - Mads Nissen

The question is, what is the function of competitions and calls for submissions of activist, documentary or collaborative photography? There are countless initiatives with discourses calling for justice, change and equality, with excellent intentions and attempts to “give a presence to the least fortunate persons worldwide”, with a proposal that stifles these communities’ capacity to represent themselves, or construct their own imagination from the trenches, ghettos, neighborhoods or shanty towns.

The apparent contradiction of these initiatives is reflected in irregular results, often selected solely for their aesthetic value, which undoubtedly reflects the vision, perspective and conceptual and formal decisions of an author. In this regard, it is naïve to seek to “reflect reality”, and it is perhaps worth reconsidering the uses of photography to represent and document from other perspectives, the sum of which approaches offers a more reliable record, and must be completed by a vision from within the communities themselves. After all, it is the individuals immersed in them who experience most closely their own dynamics and value systems, and the aspects of greatest interest to them.

This does not mean that being external makes a vision invalid or unworthy. On the contrary, the reflection proposes that a register be adopted that involves the photographer more actively. Therefore, all these calls for submissions, competitions and participative initiatives, as well as photographers and producers, must distance themselves from traditional documentalism. The context of the individual or community photographed must be understood and assimilated by offering an interpretation that presents the authorial contribution and its specific approach to the topic, thus establishing an authentic dialogue, a means of integration, a to-ing and fro-ing, and ultimately a better understanding of the subject photographed and his environment. Indeed, the greatest value lies in experience and the dialogue established, always assuming that the final result is merely the interpretation and assimilation of this experience, rather than a distant discourse outside the community documented.

This poses a challenge to the entire system of values, conception, production and consumption of documentary photography, and though this idea has already been applied in photojournalism for several decades, it questions the validity of these reflections and criticism in an era in which technology is rethinking all photographic activity. Today, communities are representing themselves as never before thanks to the availability of capture devices and the almost immediate spread and distribution of images, as a first-hand record that is unintentionally documenting events in specific environments in every corner of the world from various angles. Undoubtedly, these competitions and calls for submissions will gradually increase in scope and number, although paradoxically, their selection criteria and consequently, objectives, are increasingly being questioned. Neither renown nor tradition exempts these initiatives from these new reflections and questioning, with targets ranging from the prestigious World Press Photo to modest announcements by NGOs, academic institutions or civil organizations.

01
Children from Idinthakarai. Amirtharaj Stephen

This phenomenon does not diminish the importance of those initiatives in which the resources obtained from scholarships and prizes contribute directly to financing NGOs, social organizations and charities, and the management of these funds reflects other spheres. Moreover, there is a clearly-defined market for these projects, whose results correspond perfectly to the particular needs of various governments and official institutions but also social institutions and the public that consumes these images. In any case, what is questionable is the banner under which these works are disseminated, with the false premise of giving a face to the oppressed. This raises the same question: who is being represented, and why? Failing this, do these communities genuinely want to be represented in this manner?

However, we can afford to be optimistic, since several organizations have gradually begun toask themselves these questions, and are redefining their objectives and selection criteria. New participation dynamics for documentary makers and journalists are being established, which record and document the circumstances of their own environments. One example is CatchLigth (formerly Photo Philantropy) a platform for building ties based in California, which goes beyond being a renowned annual prize for photographic activism, basing its selection criteria mainly on the narrative value of the work, while also supporting the directors of audiovisual projects with social content through a system of liaisons with technological sponsors for the production and dissemination of the works produced.

Thus, given this outlook, we may be closer to obtaining an answer to the initial questioning process, which suggests that the true contribution and function of these events and calls for submissions should be to bring together all these points of view, to construct a broader experience based on a three-dimensional record approached from all angles, as is done by Donald Weber and its questioning of the crisis of photojournalism and documentalism. To achieve this new point of view, the objectivity once so zealously pursued must cease to be the canon on which to base the selection and judgment criteria of social competitions and calls for submissions, in order to achieve a closer approximation and better understanding of these other realities.

Ehekatl HernándezEhekatl Hernández (México, 1975) received a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas at UNAM in Mexico, and a Master’s Degree in Multimedia Applications from the Universidad Poltécnica de Catalunya in Spain. He has over 15 years’ experience in graphic design and planning, developing and implementing web projects. Hernández has given diploma courses in web design at UNAM. He has spent nine years contributing to the web design and multimedia area at zonezero.com, and also works as a consultant for various companies as well as coordinating the e-learning system of the Virtual Campus of the Pedro Meyer Foundation.

 

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The hashtag as a tool for visual language

Elisa Rugo

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One of the greatest advantages of current photography, through its democratization as a tool and the technological advances in the media, is the guiding thread it establishes for collective representations in visual communication. This is largely the result of databases generated using key words, which provide information by describing and facilitating the identification of files and content. One of the most effective uses of this is the ubiquitous hashtag in social networks (Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, FB). Eight years after Messina1 using the hashtag to group dialogues in social networks, this resource has produced endless possibilities not only for political and commercial marketing campaigns, but also for categorizing and linking information in a virtual world with millions of simultaneous thematic connections. It has served to increase the understanding of communities that would otherwise be hard to reach, which documentary photographers wish to comprehend and stop portraying from a distance.

01
everydayafrica. #Lagos fragment. Photo by Tom Saater @tomsaater

To what extent can one formalize and give presence and solidity to a proposal that derives from collaboration and the use of a social network?

Throughout its history, photography has been related to the personal and collective memory. This text will not tackle the debate regarding whether it is a reliable testimony of current reality, but rather concentrate on what visual language is doing, creating, recreating and communicating in the present. One of the current tools to trigger this dialogue is the hashtag, as a complement to the photographic image that has transformed everyday communication and has become a simple, inexpensive, everyday action on a massive, global scale. Simply accompanying an image by two or three words preceded by a hashtag enables others to access photograph albums categorized by location, topic, mood or format (#streetartchilango); to travel and identify in real time to these communities so far removed from our everyday lives yet so close to our language (everydayafrica, everydayiran) , or to concentrate a story in citizen testimonials and produce social movements, thus raising awareness and mobilizing resources in real life (#Egipto, #IranElection, #15-M, #BringBackOurGirls, #YoSoy132). This allows the hashtag to community gaze, offer a panorama of the phenomenon and collective representation online, and show its integrating function. But how can it be conserved?

02
everydayiran. Young women taking a selfie in the Bazaar of #Isfahan. #Iran. Photo by Aseem Gujar @myaseemgujar

Only two years ago, hashtags were not perceived as content networks, but studied from a mass perspective, leading to the highly ephemeral trending topics. However, there is increasing interest in researching and analyzing this kind of connections, to better understand the social, political, commercial circumstances, and of course, go beyond borders to learn about local and even personal events.

The archives produced by hashtags are real-time records and documents in the cloud that we fear so much, and where we find so it hard to place our entire body of work. It contains our everyday communication and, even if we are not aware of what we deliver, our way of seeing and thinking are latent within it. One option to preserve all this archive would be to produce a local database, or to continue to entrust this virtual universe with our history, to share, modify, increase, exchange, store, read, reread or even eliminate it.

The hashtag can therefore be considered an extension of the light Barthes called the umbilical cord, 2 the skin that we share with those who have photographed themselves to share who they are, what they do and how they live; to represent themselves and join this globalized digital world of metadata in which the photographer is no longer the only means of objective or subjective expression of reality, but now feeds into various disciplines and mediums that democratize it as a tool and a language in itself.


1. Chris Messina, an active defender of open code, suggested using the name hashtag on August 23, 2007, with a simple tweet: "How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups? As in #barcamp [msg]?".

2. A real body, located there, produced radiation that impressed me, located here. It does not matter how long the transmission lasts; the photo of the disappeared being impresses me as would the deferred rays of a star. A kind of umbilical cord joins the body of the object photographed to my gaze: light, though impalpable, is a carnal medium, a skin I share with the beings who have been photographed. – R. Barthes.

Elisa RugoElisa Rugo (México, 1980). Lives and works in Mexico. She is a photographer, videographer and a specialist in visual communication with a degree in Creative Visualisation at the University of Communication. In 2012, she took part in the seminar Contemporary Photography at the Image Centre. She has participated in collective exhibitions in Pachuca, Querétaro, Guadalajara and Mexico-City. At the moment, she is the art director of the websites fpmeyer.com and museodemujeres.com and she is part of the editorial team of zonezero.com. You can see her work at: elisarugo.pro



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One of the greatest advantages of current photography, through its democratization as a tool and the technological advances in the media, is the guiding thread it establishes for collective representations in visual communication. This is largely the result of databases generated using key words, which provide information by describing and facilitating the identification of files and content. One of the most effective uses of this is the ubiquitous hashtag in social networks (Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, FB). Eight years after Messina1 using the hashtag to group dialogues in social networks, this resource has produced endless possibilities not only for political and commercial marketing campaigns, but also for categorizing and linking information in a virtual world with millions of simultaneous thematic connections. It has served to increase the understanding of communities that would otherwise be hard to reach, which documentary photographers wish to comprehend and stop portraying from a distance.

01
everydayafrica. #Lagos fragment. Photo by Tom Saater @tomsaater

To what extent can one formalize and give presence and solidity to a proposal that derives from collaboration and the use of a social network?

Throughout its history, photography has been related to the personal and collective memory. This text will not tackle the debate regarding whether it is a reliable testimony of current reality, but rather concentrate on what visual language is doing, creating, recreating and communicating in the present. One of the current tools to trigger this dialogue is the hashtag, as a complement to the photographic image that has transformed everyday communication and has become a simple, inexpensive, everyday action on a massive, global scale. Simply accompanying an image by two or three words preceded by a hashtag enables others to access photograph albums categorized by location, topic, mood or format (#streetartchilango); to travel and identify in real time to these communities so far removed from our everyday lives yet so close to our language (everydayafrica, everydayiran) , or to concentrate a story in citizen testimonials and produce social movements, thus raising awareness and mobilizing resources in real life (#Egipto, #IranElection, #15-M, #BringBackOurGirls, #YoSoy132). This allows the hashtag to community gaze, offer a panorama of the phenomenon and collective representation online, and show its integrating function. But how can it be conserved?

02
everydayiran. Young women taking a selfie in the Bazaar of #Isfahan. #Iran. Photo by Aseem Gujar @myaseemgujar

Only two years ago, hashtags were not perceived as content networks, but studied from a mass perspective, leading to the highly ephemeral trending topics. However, there is increasing interest in researching and analyzing this kind of connections, to better understand the social, political, commercial circumstances, and of course, go beyond borders to learn about local and even personal events.

The archives produced by hashtags are real-time records and documents in the cloud that we fear so much, and where we find so it hard to place our entire body of work. It contains our everyday communication and, even if we are not aware of what we deliver, our way of seeing and thinking are latent within it. One option to preserve all this archive would be to produce a local database, or to continue to entrust this virtual universe with our history, to share, modify, increase, exchange, store, read, reread or even eliminate it.

The hashtag can therefore be considered an extension of the light Barthes called the umbilical cord, 2 the skin that we share with those who have photographed themselves to share who they are, what they do and how they live; to represent themselves and join this globalized digital world of metadata in which the photographer is no longer the only means of objective or subjective expression of reality, but now feeds into various disciplines and mediums that democratize it as a tool and a language in itself.


1. Chris Messina, an active defender of open code, suggested using the name hashtag on August 23, 2007, with a simple tweet: "How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups? As in #barcamp [msg]?".

2. A real body, located there, produced radiation that impressed me, located here. It does not matter how long the transmission lasts; the photo of the disappeared being impresses me as would the deferred rays of a star. A kind of umbilical cord joins the body of the object photographed to my gaze: light, though impalpable, is a carnal medium, a skin I share with the beings who have been photographed. – R. Barthes.

Elisa RugoElisa Rugo (México, 1980). Lives and works in Mexico. She is a photographer, videographer and a specialist in visual communication with a degree in Creative Visualisation at the University of Communication. In 2012, she took part in the seminar Contemporary Photography at the Image Centre. She has participated in collective exhibitions in Pachuca, Querétaro, Guadalajara and Mexico-City. At the moment, she is the art director of the websites fpmeyer.com and museodemujeres.com and she is part of the editorial team of zonezero.com. You can see her work at: elisarugo.pro



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Passengers

Alfredo Esparza

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450 videoportraits made with cell phone

Since people daily have to travel long distances in Mexico City to get from home to work or school and then coming back, subway users employ this medium as a temporary extension of their homes, where they can claim as much privacy and intimacy they need; even when the metro is overcrowded.

Just to win a few minutes a day, travellers keep their minds off from what happens in the carriage during the trip by chatting with their companion, finishing pending work, resting, or having a moment of introspection.

What really matters is that the journey enables travellers to do more than simply move from one place to another, not only by the urge of snatching time in a city where traveling takes so long, but also to take the opportunity to spare some time for oneself.


  

videoportrait #32
videoportrait #41
videoportrait #56
videoportrait #123
videoportrait #197
videoportrait #201
videoportrait #222
videoportrait #262
videoportrait #297
videoportrait #360
videoportrait #363
videoportrait #375
videoportrait #395
videoportrait #412
videoportrait #343
videoportrait #356
videoportrait #272
videoportrait #323
alejoAlfredo Esparza (Torreon, Mexico. 1980) Visual artist. Uses photography and video as main tools to produce his pieces. He had solo exhibitions in Torreon and Mexico City, and many group shows In US, Italy, Spain and Mexico. Most of his work deals with the tension generated by the interaction between strangers in public or private spaces. His work has been published in magazines such as Vice, Cuartoscuro and Xoo. From 2012 to 2014 he worked as head of exhibitions and resident curator and museographer at the Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares, in Mexico City. He also produced independent exhibitions for both private and public institutions in Mexico City. Since 2012, he is associated curator at .357 Gallery, in Mexico City. Lives and works between Torreon and Mexico City.

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450 videoportraits made with cell phone

Since people daily have to travel long distances in Mexico City to get from home to work or school and then coming back, subway users employ this medium as a temporary extension of their homes, where they can claim as much privacy and intimacy they need; even when the metro is overcrowded.

Just to win a few minutes a day, travellers keep their minds off from what happens in the carriage during the trip by chatting with their companion, finishing pending work, resting, or having a moment of introspection.

What really matters is that the journey enables travellers to do more than simply move from one place to another, not only by the urge of snatching time in a city where traveling takes so long, but also to take the opportunity to spare some time for oneself.


  

videoportrait #32
videoportrait #41
videoportrait #56
videoportrait #123
videoportrait #197
videoportrait #201
videoportrait #222
videoportrait #262
videoportrait #297
videoportrait #360
videoportrait #363
videoportrait #375
videoportrait #395
videoportrait #412
videoportrait #343
videoportrait #356
videoportrait #272
videoportrait #323
alejoAlfredo Esparza (Torreon, Mexico. 1980) Visual artist. Uses photography and video as main tools to produce his pieces. He had solo exhibitions in Torreon and Mexico City, and many group shows In US, Italy, Spain and Mexico. Most of his work deals with the tension generated by the interaction between strangers in public or private spaces. His work has been published in magazines such as Vice, Cuartoscuro and Xoo. From 2012 to 2014 he worked as head of exhibitions and resident curator and museographer at the Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares, in Mexico City. He also produced independent exhibitions for both private and public institutions in Mexico City. Since 2012, he is associated curator at .357 Gallery, in Mexico City. Lives and works between Torreon and Mexico City.

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Geography of pain

ZoneZero

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Geography of Pain is meant to be a virtual geographical space where the user or visitor can take a tour through different regions of Mexico and can listen to various stories about the events that overwhelmed not only the institutional and political system but also the authorities and the citizens of this country; stories about people who lost their lives, people who went missing.

This web documentary exists thanks to the convergence of documentary film with the interactivity that the new digital media offers. Audiovisual language was mixed with programming language and resulted in new interactive ways of storytelling, namely, the interactive documentary. In this way, this project uses a clear and a direct narrative that allows the viewer to understand the experience of insecurity in Mexico and the cases of missing persons.

Mónica GonzálezMónica González. Photographer. She studied in UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) at the Political and Sociological Sciences Faculty, the major in Communication Sciences and Journalism. She has worked for the Expansión Magazine, The Dallas Morning News, Newsweek Magazine, Nike, HBO Project 48, NOTIMEX, El Economista newspaper, El Centro journal, VICE Mexico, NFB Canada and currently working as a photographer for the Milenio journal. She won the student grant Jóvenes Creativos (Creative Youth) 2009-2010 given by FONCA CONACULTA due to her project El sentido anatómico (The Anatomic Sense), transsexuality, the new nuclear family. She received the National Journalism Award in 2006 under the category of Photography due to her Migration Coverage of Mexicans in the border of Altar – Sasabe, Sonora, through Arizona’s desert. And in 2011 for her documentary work Geografía del Dolor (Geography of Pain)
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Geography of Pain is meant to be a virtual geographical space where the user or visitor can take a tour through different regions of Mexico and can listen to various stories about the events that overwhelmed not only the institutional and political system but also the authorities and the citizens of this country; stories about people who lost their lives, people who went missing.

This web documentary exists thanks to the convergence of documentary film with the interactivity that the new digital media offers. Audiovisual language was mixed with programming language and resulted in new interactive ways of storytelling, namely, the interactive documentary. In this way, this project uses a clear and a direct narrative that allows the viewer to understand the experience of insecurity in Mexico and the cases of missing persons.

Mónica GonzálezMónica González. Photographer. She studied in UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) at the Political and Sociological Sciences Faculty, the major in Communication Sciences and Journalism. She has worked for the Expansión Magazine, The Dallas Morning News, Newsweek Magazine, Nike, HBO Project 48, NOTIMEX, El Economista newspaper, El Centro journal, VICE Mexico, NFB Canada and currently working as a photographer for the Milenio journal. She won the student grant Jóvenes Creativos (Creative Youth) 2009-2010 given by FONCA CONACULTA due to her project El sentido anatómico (The Anatomic Sense), transsexuality, the new nuclear family. She received the National Journalism Award in 2006 under the category of Photography due to her Migration Coverage of Mexicans in the border of Altar – Sasabe, Sonora, through Arizona’s desert. And in 2011 for her documentary work Geografía del Dolor (Geography of Pain)
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Uncertainty & Encounter

Alejandro Malo

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01
Mexican Family, unknown author, daguerrotype, ca. 1847

Seeing presupposes distance, decisiveness which separates, the power to stay out of contact and in contact avoid confusion.
Seeing means that this separation has nevertheless become an encounter.
—Maurice Blanchot.
 

Any representation of a community implies a perspective. Each time we observe a group we become interpreters and with each observation we make, we reveal to which communities we belong. Photography, with its ability to record, was soon considered to be a suitable  tool to crystallize these observations and encourage the study of ethnicity and customs. However, being at least as susceptible to ideological bias as any other medium, it immediately revealed its colonialist burden and it is no coincidence that some of the first photographs that try to document a community were taken in company of an army or along trade routes. Images of the Mexico-American War (1846-1848) and the rebellion in India (1857), for example, show the confusion of these early records in the eyes of those portrayed and often leave us with the feeling that those photos were another kind of victory.

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Ryuzo Torii and Edward S. Curtis introduce a way of using photography on behalf of ethnology, and Jacob Riis published How the Other Half Lives (1890). In those early photo essays on specific communities, there's a clear awareness of the otherness and a sympathetic point of view, but the perspective of the victors or the moral superiority of the observer is also legitimated. That partly naive, partly pretentious attitude of someone assuming to discover or save the others, has permeated much of photojournalism and documentary work since. Arguing a never achieved objectivity, they perpetuated asymmetrical readings and promoted a colonialism that replaced war's firepower with economy and culture. There were reasons for its existence, as an expression of a particular moment in history and a contribution to global integration, but it has been overtaken by a world whose visual center moves across the surface of the globe and where the last word has the duration of a tweet.

Soon documentalists themselves perceived the contradiction and near the beginning of the twentieth century started to explore alternatives to escape this logic: from the numerous attempts to capture the misleading truth in the style of Dziga Vertov's Kino-Pravda, through Cinema Verite, Direct Cinema, Candid Eye in film and their photographic counterparts, all the way to ethnofiction experiments, the long history of participatory documentary or the hopeful outlook of Shahidul Alam's Majority World, which proposes to let those closer to the phenomena and activities hold the camera. All are useful tools to approach the topic, but they don’t offer a final answer.

An image has the chance, as never before, to represent each ethnic, social and tribal group, whether they live in the cities or the most remote regions, and it also has the potential to do so from many different angles. The camera, already present in many devices, is in the hands of almost anyone who wants to register their community. Maybe it’s time to accept once and for all that to represent a community is not to search an objective representation or an intrinsic truth, nor trying to offer a problematic balance. However, in any case we should try to give a fair interpretation and an accurate testimony, where in many cases the sum of multiple perspectives can bring us closer to an elusive reality. This requires more critical reading and analysis from the public, compels the media to hold stronger values than empty veracity and offers the photographer a more honest path to meet the others. This change, like any change, is full of uncertainties, but ends in a space full of opportunities where the image can lead us.

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.



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01
Mexican Family, unknown author, daguerrotype, ca. 1847

Seeing presupposes distance, decisiveness which separates, the power to stay out of contact and in contact avoid confusion.
Seeing means that this separation has nevertheless become an encounter.
—Maurice Blanchot.
 

Any representation of a community implies a perspective. Each time we observe a group we become interpreters and with each observation we make, we reveal to which communities we belong. Photography, with its ability to record, was soon considered to be a suitable  tool to crystallize these observations and encourage the study of ethnicity and customs. However, being at least as susceptible to ideological bias as any other medium, it immediately revealed its colonialist burden and it is no coincidence that some of the first photographs that try to document a community were taken in company of an army or along trade routes. Images of the Mexico-American War (1846-1848) and the rebellion in India (1857), for example, show the confusion of these early records in the eyes of those portrayed and often leave us with the feeling that those photos were another kind of victory.

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Ryuzo Torii and Edward S. Curtis introduce a way of using photography on behalf of ethnology, and Jacob Riis published How the Other Half Lives (1890). In those early photo essays on specific communities, there's a clear awareness of the otherness and a sympathetic point of view, but the perspective of the victors or the moral superiority of the observer is also legitimated. That partly naive, partly pretentious attitude of someone assuming to discover or save the others, has permeated much of photojournalism and documentary work since. Arguing a never achieved objectivity, they perpetuated asymmetrical readings and promoted a colonialism that replaced war's firepower with economy and culture. There were reasons for its existence, as an expression of a particular moment in history and a contribution to global integration, but it has been overtaken by a world whose visual center moves across the surface of the globe and where the last word has the duration of a tweet.

Soon documentalists themselves perceived the contradiction and near the beginning of the twentieth century started to explore alternatives to escape this logic: from the numerous attempts to capture the misleading truth in the style of Dziga Vertov's Kino-Pravda, through Cinema Verite, Direct Cinema, Candid Eye in film and their photographic counterparts, all the way to ethnofiction experiments, the long history of participatory documentary or the hopeful outlook of Shahidul Alam's Majority World, which proposes to let those closer to the phenomena and activities hold the camera. All are useful tools to approach the topic, but they don’t offer a final answer.

An image has the chance, as never before, to represent each ethnic, social and tribal group, whether they live in the cities or the most remote regions, and it also has the potential to do so from many different angles. The camera, already present in many devices, is in the hands of almost anyone who wants to register their community. Maybe it’s time to accept once and for all that to represent a community is not to search an objective representation or an intrinsic truth, nor trying to offer a problematic balance. However, in any case we should try to give a fair interpretation and an accurate testimony, where in many cases the sum of multiple perspectives can bring us closer to an elusive reality. This requires more critical reading and analysis from the public, compels the media to hold stronger values than empty veracity and offers the photographer a more honest path to meet the others. This change, like any change, is full of uncertainties, but ends in a space full of opportunities where the image can lead us.

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.



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The Unexpected Universe of Every Day

Mauricio Alejo

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In relation to his videos Mauricio shared the following reflexion with us, that was part of an interview he gave:

Recently I was interviewed by Katrin Steffen. She asked me what I thought of the idea of my videos being surreal. The question caught me off guard; not that I was completely unaware of this, let’s say, approach to my work - other people have made the same observation - but it was the direct, straightforward way in which she formulated her question that struck me.

It is interesting that, until then, I had been resisting calling my work surreal. I don’t know why. I just unreflectively didn't like the idea, but once the question was out I had no option but to come to terms with what I was so stubbornly denying.

Answering it was both liberating and enlightening. I came to understand that, indeed, there is a strong surreal element to my work, probably “á la Magritte” as in “This is not a Pipe” (as opposed to “á la Dalí”, whose work I dislike; it is too spectacular for my taste).

Either way, what I can say is that I’m not trying to open a door to the unconscious, but to a more obvious and factual world that is still surprising, because it actually exists and is just hidden in plain sight.

These lines show a desire to offer a new way of looking at a universe that is hidden behind the false transparency of the photographic language.

In several of the works presented here, our reading of a still image is transformed—thanks to the passage of time—into something completely different. The surprising elements in the universe are infinitely more casual. Gravity, in an unforeseen twist, belies the lightness of the air.

In all of them, the passage of time is a necessary element to show that photography can be a map of the reality but is not equal to it, like for example in the piece World: the world that not stops to move is different from the world that not stops to move around it, and in turn different from our world that also does not slow down.


 

Universe
Line 
Hole
Gravity
Twig 
Crack 
Container 
Fact and fiction 
World 


alejoMauricio Alejo (Mexico, 1969). He earned his Master of Art from New York University in 2002, as a Fulbright Grant recipient. In 2007, he was a resident artist at NUS Centre for the Arts in Singapore. He has received multiple awards and grants, including the New York Foundation for the Arts grant in 2008. His work is part of important collections such as Daros Latinoamérica Collection in Zürich . His work has been reviewed in important journals, such as Flash Art; Art News and Art in America. He has had solo exhibitions in New York, Japan, Madrid, Paris and Mexico. His work has been shown at CCA Wattis Institute of Contemporary Arts in San Francisco; Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid and The 8th Havana Biennial among other venues. He currently lives and works in New York City.
 
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In relation to his videos Mauricio shared the following reflexion with us, that was part of an interview he gave:

Recently I was interviewed by Katrin Steffen. She asked me what I thought of the idea of my videos being surreal. The question caught me off guard; not that I was completely unaware of this, let’s say, approach to my work - other people have made the same observation - but it was the direct, straightforward way in which she formulated her question that struck me.

It is interesting that, until then, I had been resisting calling my work surreal. I don’t know why. I just unreflectively didn't like the idea, but once the question was out I had no option but to come to terms with what I was so stubbornly denying.

Answering it was both liberating and enlightening. I came to understand that, indeed, there is a strong surreal element to my work, probably “á la Magritte” as in “This is not a Pipe” (as opposed to “á la Dalí”, whose work I dislike; it is too spectacular for my taste).

Either way, what I can say is that I’m not trying to open a door to the unconscious, but to a more obvious and factual world that is still surprising, because it actually exists and is just hidden in plain sight.

These lines show a desire to offer a new way of looking at a universe that is hidden behind the false transparency of the photographic language.

In several of the works presented here, our reading of a still image is transformed—thanks to the passage of time—into something completely different. The surprising elements in the universe are infinitely more casual. Gravity, in an unforeseen twist, belies the lightness of the air.

In all of them, the passage of time is a necessary element to show that photography can be a map of the reality but is not equal to it, like for example in the piece World: the world that not stops to move is different from the world that not stops to move around it, and in turn different from our world that also does not slow down.


 

Universe
Line 
Hole
Gravity
Twig 
Crack 
Container 
Fact and fiction 
World 


alejoMauricio Alejo (Mexico, 1969). He earned his Master of Art from New York University in 2002, as a Fulbright Grant recipient. In 2007, he was a resident artist at NUS Centre for the Arts in Singapore. He has received multiple awards and grants, including the New York Foundation for the Arts grant in 2008. His work is part of important collections such as Daros Latinoamérica Collection in Zürich . His work has been reviewed in important journals, such as Flash Art; Art News and Art in America. He has had solo exhibitions in New York, Japan, Madrid, Paris and Mexico. His work has been shown at CCA Wattis Institute of Contemporary Arts in San Francisco; Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid and The 8th Havana Biennial among other venues. He currently lives and works in New York City.
 
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Archive V.V. 1948-49

Gabriel de la Mora

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01

This series of altered photographs comes from a set of negatives that was destroyed when the warehouse where they had been stored for decades was flooded. This is why some of the negatives were stuck together, some of them showing two different takes of the same person and others two or three different people. They are negatives of portraits taken in 1948 and 1949 by Víctor Villamil Vilón at Cano Photography Studios, later called Vilón Photography Studios in Bogotá, Colombia. The images were printed on silver gel with fibrous paper in Mexico City and subsequently altered and framed. The artist begins his work by tearing off pieces of the photo.

Time and light do the rest, erasing the photographic image completely and leaving a monochrome surface. Only then is the work finished. Therefore 50, 100 or 300 years will have to pass, depending on the conditions in which the work is found. The artist never completes the piece and will surely never see it finished. This series is a parallel to the altered space entitled Pan-American Exhibition at NC ARTE.

02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02






Gabriel de la MoraGabriel de la Mora (Mexico 1968). Studied a masters in painting, photography and video at the Pratt Institute in New York (2001-2003) and a bachelors in architecture at the Universidad Anáhuac del Norte (1987-1991) in Mexico City. He is currently a member of the Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte (2013-2015) and has received a number of awards and grants including the Primer Premio de la VII Bienal de Monterrey FEMSA, the Garcia Robles Fulbright Grant and the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Grant among others. His work as been shown in Mexico and abroad both individually and collectively.

ZZ. In the project called Archive V.V. 1948 -49 how do you establish the photograph/time relationship? How does it affect the image both as an external and intrinsic element?

GM. Photographic technique is a constantly changing process. Depending upon the passage of time and light, on how the photo has been exposed to these two factors, it can slowly fade and begin to disappear. Which initially worried me for this project. But I think that later this inevitable factor became a starting point for various series in which I used photography as primary or supporting material.

In most of my work, photography is an important element, whether as a file or a document, or a starting point as it was for Willy Kautz in his work shown at the Amparo Museum from October 2014 to February 2015 under the title "What watches us that we don’t see.” The starting point in this exhibit was how an image becomes monochromatic and how a monochrome can become an image.

Although I take photographs to document pieces and processes, amongst many other things, I like to work with vintage photographs from the late 19th to the late 20th century. I buy archives, classify them and then begin my explorations. For the Archive V.V. 1948-49 project I used destroyed negatives for the first time. The alterations were both accidental and due to the passage of time, which produced astounding results.

The Vilón Archive series began in 2012 while I was preparing for my first altered space project at the NC ARTE gallery in Bogotá Colombia. As an alternative activity to the show called Pan-American Exhibition curated by Willy Kautz, I visited an old photography studio near the NC ARTE gallery. I was hoping to find vintage portraits taken in Bogotá in 1948-1949.

Victor Vilón’s children, Germán and Patricia Vilón, who owned the Vilón Photography Studio, told me that although they had no old photographs they did have some negatives which they would look for to show me. Two days later I turned up punctually for our appointment and both Patricia and Germán had a look of utter frustration: they showed me a cardboard box containing hundreds of negatives that had been destroyed by a flood in the warehouse where they had been stored, which no-one had noticed. Patricia showed me various negatives that were stuck together and would break when separated and told me they were going to throw it all away. When I saw some of the negatives, I found them far more interesting than they would have been if they had not got wet. So I asked Germán if they could print the negatives in their destroyed state and he told me that they could, but that they would turn out badly. I chose a few and asked for examples. A couple of days later, these examples exceeded my expectations. Previously, I would buy vintage photographs from Mexican movies and alter them by randomly tearing part of the film to transform the narrative and configuration through a process of abstraction and destruction.

Before destroying each image I would scan both sides so that each altered photograph could be added to my digital archives.

The destroyed negatives from Archive V.V. had not been altered by me, but by an accident that destroyed them over time, so the artistic process for series like the one on Mexican movies was carried out by time rather than by me. The result is simply amazing. To rescue the negatives from the garbage I asked German and Patricia to sell them to me to keep in Mexico where I could continue experimenting with the series of images.

ZZ. How much do you intervene in the construction of a photographic image and at what point is it beyond your control?

GM. As an artist I like to have control over certain pieces or series, but I also like to lose absolute control over other series in particular, or occasionally combine both: control and randomness.

With regards to the destroyed negatives, or Archive V.V. 1948-49,  the majority of alterations were made by the flood and time and the results were the starting point for a new series.  When printed, the images were extraordinary, unique, and I did not intervene in them at all except for finding and recovering them. It was like a type of assisted Ready Made, as Francisco Reyes Palma so aptly called it. Once the photos had been printed, I altered them again by tearing part of the photographic film off and leaving the fragments at the bottom of the frame. This begins a process that, depending on the conditions in which the photo is stored,  time and light, will cause the image to entirely disappear in maybe 50, 100 or more years, transforming the photo into a monochrome white surface. When this finally happens, the piece will be completed. “The artist only begins the piece, but will never see it finished as its process continues over time even after the artist’s death.”

Back in Mexico, I went to a photography laboratory to print the negatives I had chosen on fiber paper in a similar way. Once they were printed, but before framing them, I altered them randomly, tearing bits of photographic film off and saving them so that after the photo had been framed, they would be at the bottom of the frame.

What most interests me is what happens after the first intervention when the destroyed negative is printed. I intervene again by tearing off small pieces of the image, thereby beginning my piece of work, since time, light and varied storage conditions will complete the piece.

ZZ. When the object mediates between the artist and the spectator, what type of reflection does it incite?

GM. At the end of the day, everything vanishes. Nothing is eternal and everything is subject to constant change and transformation. Art is neither created nor destroyed, only transformed.

In my work, I like to introduce the works. They do everything. There is a an interesting visual, formal and technical factor that makes an initial, perhaps more emotional impact. Afterwards, you can explore what goes on behind the process, and the work itself has various levels of information where one question leads to another, and so on, indefinitely.

When something attracts your attention and you like it but it also makes you think, for me, that is the point where the work becomes whole. Each person will have a different opinion or reaction depending on the level and type of previous information they possess.  The images or works in this series, for example, have received differing opinions and reflections. In some people they elicit nostalgia for an era, a person who no longer exists or who died years ago; for others, it produces a certain mystery, or even fear, since some of the faces or images are rather ghostlike.

Personally, I believe that the images are powerful in every respect. They have an extraordinary composition and were, in a way, part of an archive which, when it was destroyed, fulfilled its destiny by becoming waste. This is a footnote for me as an artist, knowing that what comes at the end of one thing can be the beginning of another. This waste or residual material can be transformed into artwork.

When two or more negatives in the archive are stuck together and then break and are fragmented into other images, the way I print them turns them into something extraordinary. They have been altered by time, through a naturally destructive process, making the image into an abstraction with a strange composition. The people still exist in them, or their presence is registered, together with a whole era. Thus the images are historic documents that are transformed into something else.

The original author of these portraits was Don Victor Villamil Vilón, and now I am the author. I love to find new ways of experimenting with photography.  I did not originally take these photographs, but I did rescue them from the becoming garbage after they had been destroyed in a flood and now they are prime examples for exploring image through records, archives and documents.

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01

This series of altered photographs comes from a set of negatives that was destroyed when the warehouse where they had been stored for decades was flooded. This is why some of the negatives were stuck together, some of them showing two different takes of the same person and others two or three different people. They are negatives of portraits taken in 1948 and 1949 by Víctor Villamil Vilón at Cano Photography Studios, later called Vilón Photography Studios in Bogotá, Colombia. The images were printed on silver gel with fibrous paper in Mexico City and subsequently altered and framed. The artist begins his work by tearing off pieces of the photo.

Time and light do the rest, erasing the photographic image completely and leaving a monochrome surface. Only then is the work finished. Therefore 50, 100 or 300 years will have to pass, depending on the conditions in which the work is found. The artist never completes the piece and will surely never see it finished. This series is a parallel to the altered space entitled Pan-American Exhibition at NC ARTE.

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Gabriel de la MoraGabriel de la Mora (Mexico 1968). Studied a masters in painting, photography and video at the Pratt Institute in New York (2001-2003) and a bachelors in architecture at the Universidad Anáhuac del Norte (1987-1991) in Mexico City. He is currently a member of the Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte (2013-2015) and has received a number of awards and grants including the Primer Premio de la VII Bienal de Monterrey FEMSA, the Garcia Robles Fulbright Grant and the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Grant among others. His work as been shown in Mexico and abroad both individually and collectively.

ZZ. In the project called Archive V.V. 1948 -49 how do you establish the photograph/time relationship? How does it affect the image both as an external and intrinsic element?

GM. Photographic technique is a constantly changing process. Depending upon the passage of time and light, on how the photo has been exposed to these two factors, it can slowly fade and begin to disappear. Which initially worried me for this project. But I think that later this inevitable factor became a starting point for various series in which I used photography as primary or supporting material.

In most of my work, photography is an important element, whether as a file or a document, or a starting point as it was for Willy Kautz in his work shown at the Amparo Museum from October 2014 to February 2015 under the title "What watches us that we don’t see.” The starting point in this exhibit was how an image becomes monochromatic and how a monochrome can become an image.

Although I take photographs to document pieces and processes, amongst many other things, I like to work with vintage photographs from the late 19th to the late 20th century. I buy archives, classify them and then begin my explorations. For the Archive V.V. 1948-49 project I used destroyed negatives for the first time. The alterations were both accidental and due to the passage of time, which produced astounding results.

The Vilón Archive series began in 2012 while I was preparing for my first altered space project at the NC ARTE gallery in Bogotá Colombia. As an alternative activity to the show called Pan-American Exhibition curated by Willy Kautz, I visited an old photography studio near the NC ARTE gallery. I was hoping to find vintage portraits taken in Bogotá in 1948-1949.

Victor Vilón’s children, Germán and Patricia Vilón, who owned the Vilón Photography Studio, told me that although they had no old photographs they did have some negatives which they would look for to show me. Two days later I turned up punctually for our appointment and both Patricia and Germán had a look of utter frustration: they showed me a cardboard box containing hundreds of negatives that had been destroyed by a flood in the warehouse where they had been stored, which no-one had noticed. Patricia showed me various negatives that were stuck together and would break when separated and told me they were going to throw it all away. When I saw some of the negatives, I found them far more interesting than they would have been if they had not got wet. So I asked Germán if they could print the negatives in their destroyed state and he told me that they could, but that they would turn out badly. I chose a few and asked for examples. A couple of days later, these examples exceeded my expectations. Previously, I would buy vintage photographs from Mexican movies and alter them by randomly tearing part of the film to transform the narrative and configuration through a process of abstraction and destruction.

Before destroying each image I would scan both sides so that each altered photograph could be added to my digital archives.

The destroyed negatives from Archive V.V. had not been altered by me, but by an accident that destroyed them over time, so the artistic process for series like the one on Mexican movies was carried out by time rather than by me. The result is simply amazing. To rescue the negatives from the garbage I asked German and Patricia to sell them to me to keep in Mexico where I could continue experimenting with the series of images.

ZZ. How much do you intervene in the construction of a photographic image and at what point is it beyond your control?

GM. As an artist I like to have control over certain pieces or series, but I also like to lose absolute control over other series in particular, or occasionally combine both: control and randomness.

With regards to the destroyed negatives, or Archive V.V. 1948-49,  the majority of alterations were made by the flood and time and the results were the starting point for a new series.  When printed, the images were extraordinary, unique, and I did not intervene in them at all except for finding and recovering them. It was like a type of assisted Ready Made, as Francisco Reyes Palma so aptly called it. Once the photos had been printed, I altered them again by tearing part of the photographic film off and leaving the fragments at the bottom of the frame. This begins a process that, depending on the conditions in which the photo is stored,  time and light, will cause the image to entirely disappear in maybe 50, 100 or more years, transforming the photo into a monochrome white surface. When this finally happens, the piece will be completed. “The artist only begins the piece, but will never see it finished as its process continues over time even after the artist’s death.”

Back in Mexico, I went to a photography laboratory to print the negatives I had chosen on fiber paper in a similar way. Once they were printed, but before framing them, I altered them randomly, tearing bits of photographic film off and saving them so that after the photo had been framed, they would be at the bottom of the frame.

What most interests me is what happens after the first intervention when the destroyed negative is printed. I intervene again by tearing off small pieces of the image, thereby beginning my piece of work, since time, light and varied storage conditions will complete the piece.

ZZ. When the object mediates between the artist and the spectator, what type of reflection does it incite?

GM. At the end of the day, everything vanishes. Nothing is eternal and everything is subject to constant change and transformation. Art is neither created nor destroyed, only transformed.

In my work, I like to introduce the works. They do everything. There is a an interesting visual, formal and technical factor that makes an initial, perhaps more emotional impact. Afterwards, you can explore what goes on behind the process, and the work itself has various levels of information where one question leads to another, and so on, indefinitely.

When something attracts your attention and you like it but it also makes you think, for me, that is the point where the work becomes whole. Each person will have a different opinion or reaction depending on the level and type of previous information they possess.  The images or works in this series, for example, have received differing opinions and reflections. In some people they elicit nostalgia for an era, a person who no longer exists or who died years ago; for others, it produces a certain mystery, or even fear, since some of the faces or images are rather ghostlike.

Personally, I believe that the images are powerful in every respect. They have an extraordinary composition and were, in a way, part of an archive which, when it was destroyed, fulfilled its destiny by becoming waste. This is a footnote for me as an artist, knowing that what comes at the end of one thing can be the beginning of another. This waste or residual material can be transformed into artwork.

When two or more negatives in the archive are stuck together and then break and are fragmented into other images, the way I print them turns them into something extraordinary. They have been altered by time, through a naturally destructive process, making the image into an abstraction with a strange composition. The people still exist in them, or their presence is registered, together with a whole era. Thus the images are historic documents that are transformed into something else.

The original author of these portraits was Don Victor Villamil Vilón, and now I am the author. I love to find new ways of experimenting with photography.  I did not originally take these photographs, but I did rescue them from the becoming garbage after they had been destroyed in a flood and now they are prime examples for exploring image through records, archives and documents.

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Photographing and Narrating Time

Mónica Sánchez Escuer

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Time is creation, argued Henri Bergson: “The more we explore the nature of time, the more we will understand how duration means invention, creation of forms and continuous production of the absolutely new.” (2007, p. 30).

Only insofar as time is perceived and received does it exist and acquire meaning for man. Photography and literature are two artistic media through which humanity has recreated duration and development. Both disciplines encapsulate instants: literature, a sequence of them, and photography a single instant that reveals or implies a before and an after. They capture time to show a legible fragment of its movement. Regardless of whether what they depict and relate is real or fiction, a text or a photograph bears the traces of the passage of time.

The two languages represent this passage through various forms and processes, based on the position, movement and speed of the observer-narrator, which can broadly be summarized in three moments: 1] stopped time: a literary vignette or frozen image of a scene in which the objects and/or characters are time frames depicting something that happened or is about to happen; 2] the visual tour from a fixed point: images or texts that draw the gaze or reading towards the various focal points of a panoramic photo or a written narrative, generally in the present, in which the narrator reveals to the reader the space-time in which the action takes place through descriptions; and 3] movement: where the actions of the story comprised in an objective period of time, including the stream of consciousness, are visually narrated and represented.

The reality described or depicted in photography and literature is not only an interpretation of the facts but also of their duration and the continuous movement of the story and the events contained in it. In both disciplines, time is a reference, structure and metaphor. It is a fundamental part of the framework of both media, and is also represented and reconfigured as an image of the expression of literary and photographic discourses. It cannot be explained or demonstrated: “The artist who works with photography or stories does not provide solutions, but rather answers people's questions with another question, a more refined, aesthetic one: a doubt answered with a metaphor.” (López Aguilar, 2002).

Phillipe Halsman
Salvador Dali, 1948. Phillipe Halsman/Magnum Photos


The narrative construction of time in the image

In photography, the artist chooses the setting, frame and significant object inside the visual narrative he or she wishes to convey. When actions or movement are directly involved, he or she chooses and captures the "decisive moment" in which the Barthesian punctum is unveiled, the point at which all the elements, signs and marks that lend meaning to the image are incorporated.

Photographic discourse, like many artistic languages, has a double spatiality and temporality: on the one hand, it constitutes a two-dimensional space [s1] that represents an illusory, three-dimensional space [s2]. On the other hand, there is the time of representation [t1] – that is, the real time when the photograph was taken –, and the time represented in the image [t2].

Time in a photograph is constructed by linking various elements that can be observed on different levels. These elements include rhythm, tension, sequentiality, the representation of duration and references to the definition of space.

The space and time of representation are fundamental elements of photographic composition: on the one hand perspective, depth of field, interplay of plans, balance, proportion, visual tour, iconic order, tension and rhythm; and on the other instantaneity, longevity, sequentiality, symbolic and subjective times and narrative. Perspective and various planes create perceptual gradients that construct the three-dimensional space and movement in the images. The rhythm is observed through the repetition of elements and the way they are organized in the composition. Saturation, empty spaces and the distribution of tones determine the pace of a photograph. Tension is created by various elements: the lines that express movement, the contrast between regular geometric shapes, the sweeps, angles, perspective, chromatic contrast, lighting and textures of the image. The visual weight of each of the elements, determined by their size and position in the different planes of the photographs, can provide a spatial-temporal hierarchy, whereby more important elements in the foreground are equivalent to the present in the narration of the image. The point of view is expressed through the field of vision, the angle from which the photograph is taken, and the selection of objects shown with clarity and closeness, or that remain in the middle ground or background. The photograph suggests a visual tour, a dynamic order of interpretation established by the composition that can indicate a timeline.

At a technical level, the time dimension is produced by the shutter speed. If the photographer wishes to project an instant, to freeze time, he or she will use a fast speed to capture a scene in a fraction of a second, which in literature would be depicted in a vignette. If, alternately, he or she wishes to depict duration, a low speed allows a long exposure times that create effects in the image, such as the sweep in a moving subject. The presence of certain elements such as clocks, calendars, old objects and even photographs are indicators of time that lead the viewer to interpret the image as duration or sequentiality. Some photographers prefer to convey the opposite, a timeless situation, and to do so deliberately conceal any mark that might indicate the historical time or moment when the photograph was taken. Erasing the traces of time is a discursive effect that has been used since classical representation and “is intended to strengthen the illusion of reality (Marzal Felici, 2011, p. 215).

However, an image can express much more than a fragment of reality. It can be a metaphor in itself, and its content may be symbolic, as will also be the time within it. In the case of abstract photographs, for example, in which spatio-temporal marks are concealed, their discourse is closer to poetry, with a necessarily individual interpretation. The perception of time and space within them is subjective. The Barthesian punctum relates to the presence of a subjective time, the element that bursts into the time flow of interpreting the image. It moves or affects the viewer at a very personal level, based on their previous experience.

Another aspect in which the time characteristics of a photograph can be analyzed is sequentiality1, both in its elements within a single image, [such as its order and layout], and in the succession of photographs in polyptychs depicting a sequential scene. The illustrative dimension of the image comprises the central elements of narrative: point of view, characters, authenticity, textual marks and enunciation.

The narrative of the image is constructed by the morphological, compositional and illustrative elements, which together convey a specific overall temporal effect. The point of view from which a story is narrated is crucial and, in photography, can be clearly observed  in the framing, the position of the photographer and the angle from which it is taken [the result of selecting a determined space and time]. The framing evokes the artist’s way of looking and choosing which part of the world is worth stopping, closely observing and relating.

The characters in a photograph can say a great deal about the scene depicted: their emotions, feelings, attitudes and expectations, reflected in their posture, gestures and gaze, tell stories and show how they react to their surroundings. Authenticity and its opposite, artificiality [not to be confused with fictionality] in photography is constructed using certain effects, staging or filters or nothing at all, if the intention is to be faithful to the real scene, in accordance with the photographer’s narrative intention. If the aim is to create alienation, fracture or a concept in the viewer, they will distance the image from the parameters of reality by seeking to redefine its constituent elements. The textual marks reveal the presence of the enunciator in the image. These can be indicative, iconic, symbolic or referential marks. They include the internal organization of their elements, the tension between the geometric lines and figures, and the focus of attention. As Santos Zunzunegui wrote, quoted by Marzal2: “the presence of the viewer can be reconstructed and is therefore visible” (2011, p. 221), through two discursive activities: aspectualization [identifying a group of spatio-temporal aspectual categories that reveal the presence of the viewer; and focalization [how the photographic intent expresses itself].

Marzal identifies two strategies in photographic enunciation: on the one hand, the one applied in the realistic representation of discourse, a metonymic strategy in terms of language, in which the photographic discourse remains contiguous to the model; and on the other, the strategy that seeks a non-realistic, metaphorical representation, with an imaginary or symbolical relationship with the model. The caption often provides this information since without it, incorrect if at times interesting interpretations might emerge.

However, time may not only be observed in the content of the photograph, such as its objects and setting, but also be defined in each of the substantial stages of the photographic act, and may be explained by transferring the terms that Ricoeur (1995) uses for the textual narrative to the narrative of the image. 1. Prefiguration, a deeper exploration of the contextual level of analysis proposed by Marzal, refers to the circumstances and conditions in which the photograph is taken, the specific space, historical moment, technological development of the era and the author’s biography, among others. 2. Configuration is the process of producing the image using all the creative and technical elements that correspond to the morphological, compositional and illustrative levels. 3. Refiguration involves the viewers’ interpretation of the image, in other words, illustration and its reception. The process of narrating and interpreting time in the images takes place during these three moments of the photographic act.

However, when arranging the photographic piece or series, it is important that the different times be distinguished, since each one follows specific narrative strategies: 1. Objective time, defined by the precise moment at which the photograph was taken, is the referential time that is narrated on the basis of the textual marks in the image. 2 Represented time, shown in the photograph by the time frames that the photographer decides to include, is equivalent to the time of the story. 3. Symbolic time, when the image suggests a different reality to that represented, is constructed by creating ambiguity in meaning, or by recurring to visual rhetorical figures [such as metonymy, synechdoque and personification] or by the deliberate concealing of time frames. 4. Lastly, subjective time is determined by the point of view that the author applies to the image, but also by the context and interpretation of the viewer during the reconfiguration process. The latter two can be clearly seen in photographs created with artistic rather than documentary intentions, whose few referential elements make the images appear suspended in non-time. These photographs play with the viewer’s perception in order to elicit sensations, aesthetic emotions, uncertainty, or enable the latter to interpret and define its symbolic content and spatial-temporality.


1 Marzal Felice links sequentiality to narrative. However, here they are regarded as two separate processes as a broader concept of narrative is taken than the mere succession of events.

2 Much of the methodology proposed by Marzal is extracted from Santos Zunzunegui’s analysis in Paisajes de la forma. Ejercicios de análisis de la imagen. Cátedra, Madrid, 1988


Bibliografía
López Aguilar, E. (octubre de 2002). Julio Cortázar y la fotografía. La jornada semanal (397).
Bergson, H. (2007). La evolución creadora. Buenos Aires: Cactus.
Marzal Felici, J. (2011). Cómo se lee una fotografía. Madrid: Cátedra.
Ricoeur, P. (1995). Tiempo y narración (Vol. II). México: Siglo XXI. 

Mónica SánchezMónica Sánchez Ezcuer. Lives and works in Mexico. Writer and literature professor. Sociologist at the UNAM with a master in Literary Creation from the University of Texas. Currently she studies the master Visual Arts at San Carlos (UNAM). She collaborates in multidisciplinary projects; she has worked with musicians, painters and photographers in realizing operas, publications, concerts and exhibitions. She is especially interested in the relation between photography and narrative. She has given courses and workshops in literature and narrative in various institutions, like the UNAM, the University of Texas, Casa Lamm and the Foundation Pedro Meyer.
 
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Time is creation, argued Henri Bergson: “The more we explore the nature of time, the more we will understand how duration means invention, creation of forms and continuous production of the absolutely new.” (2007, p. 30).

Only insofar as time is perceived and received does it exist and acquire meaning for man. Photography and literature are two artistic media through which humanity has recreated duration and development. Both disciplines encapsulate instants: literature, a sequence of them, and photography a single instant that reveals or implies a before and an after. They capture time to show a legible fragment of its movement. Regardless of whether what they depict and relate is real or fiction, a text or a photograph bears the traces of the passage of time.

The two languages represent this passage through various forms and processes, based on the position, movement and speed of the observer-narrator, which can broadly be summarized in three moments: 1] stopped time: a literary vignette or frozen image of a scene in which the objects and/or characters are time frames depicting something that happened or is about to happen; 2] the visual tour from a fixed point: images or texts that draw the gaze or reading towards the various focal points of a panoramic photo or a written narrative, generally in the present, in which the narrator reveals to the reader the space-time in which the action takes place through descriptions; and 3] movement: where the actions of the story comprised in an objective period of time, including the stream of consciousness, are visually narrated and represented.

The reality described or depicted in photography and literature is not only an interpretation of the facts but also of their duration and the continuous movement of the story and the events contained in it. In both disciplines, time is a reference, structure and metaphor. It is a fundamental part of the framework of both media, and is also represented and reconfigured as an image of the expression of literary and photographic discourses. It cannot be explained or demonstrated: “The artist who works with photography or stories does not provide solutions, but rather answers people's questions with another question, a more refined, aesthetic one: a doubt answered with a metaphor.” (López Aguilar, 2002).

Phillipe Halsman
Salvador Dali, 1948. Phillipe Halsman/Magnum Photos


The narrative construction of time in the image

In photography, the artist chooses the setting, frame and significant object inside the visual narrative he or she wishes to convey. When actions or movement are directly involved, he or she chooses and captures the "decisive moment" in which the Barthesian punctum is unveiled, the point at which all the elements, signs and marks that lend meaning to the image are incorporated.

Photographic discourse, like many artistic languages, has a double spatiality and temporality: on the one hand, it constitutes a two-dimensional space [s1] that represents an illusory, three-dimensional space [s2]. On the other hand, there is the time of representation [t1] – that is, the real time when the photograph was taken –, and the time represented in the image [t2].

Time in a photograph is constructed by linking various elements that can be observed on different levels. These elements include rhythm, tension, sequentiality, the representation of duration and references to the definition of space.

The space and time of representation are fundamental elements of photographic composition: on the one hand perspective, depth of field, interplay of plans, balance, proportion, visual tour, iconic order, tension and rhythm; and on the other instantaneity, longevity, sequentiality, symbolic and subjective times and narrative. Perspective and various planes create perceptual gradients that construct the three-dimensional space and movement in the images. The rhythm is observed through the repetition of elements and the way they are organized in the composition. Saturation, empty spaces and the distribution of tones determine the pace of a photograph. Tension is created by various elements: the lines that express movement, the contrast between regular geometric shapes, the sweeps, angles, perspective, chromatic contrast, lighting and textures of the image. The visual weight of each of the elements, determined by their size and position in the different planes of the photographs, can provide a spatial-temporal hierarchy, whereby more important elements in the foreground are equivalent to the present in the narration of the image. The point of view is expressed through the field of vision, the angle from which the photograph is taken, and the selection of objects shown with clarity and closeness, or that remain in the middle ground or background. The photograph suggests a visual tour, a dynamic order of interpretation established by the composition that can indicate a timeline.

At a technical level, the time dimension is produced by the shutter speed. If the photographer wishes to project an instant, to freeze time, he or she will use a fast speed to capture a scene in a fraction of a second, which in literature would be depicted in a vignette. If, alternately, he or she wishes to depict duration, a low speed allows a long exposure times that create effects in the image, such as the sweep in a moving subject. The presence of certain elements such as clocks, calendars, old objects and even photographs are indicators of time that lead the viewer to interpret the image as duration or sequentiality. Some photographers prefer to convey the opposite, a timeless situation, and to do so deliberately conceal any mark that might indicate the historical time or moment when the photograph was taken. Erasing the traces of time is a discursive effect that has been used since classical representation and “is intended to strengthen the illusion of reality (Marzal Felici, 2011, p. 215).

However, an image can express much more than a fragment of reality. It can be a metaphor in itself, and its content may be symbolic, as will also be the time within it. In the case of abstract photographs, for example, in which spatio-temporal marks are concealed, their discourse is closer to poetry, with a necessarily individual interpretation. The perception of time and space within them is subjective. The Barthesian punctum relates to the presence of a subjective time, the element that bursts into the time flow of interpreting the image. It moves or affects the viewer at a very personal level, based on their previous experience.

Another aspect in which the time characteristics of a photograph can be analyzed is sequentiality1, both in its elements within a single image, [such as its order and layout], and in the succession of photographs in polyptychs depicting a sequential scene. The illustrative dimension of the image comprises the central elements of narrative: point of view, characters, authenticity, textual marks and enunciation.

The narrative of the image is constructed by the morphological, compositional and illustrative elements, which together convey a specific overall temporal effect. The point of view from which a story is narrated is crucial and, in photography, can be clearly observed  in the framing, the position of the photographer and the angle from which it is taken [the result of selecting a determined space and time]. The framing evokes the artist’s way of looking and choosing which part of the world is worth stopping, closely observing and relating.

The characters in a photograph can say a great deal about the scene depicted: their emotions, feelings, attitudes and expectations, reflected in their posture, gestures and gaze, tell stories and show how they react to their surroundings. Authenticity and its opposite, artificiality [not to be confused with fictionality] in photography is constructed using certain effects, staging or filters or nothing at all, if the intention is to be faithful to the real scene, in accordance with the photographer’s narrative intention. If the aim is to create alienation, fracture or a concept in the viewer, they will distance the image from the parameters of reality by seeking to redefine its constituent elements. The textual marks reveal the presence of the enunciator in the image. These can be indicative, iconic, symbolic or referential marks. They include the internal organization of their elements, the tension between the geometric lines and figures, and the focus of attention. As Santos Zunzunegui wrote, quoted by Marzal2: “the presence of the viewer can be reconstructed and is therefore visible” (2011, p. 221), through two discursive activities: aspectualization [identifying a group of spatio-temporal aspectual categories that reveal the presence of the viewer; and focalization [how the photographic intent expresses itself].

Marzal identifies two strategies in photographic enunciation: on the one hand, the one applied in the realistic representation of discourse, a metonymic strategy in terms of language, in which the photographic discourse remains contiguous to the model; and on the other, the strategy that seeks a non-realistic, metaphorical representation, with an imaginary or symbolical relationship with the model. The caption often provides this information since without it, incorrect if at times interesting interpretations might emerge.

However, time may not only be observed in the content of the photograph, such as its objects and setting, but also be defined in each of the substantial stages of the photographic act, and may be explained by transferring the terms that Ricoeur (1995) uses for the textual narrative to the narrative of the image. 1. Prefiguration, a deeper exploration of the contextual level of analysis proposed by Marzal, refers to the circumstances and conditions in which the photograph is taken, the specific space, historical moment, technological development of the era and the author’s biography, among others. 2. Configuration is the process of producing the image using all the creative and technical elements that correspond to the morphological, compositional and illustrative levels. 3. Refiguration involves the viewers’ interpretation of the image, in other words, illustration and its reception. The process of narrating and interpreting time in the images takes place during these three moments of the photographic act.

However, when arranging the photographic piece or series, it is important that the different times be distinguished, since each one follows specific narrative strategies: 1. Objective time, defined by the precise moment at which the photograph was taken, is the referential time that is narrated on the basis of the textual marks in the image. 2 Represented time, shown in the photograph by the time frames that the photographer decides to include, is equivalent to the time of the story. 3. Symbolic time, when the image suggests a different reality to that represented, is constructed by creating ambiguity in meaning, or by recurring to visual rhetorical figures [such as metonymy, synechdoque and personification] or by the deliberate concealing of time frames. 4. Lastly, subjective time is determined by the point of view that the author applies to the image, but also by the context and interpretation of the viewer during the reconfiguration process. The latter two can be clearly seen in photographs created with artistic rather than documentary intentions, whose few referential elements make the images appear suspended in non-time. These photographs play with the viewer’s perception in order to elicit sensations, aesthetic emotions, uncertainty, or enable the latter to interpret and define its symbolic content and spatial-temporality.


1 Marzal Felice links sequentiality to narrative. However, here they are regarded as two separate processes as a broader concept of narrative is taken than the mere succession of events.

2 Much of the methodology proposed by Marzal is extracted from Santos Zunzunegui’s analysis in Paisajes de la forma. Ejercicios de análisis de la imagen. Cátedra, Madrid, 1988


Bibliografía
López Aguilar, E. (octubre de 2002). Julio Cortázar y la fotografía. La jornada semanal (397).
Bergson, H. (2007). La evolución creadora. Buenos Aires: Cactus.
Marzal Felici, J. (2011). Cómo se lee una fotografía. Madrid: Cátedra.
Ricoeur, P. (1995). Tiempo y narración (Vol. II). México: Siglo XXI. 

Mónica SánchezMónica Sánchez Ezcuer. Lives and works in Mexico. Writer and literature professor. Sociologist at the UNAM with a master in Literary Creation from the University of Texas. Currently she studies the master Visual Arts at San Carlos (UNAM). She collaborates in multidisciplinary projects; she has worked with musicians, painters and photographers in realizing operas, publications, concerts and exhibitions. She is especially interested in the relation between photography and narrative. She has given courses and workshops in literature and narrative in various institutions, like the UNAM, the University of Texas, Casa Lamm and the Foundation Pedro Meyer.
 
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The many moments of the instant

Alejandro Malo

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Muybridge race horse animated
by Eadweard Muybridge

 The fleeting today is tenuous and eternal;
Don’t wait for another Heaven or Hell.
Jorge Luis Borges.

Photography is thought of as a way to freeze time and people rarely discuss how much time each photographic instant really represents. From the more than eight hours taken to shoot View from the Window at Le Gras to the fifteen minutes for Boulevard du Temple, to the speeds achieved in the past decade of more than a billion frames per second, each photograph prolongs a fiction in which we desire to see the ever-changing world imprisoned before our gaze. Movies, like theater and dance, derived from photographs precisely their desire to represent this same ever-changing world, but without being confined to an instant or synthesizing something living into a fixed image. The work of Muybridge and Marey, by capturing sequential movement and reproducing it in fixed or animated images, addressed these aspects which appeared to draw one path for photography and another for cinematography.

Decades later, communication vessels became popular, blurring the boundaries between these mediums. Photographic time extends itself in anyone’s hands and an image, previously immobile, unfolds instantly into movement with any number of applications such as Vine, Instagram, Cinemagram and others. With increasing frequency, photographers offer video work as part of their professional activities and create time-lapse or rephotography images to convey events that extend beyond the limits of a series or a single shot. Likewise, movies have shifted from the surprise occasioned by works like Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962) and the flat sequences of Antonioni that scandalized Cannes in 1960 to a visual fascination with suspended, almost immobile shots, as in the Tarkovsky movies. Current cinematography often employs flat sequence structure, or imitates Ken Burns by recovering photographic files through a specific video editing effect named after him.

Tonino Guerra, in the preface to Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids, anecdotes about how both Tarkovsky and Antonioni used Polaroid cameras in the late 1970s. The former was constantly worried about the volatility of time and his desire to freeze it in these instant images; it is not difficult to imagine how this impacted his movies. The latter discusses how, during a location scouting trip to Uzbekistan, an old man rejected a photograph recently take of him and two friends by asking: "¿“Why stop time?” to which neither man could respond. And this invites the questions: If photography is a way to stop time, how much time and how much mobility can an instant comprise? And no less important, how much do movies actually escape from their photographic desire to stop time, even though it captures entire lifetimes or historic moments?

The first question has been tested in a number of projects, and the opportunity to represent the variability of time has multiplied with the immediacy of available tools. The visual language permitted by cameras has led to the proliferation of works where years become a chronograph, days are the sun’s accelerated journey across the horizon, people are frozen in 360 degrees and cameras slow down or speed up at the pace of a silent film. Movies have their own experimental territory where more frequent use of the flat sequence and found footage, real or fictitious, and the recording and recovery of material in lapses is increasingly prolonged. The bridge between what was considered a brief, decisive instant and what was considered a long, narrative instant is constantly lengthening. The fields of photography and film are more accessible, and the instant, more relative. This freedom is worth exploring. 

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

 

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Muybridge race horse animated
by Eadweard Muybridge

 The fleeting today is tenuous and eternal;
Don’t wait for another Heaven or Hell.
Jorge Luis Borges.

Photography is thought of as a way to freeze time and people rarely discuss how much time each photographic instant really represents. From the more than eight hours taken to shoot View from the Window at Le Gras to the fifteen minutes for Boulevard du Temple, to the speeds achieved in the past decade of more than a billion frames per second, each photograph prolongs a fiction in which we desire to see the ever-changing world imprisoned before our gaze. Movies, like theater and dance, derived from photographs precisely their desire to represent this same ever-changing world, but without being confined to an instant or synthesizing something living into a fixed image. The work of Muybridge and Marey, by capturing sequential movement and reproducing it in fixed or animated images, addressed these aspects which appeared to draw one path for photography and another for cinematography.

Decades later, communication vessels became popular, blurring the boundaries between these mediums. Photographic time extends itself in anyone’s hands and an image, previously immobile, unfolds instantly into movement with any number of applications such as Vine, Instagram, Cinemagram and others. With increasing frequency, photographers offer video work as part of their professional activities and create time-lapse or rephotography images to convey events that extend beyond the limits of a series or a single shot. Likewise, movies have shifted from the surprise occasioned by works like Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962) and the flat sequences of Antonioni that scandalized Cannes in 1960 to a visual fascination with suspended, almost immobile shots, as in the Tarkovsky movies. Current cinematography often employs flat sequence structure, or imitates Ken Burns by recovering photographic files through a specific video editing effect named after him.

Tonino Guerra, in the preface to Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids, anecdotes about how both Tarkovsky and Antonioni used Polaroid cameras in the late 1970s. The former was constantly worried about the volatility of time and his desire to freeze it in these instant images; it is not difficult to imagine how this impacted his movies. The latter discusses how, during a location scouting trip to Uzbekistan, an old man rejected a photograph recently take of him and two friends by asking: "¿“Why stop time?” to which neither man could respond. And this invites the questions: If photography is a way to stop time, how much time and how much mobility can an instant comprise? And no less important, how much do movies actually escape from their photographic desire to stop time, even though it captures entire lifetimes or historic moments?

The first question has been tested in a number of projects, and the opportunity to represent the variability of time has multiplied with the immediacy of available tools. The visual language permitted by cameras has led to the proliferation of works where years become a chronograph, days are the sun’s accelerated journey across the horizon, people are frozen in 360 degrees and cameras slow down or speed up at the pace of a silent film. Movies have their own experimental territory where more frequent use of the flat sequence and found footage, real or fictitious, and the recording and recovery of material in lapses is increasingly prolonged. The bridge between what was considered a brief, decisive instant and what was considered a long, narrative instant is constantly lengthening. The fields of photography and film are more accessible, and the instant, more relative. This freedom is worth exploring. 

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

 

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Photo-Narrative: The stories in an image

Mónica Sánchez Escuer

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 fotonarrativa ezcuer
Pedro Meyer. Dhaka (Bangladesh), 2011

Stories are explicit, implicit or suggested within photographs. Photographs can expose a fragment of reality or express the totality of an event, but beyond showing or describing something, can photographs narrate? Narrating is a process as old as mankind. Telling daily events within the family nucleus, recalling the past, passing on traditions, creating and sharing the myths that lending meaning and structure to a community, is a practice that has been handed down from one generation to the next. Human beings explain themselves and the world they live in through tales spun from facts, feelings and hopes: the present acquires meaning through the past from which it came and from its vision of the future.

But tales have not always been told in words. If we think about the Paleolithic paintings in the Altamira or Benaojan caves, we can say that since prehistoric times, man has depicted the world and told of deeds through icons, long before the advent of writing. Let us recall that, “The evolution of language began with images, progressing to pictographs or self-explanatory vignettes, and subsequently phonetic units and lastly the alphabet” (Dondis, 2011, p. 11). Joan Fontcuberta believes that the meaning of an image lies in its narration: a photograph can simultaneously be an inscription and writing: “The language of photography constructs the story, insofar as the story lends meaning to the photograph” (Fontcuberta, 2004).

Nevertheless, what do we mean when we talk about narration? The Royal Academy defines the act of narrating as “telling, referring to events, or a fact or to a fictitious story” (Dictionary of the Spanish Language, 2001). This definition is broad enough to be applicable to any language: oral, written or graphic. Telling implies “enumeration”, a sequence of events; relating implies connecting people or actions; so narrating could be summarized as relating a series of connected events. Helena Berinstain, in her Dictionary of Rhetoric and Poetry states from a philological perspective that “narration is a statement of facts. The existence of narration requires relatable events. In general, the relation of a series of events is called a tale. […] These events are developed across time and are derived from one another, which is why they simultaneously offer a consecutive relationship[before/after] and a logical relationship [cause/effect]” (Berinstain, 1995, p. 355). So how can we apply these parameters to photography? Can an event be told in an image, can a tale be told? When we talk about an event, we are necessarily talking about time. An event can be made of a number of actions in a finite period of time, even if this time lasts only seconds. Photography freezes an instant. Its ability to be narrative will depend of the amount of information with which we are provided to suggest or reveal the facts that were not captured. There are photographs in which, through the composition of the elements depicted, the title or the accompanying caption, a sequence of events is explained or insinuated. In some, actions that take place before or after the moment captured can clearly be inferred. These are undoubtedly images that contain a narrative of their own.

When capturing a story, the photographer must focus, frame, calculate the light, and use not only formal strategies and visual techniques, but also a narrative and strategic discursive: at a general level, a scene, scenery or place is described; on the median plane, the narrative discourse is signaled by the elements in action; and on the first plane expressive language is indicated by details that convey emotions and feelings. Or it uses visual rhetoric, figures that are equivalent to literary rhetoric: metaphors, where an object or content is evoked by analogy with another element with shared characteristics; metonymy, when the object the image refers to is replaced by a related element; synecdoche when a total is represented in a detail or close-up; personification, when inanimate objects or animals are given human qualities, etc.

The clearest form of photographic narration in through diptychs, triptychs or multi-frame sequential images that illustrate different moments in the plot. The selection and arrangement of grouped photographs provides space and time coordinates allowing us to place and perceive the course of action through the illusion of movement, which an image alone could not give. In photographic sequences there is ellipsis in narrative time, not everything is told, and so the spectators’ imagination inserts the missing pieces. In movies and video, images flow smoothly, movement is evident, not simulated; and though the time ellipsis is a commonly used device in audiovisual discourse, the story is narrated in a continual and usually, explicit manner. Between the two visual forms of narration, photography or a series of photographs, and movies or video, a digital tale and a photo narrative can be found where the sequence of actions is dictated by the order of the still or moving images, the text (if there is any), and other artistic and formal features such as visual and sound rhythm.

All visual tales—but not all images—are constructed in the same way as literary tales. The elements are the same: a theme, a story, characters, a specific setting. The plot generally develops according to the formal precepts of a classic tale: It begins with an approach to the story, the conflict is explained, and the outcome is developed. An appropriate pace for the establishment and dosage of actions is created, planes, times and lighting are played with to create visual and narrative tension. In a story, the point is not to explain or show but to tell; and this is what literary narration consists of: telling and describing actions without explaining them. In audiovisual narration, the story arises not only from the actions but also through the images, that is, the telling is the showing, “The narrative is scenic and representational, it is a dramatized act”; (García García, 2006, p. 12). At the same time, showing is telling; actions are reinforced and made effective through imagery and audiovisual codes.

 

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 fotonarrativa ezcuer
Pedro Meyer. Dhaka (Bangladesh), 2011

Stories are explicit, implicit or suggested within photographs. Photographs can expose a fragment of reality or express the totality of an event, but beyond showing or describing something, can photographs narrate? Narrating is a process as old as mankind. Telling daily events within the family nucleus, recalling the past, passing on traditions, creating and sharing the myths that lending meaning and structure to a community, is a practice that has been handed down from one generation to the next. Human beings explain themselves and the world they live in through tales spun from facts, feelings and hopes: the present acquires meaning through the past from which it came and from its vision of the future.

But tales have not always been told in words. If we think about the Paleolithic paintings in the Altamira or Benaojan caves, we can say that since prehistoric times, man has depicted the world and told of deeds through icons, long before the advent of writing. Let us recall that, “The evolution of language began with images, progressing to pictographs or self-explanatory vignettes, and subsequently phonetic units and lastly the alphabet” (Dondis, 2011, p. 11). Joan Fontcuberta believes that the meaning of an image lies in its narration: a photograph can simultaneously be an inscription and writing: “The language of photography constructs the story, insofar as the story lends meaning to the photograph” (Fontcuberta, 2004).

Nevertheless, what do we mean when we talk about narration? The Royal Academy defines the act of narrating as “telling, referring to events, or a fact or to a fictitious story” (Dictionary of the Spanish Language, 2001). This definition is broad enough to be applicable to any language: oral, written or graphic. Telling implies “enumeration”, a sequence of events; relating implies connecting people or actions; so narrating could be summarized as relating a series of connected events. Helena Berinstain, in her Dictionary of Rhetoric and Poetry states from a philological perspective that “narration is a statement of facts. The existence of narration requires relatable events. In general, the relation of a series of events is called a tale. […] These events are developed across time and are derived from one another, which is why they simultaneously offer a consecutive relationship[before/after] and a logical relationship [cause/effect]” (Berinstain, 1995, p. 355). So how can we apply these parameters to photography? Can an event be told in an image, can a tale be told? When we talk about an event, we are necessarily talking about time. An event can be made of a number of actions in a finite period of time, even if this time lasts only seconds. Photography freezes an instant. Its ability to be narrative will depend of the amount of information with which we are provided to suggest or reveal the facts that were not captured. There are photographs in which, through the composition of the elements depicted, the title or the accompanying caption, a sequence of events is explained or insinuated. In some, actions that take place before or after the moment captured can clearly be inferred. These are undoubtedly images that contain a narrative of their own.

When capturing a story, the photographer must focus, frame, calculate the light, and use not only formal strategies and visual techniques, but also a narrative and strategic discursive: at a general level, a scene, scenery or place is described; on the median plane, the narrative discourse is signaled by the elements in action; and on the first plane expressive language is indicated by details that convey emotions and feelings. Or it uses visual rhetoric, figures that are equivalent to literary rhetoric: metaphors, where an object or content is evoked by analogy with another element with shared characteristics; metonymy, when the object the image refers to is replaced by a related element; synecdoche when a total is represented in a detail or close-up; personification, when inanimate objects or animals are given human qualities, etc.

The clearest form of photographic narration in through diptychs, triptychs or multi-frame sequential images that illustrate different moments in the plot. The selection and arrangement of grouped photographs provides space and time coordinates allowing us to place and perceive the course of action through the illusion of movement, which an image alone could not give. In photographic sequences there is ellipsis in narrative time, not everything is told, and so the spectators’ imagination inserts the missing pieces. In movies and video, images flow smoothly, movement is evident, not simulated; and though the time ellipsis is a commonly used device in audiovisual discourse, the story is narrated in a continual and usually, explicit manner. Between the two visual forms of narration, photography or a series of photographs, and movies or video, a digital tale and a photo narrative can be found where the sequence of actions is dictated by the order of the still or moving images, the text (if there is any), and other artistic and formal features such as visual and sound rhythm.

All visual tales—but not all images—are constructed in the same way as literary tales. The elements are the same: a theme, a story, characters, a specific setting. The plot generally develops according to the formal precepts of a classic tale: It begins with an approach to the story, the conflict is explained, and the outcome is developed. An appropriate pace for the establishment and dosage of actions is created, planes, times and lighting are played with to create visual and narrative tension. In a story, the point is not to explain or show but to tell; and this is what literary narration consists of: telling and describing actions without explaining them. In audiovisual narration, the story arises not only from the actions but also through the images, that is, the telling is the showing, “The narrative is scenic and representational, it is a dramatized act”; (García García, 2006, p. 12). At the same time, showing is telling; actions are reinforced and made effective through imagery and audiovisual codes.

 

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A symbol is a truth

Marta María Pérez

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01

 

During a lifetime of work, Marta Maria Perez Bravo has explored the rites and beliefs of Cuban religion through her own image. Her body sacrifices the symbol, creating an account of intersections between dualities, such as the visible and the invisible, the material and the spiritual, life after death, the presence of absence. That reiteration of opposites uses its own aesthetic to create narratives that, supported by the photographic document, build a universe of re-creations of rites and ceremonial objects.

Currently, her artistic proposal has led her to use other visual mediums with which she complements and continues to investigate her conceptual interests.

02 03 04

06 07 08 09 10

12 13 14 15 16 17



Marta MaríaMarta María Pérez Bravo (Cuba, 1959). Lives and works in Mexico. Photographer. She began her studies as an artist in 1979 at the School of Visual Arts San Alejandro, Havana, Cuba. In 1984 she continued her studies at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA), Havana, Cuba. She has participated in numerous international solo and group exhibitions. She has won several awards for her work, such as the Guggenheim Fellowship (USA) in 1998.

ZZ. In your work, self-representation is a constant theme, ¿how did your interest in talking about various themes through your own image arise?

MM. I studied Fine Arts, but my graduate thesis, at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana (1984), was a photographic project, even though I never studied photography. This project consisted of photographs documenting actions that I performed outdoors, taking as its theme the popular superstitions regarding natural phenomena, appearances etc. When I was pregnant, I could no longer do these performances and I started using my own body. I started to document, in a different way, other actions related to these superstitions and popular beliefs, but now regarding my experience of motherhood. As in the first stage, these realities were constructed and ‘staged’. So, from the beginning, it was clear that using a model or another person, and not my own body would completely change the concept of the work, given that it has a strong autobiographical presence, although implicitly.

ZZ. We see that themes, like evocation and absence, are constant in your work. How have these themes continued to change throughout your career?

MM. In my work, religious themes, especially of afro-cuban origin, started to emerge. The constructed realities (constructed through the staged scenes), that are devoid of time and space, are re-creations (not recreations) of rites and ritual objects.

ZZ. What is the symbolic value of the objects in your photos? What place do you give to the objects as symbols in your photos? What does their reiterative use signify?

From the ritual objects I want to extract a meaning that goes beyond the form, though the making of these objects is done with reference to the originals and the use they are given in religious practices. Although my photography is always black and white, I use the original colors in the elaboration of these objects as a token of respect for these practices and real liturgical objects. Nevertheless, I don’t want the spectator to be distracted by these colors; I want him to focus his attention on the symbols and their meanings. Even though he might not know them at all (since they are object of separate study and profound analysis) my intention is that, when these symbols are interpreted, they evoke ideas and suggest and provoke sensations. In addition to this, the title is a fundamental part of each piece.

ZZ. How does photography help you in the search of your identity? And, what has the use of video added to your work?

Since the beginning of my work in the eighties, my work has been photographic, although five or six years ago it went through a formal change –not its concept nor its aesthetic– through the use of video. The only aspects that make these videos different from my photographic work is the existence of space and the time in which an action occurs. Besides that, my work has not changed; in representing my ideas, I maintain the minimalistic aesthetic, I use the same materials and concepts, I still use black and white and I don’t use audio.

I don’t exactly know in which moment I started using video, but I think it happened in a very natural way, or, in other words, the development of the work itself brought me to it. Actually, people had asked me why I didn’t make videos, because of the performative character of my work, but at the time I, as an artist, was not at all interested in the idea, even though later on I permanently incorporated this medium into my work.

ZZ. What has been the result of your search throughout these years and which course is it taking?

Currently I tend to use video as a medium and not photography, but I still maintain my own aesthetic and conceptual parameters. The only difference is that, at the moment, video is a perfect medium for what I want. Surely the development of my work will lead me to other formal solutions in the future.

I have always thought that maybe a lot of the success of an artist’s work depends on finding the right tool with which he can express and “realize” his ideas.

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01

 

During a lifetime of work, Marta Maria Perez Bravo has explored the rites and beliefs of Cuban religion through her own image. Her body sacrifices the symbol, creating an account of intersections between dualities, such as the visible and the invisible, the material and the spiritual, life after death, the presence of absence. That reiteration of opposites uses its own aesthetic to create narratives that, supported by the photographic document, build a universe of re-creations of rites and ceremonial objects.

Currently, her artistic proposal has led her to use other visual mediums with which she complements and continues to investigate her conceptual interests.

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06 07 08 09 10

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Marta MaríaMarta María Pérez Bravo (Cuba, 1959). Lives and works in Mexico. Photographer. She began her studies as an artist in 1979 at the School of Visual Arts San Alejandro, Havana, Cuba. In 1984 she continued her studies at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA), Havana, Cuba. She has participated in numerous international solo and group exhibitions. She has won several awards for her work, such as the Guggenheim Fellowship (USA) in 1998.

ZZ. In your work, self-representation is a constant theme, ¿how did your interest in talking about various themes through your own image arise?

MM. I studied Fine Arts, but my graduate thesis, at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana (1984), was a photographic project, even though I never studied photography. This project consisted of photographs documenting actions that I performed outdoors, taking as its theme the popular superstitions regarding natural phenomena, appearances etc. When I was pregnant, I could no longer do these performances and I started using my own body. I started to document, in a different way, other actions related to these superstitions and popular beliefs, but now regarding my experience of motherhood. As in the first stage, these realities were constructed and ‘staged’. So, from the beginning, it was clear that using a model or another person, and not my own body would completely change the concept of the work, given that it has a strong autobiographical presence, although implicitly.

ZZ. We see that themes, like evocation and absence, are constant in your work. How have these themes continued to change throughout your career?

MM. In my work, religious themes, especially of afro-cuban origin, started to emerge. The constructed realities (constructed through the staged scenes), that are devoid of time and space, are re-creations (not recreations) of rites and ritual objects.

ZZ. What is the symbolic value of the objects in your photos? What place do you give to the objects as symbols in your photos? What does their reiterative use signify?

From the ritual objects I want to extract a meaning that goes beyond the form, though the making of these objects is done with reference to the originals and the use they are given in religious practices. Although my photography is always black and white, I use the original colors in the elaboration of these objects as a token of respect for these practices and real liturgical objects. Nevertheless, I don’t want the spectator to be distracted by these colors; I want him to focus his attention on the symbols and their meanings. Even though he might not know them at all (since they are object of separate study and profound analysis) my intention is that, when these symbols are interpreted, they evoke ideas and suggest and provoke sensations. In addition to this, the title is a fundamental part of each piece.

ZZ. How does photography help you in the search of your identity? And, what has the use of video added to your work?

Since the beginning of my work in the eighties, my work has been photographic, although five or six years ago it went through a formal change –not its concept nor its aesthetic– through the use of video. The only aspects that make these videos different from my photographic work is the existence of space and the time in which an action occurs. Besides that, my work has not changed; in representing my ideas, I maintain the minimalistic aesthetic, I use the same materials and concepts, I still use black and white and I don’t use audio.

I don’t exactly know in which moment I started using video, but I think it happened in a very natural way, or, in other words, the development of the work itself brought me to it. Actually, people had asked me why I didn’t make videos, because of the performative character of my work, but at the time I, as an artist, was not at all interested in the idea, even though later on I permanently incorporated this medium into my work.

ZZ. What has been the result of your search throughout these years and which course is it taking?

Currently I tend to use video as a medium and not photography, but I still maintain my own aesthetic and conceptual parameters. The only difference is that, at the moment, video is a perfect medium for what I want. Surely the development of my work will lead me to other formal solutions in the future.

I have always thought that maybe a lot of the success of an artist’s work depends on finding the right tool with which he can express and “realize” his ideas.

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Travel Log of an Inner Journey

Ehekatl Hernández

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There are usually few short films that move away from artificial, cloying stories that at best elicit indifference and trivialize the issue. Even less frequently do we see work that paradoxically does not try to take the easy route, such as the excessive use of visual puns, flashbacks or complex leaps through time to turn it around. At some point, the way stories are told became, on the one hand, complex, foreign and undecipherable, or banal, Manichaean and predictable on the other. In both cases, the message is lost along with any authentic relationship with the viewer.

This is why it is difficult to find work, amidst the maelstrom of films, which is an exception to the rule; I travel because I need to, I return because I love you is one such example. Produced in 2009 by the Brazilian pair Karim Ainouz /Marcelo Gomes, it is a modest piece that uses cinematographic and photographic resources in an exceptional way, giving life to an entirely fresh, direct and human narrative that fluctuates between the genres of Road movies and Storytelling. I travel because I need to, I return because I love you is José Renato’s travel log. Renato was a 35-year-old Brazilian geologist commissioned to build a canal in the Northeast of Brazil. As his fieldwork advances, it becomes clear that Renato shares the emptiness of these places, the same feeling of isolation and abandonment. Thus a parallel inner search begins that is constantly reflected in the landscape of Brazilian plains. The geographic description is not limited to the countryside or the terrain through which he travels; it also describes the people he encounters along the way, so that feelings and passions are also included in his inner travel log.

The use of audiovisual language is outstanding at all times: stills and small sequences recorded on super8, DVCAMs and Hi8 are complemented by photographs, archival images, incidental sound and the occasional, well-chosen track without neglecting the rhythmic, first person voice over (Irandhir Santos). It is a type of inner monologue designed to achieve an honest, naked, personal reflection that addresses misunderstandings between lovers, existential emptiness and solitude. The reflections are occasionally interrupted by the testimonials of those with whom the protagonist exchanges words and experiences, returning the viewer subtly to the documentary genre.

Thus all the elements that make up this piece, running no longer the 75 minutes, become a reel across which clear, honest narrative flows, whose lyricism that alludes to the universal themes of love, innocence, solitude and hope.

In short, I travel because I need to, I return because I love you is a well-rounded piece that could not have been conceived without such a close link between image and narrative. It is a clear example of the explorations and boundaries through which what some people have called photo narrative, can freely flow.

“I travel because I need to, I return because I love you.”  Brazil 2009. Director and writer: Karim Ainouz and Marcelo Gomes. Photography: Heloísa Passos. Music Chambarti. Actor: Irandhir Santos. Length: 75 minutes.

Ehekatl HernándezEhekatl Hernández (México, 1975).received a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas at UNAM in Mexico, and a Master’s Degree in Multimedia Applications from the Universidad Poltécnica de Catalunya in Spain. He has over 15 years’ experience in graphic design and planning, developing and implementing web projects. Hernández has given diploma courses in web design at UNAM. He has spent nine years contributing to the web design and multimedia area at zonezero.com, and also works as a consultant for various companies as well as coordinating the e-learning system of the Virtual Campus of the Pedro Meyer Foundation.
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There are usually few short films that move away from artificial, cloying stories that at best elicit indifference and trivialize the issue. Even less frequently do we see work that paradoxically does not try to take the easy route, such as the excessive use of visual puns, flashbacks or complex leaps through time to turn it around. At some point, the way stories are told became, on the one hand, complex, foreign and undecipherable, or banal, Manichaean and predictable on the other. In both cases, the message is lost along with any authentic relationship with the viewer.

This is why it is difficult to find work, amidst the maelstrom of films, which is an exception to the rule; I travel because I need to, I return because I love you is one such example. Produced in 2009 by the Brazilian pair Karim Ainouz /Marcelo Gomes, it is a modest piece that uses cinematographic and photographic resources in an exceptional way, giving life to an entirely fresh, direct and human narrative that fluctuates between the genres of Road movies and Storytelling. I travel because I need to, I return because I love you is José Renato’s travel log. Renato was a 35-year-old Brazilian geologist commissioned to build a canal in the Northeast of Brazil. As his fieldwork advances, it becomes clear that Renato shares the emptiness of these places, the same feeling of isolation and abandonment. Thus a parallel inner search begins that is constantly reflected in the landscape of Brazilian plains. The geographic description is not limited to the countryside or the terrain through which he travels; it also describes the people he encounters along the way, so that feelings and passions are also included in his inner travel log.

The use of audiovisual language is outstanding at all times: stills and small sequences recorded on super8, DVCAMs and Hi8 are complemented by photographs, archival images, incidental sound and the occasional, well-chosen track without neglecting the rhythmic, first person voice over (Irandhir Santos). It is a type of inner monologue designed to achieve an honest, naked, personal reflection that addresses misunderstandings between lovers, existential emptiness and solitude. The reflections are occasionally interrupted by the testimonials of those with whom the protagonist exchanges words and experiences, returning the viewer subtly to the documentary genre.

Thus all the elements that make up this piece, running no longer the 75 minutes, become a reel across which clear, honest narrative flows, whose lyricism that alludes to the universal themes of love, innocence, solitude and hope.

In short, I travel because I need to, I return because I love you is a well-rounded piece that could not have been conceived without such a close link between image and narrative. It is a clear example of the explorations and boundaries through which what some people have called photo narrative, can freely flow.

“I travel because I need to, I return because I love you.”  Brazil 2009. Director and writer: Karim Ainouz and Marcelo Gomes. Photography: Heloísa Passos. Music Chambarti. Actor: Irandhir Santos. Length: 75 minutes.

Ehekatl HernándezEhekatl Hernández (México, 1975).received a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas at UNAM in Mexico, and a Master’s Degree in Multimedia Applications from the Universidad Poltécnica de Catalunya in Spain. He has over 15 years’ experience in graphic design and planning, developing and implementing web projects. Hernández has given diploma courses in web design at UNAM. He has spent nine years contributing to the web design and multimedia area at zonezero.com, and also works as a consultant for various companies as well as coordinating the e-learning system of the Virtual Campus of the Pedro Meyer Foundation.
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The best of the worst

Antonio Contreras & Rafael Torrado

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We stopped for a smoke under a bridge and saw three characters seated on a couch in front of a large stone screen. We told them we were photographers and wanted to take their picture. In the beginning they were shy (we were too) and we began by taking pictures of the place: the living room, the bathroom, the house, the garden. We gradually got to know each other better. They liked our idea and we visited them a couple more times. One day, everything was gone; neither a trace of them nor their belongings remained. We decided to investigate what had happened on the other side of the bridge, where people had also settled.

That is where we met Manuelín, the owner of a small house located between the light rail tracks of Mexico City and an overpass. We asked him about our vanished acquaintances, and he said that a there had been a police operation and a number of people had been arrested. We never found out anything else; no one knew their names. Manuelín and his friends welcomed us from the start and that same day they took us to "The Den", a place where the floor is made up of an immense mass of clothing and garbage, where rats and cockroaches turn up at every step. It was a place that was abandoned by the group after being flooded with rain water.

This is how The Best of the Worst was born, initially a photographic and then a video project that is midway between documentary and fiction, anthropology and journalism.

The photographs that comprise the first portion of this work result from the spontaneity and imagination of Manuelín and company, as well as from a constant effort to capture various moments of these characters in their own space: a peaceful afternoon “chilling” on the bridge, a hot day spent drinking amidst trucks and trains, a nighttime party and the next morning’s hangover.

This is their story. 

Antonio ContrerasAntonio Contreras (Mexico). Lives and works in Mexico City. He studied social communication at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana. In 2014 he participated in the diploma course Photo Narrative and New Media from the Pedro Meyer Foundation. He regularly publishes in the collective blog Parteuno


Rafael TorradoRafael Torrado (Mexico). Mexican photographer born in Mexico City. Bachelor student in Social Communication at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana. Since 2011 he has worked in the field of documentary photography, where he develops the subjects of violence, drugs, discrimination and social movements.




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We stopped for a smoke under a bridge and saw three characters seated on a couch in front of a large stone screen. We told them we were photographers and wanted to take their picture. In the beginning they were shy (we were too) and we began by taking pictures of the place: the living room, the bathroom, the house, the garden. We gradually got to know each other better. They liked our idea and we visited them a couple more times. One day, everything was gone; neither a trace of them nor their belongings remained. We decided to investigate what had happened on the other side of the bridge, where people had also settled.

That is where we met Manuelín, the owner of a small house located between the light rail tracks of Mexico City and an overpass. We asked him about our vanished acquaintances, and he said that a there had been a police operation and a number of people had been arrested. We never found out anything else; no one knew their names. Manuelín and his friends welcomed us from the start and that same day they took us to "The Den", a place where the floor is made up of an immense mass of clothing and garbage, where rats and cockroaches turn up at every step. It was a place that was abandoned by the group after being flooded with rain water.

This is how The Best of the Worst was born, initially a photographic and then a video project that is midway between documentary and fiction, anthropology and journalism.

The photographs that comprise the first portion of this work result from the spontaneity and imagination of Manuelín and company, as well as from a constant effort to capture various moments of these characters in their own space: a peaceful afternoon “chilling” on the bridge, a hot day spent drinking amidst trucks and trains, a nighttime party and the next morning’s hangover.

This is their story. 

Antonio ContrerasAntonio Contreras (Mexico). Lives and works in Mexico City. He studied social communication at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana. In 2014 he participated in the diploma course Photo Narrative and New Media from the Pedro Meyer Foundation. He regularly publishes in the collective blog Parteuno


Rafael TorradoRafael Torrado (Mexico). Mexican photographer born in Mexico City. Bachelor student in Social Communication at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana. Since 2011 he has worked in the field of documentary photography, where he develops the subjects of violence, drugs, discrimination and social movements.




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Seeing stories

Alejandro Malo

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meyer fotonarrativa
The Devil in New York. 1985. Pedro Meyer

In 2013, just over one billion smart phones came onto the international market, while only a little over sixty million digital cameras sold. Thanks to this push, the number of cameras sold as part of mobile devices will be greater than the number of people inhabiting the planet, which accentuates the visual avalanche we now face. Creating photographic images has become as trivial as chatting on the phone and their meaning, 2,000 millones de nuevasimágenes as they are uploaded and shared online every day is reduced, in many cases, to anecdotal scenes that are incomprehensible to strangers. In the face of this extensive iconographic universe, content runs the risk of being lost, of being confused amidst stylistic similarities, of sinking unceremoniously into the cracks of global networks; and one of the few useful tools for strengthening photographic discourse and emphasizing a relevant visual message is narrative.

Four years ago, in 2010, when ZoneZero's position within the ecosystem of projects at the Pedro Meyer Foundation was only just beginning to be defined, World Press Photo contacted us. They had interviewed a number of people and institutions from the field of photography in Mexico and were looking to define alternative forms of collaboration. Their goal was to develop an educational program designed for photojournalists. Our first exchanges created several points of tension, but each debate served to consolidate points of agreement. These points grew from reflections that are still meaningful today. 

The first was a diagnosis that was already evident at that point: the traditional role of photography could not continue unchanged in an environment where the sources of photographic material were multiplied at an unattainable pace. Capturing the exact photograph of an event had become a game of chance that could be won by anyone in possession of a mobile device. Originality paled in the face of quantity and mastery of technique dissipated with each technological advance. The very boundaries of photography we being blurred: the place for photography within interactive media, video, electronic books, websites and more, the relationship between these and other media, the frontier of the curatorial and author-oriented, all became territory for exploration. At that moment we chose to broach the concept of New Media, to emphasize our willingness to experiment with the sum of diverse technological resources, and for lack of another label with the same amount of breadth and flexibility for what we wanted to achieve.

The second reflection identified which tool could be useful both for photojournalists and the wider public that was already engaging in the educational activities at the Pedro Meyer Foundation and adhered to ZoneZero content. The choice was clear and conclusive: storytelling.  After being translated, the term was replaced with a new one, photo-narrative, to highlight the photographic component. Pedro Meyer’s story I Photograph to Remember with one of the cornerstones of Digital Storytelling, and his position that everything before a photographer tells a story, were influential in this choice. Nevertheless, it was equally or more important to consider that in an era where images and information are as abundant and immediate as they are now, context is the only thing that distinguishes them from background noise. Every image, in order to be more than ornamental, invites the viewer to interpret a meaning, to head in some direction, to guess the story and imagine the consequences of what it represents. Every memorable photo tells a story, whether in the tension of the elements it depicts, or in how it has been edited, or with the help of accompanying information. Whether it is a single photo, a series, images in movement or interactive formats, an image aspires to be coherent, to suggest a before and an after, to propose or explain change. We are not the same after the party or the childhood accident documented by the photograph, nor after national disaster or glory.

Today, after a number of years collaborating with World Press Photo, three editions of Diplomado de Fotonarrativa y Nuevos Medios and a plethora of technological changes that could only have been imagined, photo-narrative is even more important.  During this time we have learned and changed. Our ideas about photography and narrative continue to change. World Press Photo now has multimedia categories that include long feature, short feature and interactive documentary. Photo-narrative’s effectiveness means that it has been used in a number of different fields. Because of this, it is also our task to explore and exhibit examples that, as with other issues, foster dialogue and reflection. Every one of us is the sum of our personal, familiar, collective and even fictional stories. Being understood and understanding one another begins with knowing how to tell these stories. 

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

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meyer fotonarrativa
The Devil in New York. 1985. Pedro Meyer

In 2013, just over one billion smart phones came onto the international market, while only a little over sixty million digital cameras sold. Thanks to this push, the number of cameras sold as part of mobile devices will be greater than the number of people inhabiting the planet, which accentuates the visual avalanche we now face. Creating photographic images has become as trivial as chatting on the phone and their meaning, 2,000 millones de nuevasimágenes as they are uploaded and shared online every day is reduced, in many cases, to anecdotal scenes that are incomprehensible to strangers. In the face of this extensive iconographic universe, content runs the risk of being lost, of being confused amidst stylistic similarities, of sinking unceremoniously into the cracks of global networks; and one of the few useful tools for strengthening photographic discourse and emphasizing a relevant visual message is narrative.

Four years ago, in 2010, when ZoneZero's position within the ecosystem of projects at the Pedro Meyer Foundation was only just beginning to be defined, World Press Photo contacted us. They had interviewed a number of people and institutions from the field of photography in Mexico and were looking to define alternative forms of collaboration. Their goal was to develop an educational program designed for photojournalists. Our first exchanges created several points of tension, but each debate served to consolidate points of agreement. These points grew from reflections that are still meaningful today. 

The first was a diagnosis that was already evident at that point: the traditional role of photography could not continue unchanged in an environment where the sources of photographic material were multiplied at an unattainable pace. Capturing the exact photograph of an event had become a game of chance that could be won by anyone in possession of a mobile device. Originality paled in the face of quantity and mastery of technique dissipated with each technological advance. The very boundaries of photography we being blurred: the place for photography within interactive media, video, electronic books, websites and more, the relationship between these and other media, the frontier of the curatorial and author-oriented, all became territory for exploration. At that moment we chose to broach the concept of New Media, to emphasize our willingness to experiment with the sum of diverse technological resources, and for lack of another label with the same amount of breadth and flexibility for what we wanted to achieve.

The second reflection identified which tool could be useful both for photojournalists and the wider public that was already engaging in the educational activities at the Pedro Meyer Foundation and adhered to ZoneZero content. The choice was clear and conclusive: storytelling.  After being translated, the term was replaced with a new one, photo-narrative, to highlight the photographic component. Pedro Meyer’s story I Photograph to Remember with one of the cornerstones of Digital Storytelling, and his position that everything before a photographer tells a story, were influential in this choice. Nevertheless, it was equally or more important to consider that in an era where images and information are as abundant and immediate as they are now, context is the only thing that distinguishes them from background noise. Every image, in order to be more than ornamental, invites the viewer to interpret a meaning, to head in some direction, to guess the story and imagine the consequences of what it represents. Every memorable photo tells a story, whether in the tension of the elements it depicts, or in how it has been edited, or with the help of accompanying information. Whether it is a single photo, a series, images in movement or interactive formats, an image aspires to be coherent, to suggest a before and an after, to propose or explain change. We are not the same after the party or the childhood accident documented by the photograph, nor after national disaster or glory.

Today, after a number of years collaborating with World Press Photo, three editions of Diplomado de Fotonarrativa y Nuevos Medios and a plethora of technological changes that could only have been imagined, photo-narrative is even more important.  During this time we have learned and changed. Our ideas about photography and narrative continue to change. World Press Photo now has multimedia categories that include long feature, short feature and interactive documentary. Photo-narrative’s effectiveness means that it has been used in a number of different fields. Because of this, it is also our task to explore and exhibit examples that, as with other issues, foster dialogue and reflection. Every one of us is the sum of our personal, familiar, collective and even fictional stories. Being understood and understanding one another begins with knowing how to tell these stories. 

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

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Here I am, in the era of the selfie

Vanessa Alcaíno & Elisa Rugo

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That which I call my self-portrait is composed of thousands of days of work.
Each of them corresponds to the exact number and moment at which
I stopped as I painted after a task.

—Roman Opalka

Through the various forms of artistic expression over the last 500 years, the natural relationship born between the creator and his work tool has offered a rough testimony of self-exploration. We can see it from the self-portraits of Renaissance painters to the self-explorations produced by photographers opposite a mirror. The difference is that today we live in, thorough and for the image, and the image has driven us to communicate in a new way. Today, it has become a right to possess images of one’s self, and in this context the selfie appears to have emerged as a logical derivation of this human action.

Could we therefore consider selfies within the tradition of the self-portrait? Do they serve to search for, or develop, one’s identity? Let us begin with the idea that a selfie is not only a self-portrait in the traditional sense of the word. The selfie is created using a smart phone or webcam and places us in a spontaneous context or situation, showing its relative lack of preparation, but it also contains metadata that are commented on and shared repeatedly. This could define it as an emerging sub-genre of the self-portrait1, as taking this photographic image is in line with the new platforms of audiovisual communication.

However, the most appealing facet of this “new” trend is its social value. Current-day self-portraits do not seek to say this is me or this is how I am, as was done in times gone by to construct an identity, but rather they follow the logic of here I am or this is where I am. Being somewhere at a given moment prevails over just being. Persons therefore show themselves in a location, saying: this is where and how I am right now, with a mood: this is how I am today, or even, when in company: here I am with so-and-so. “Photography is not a memory, but an act”.2

The numerous self-portraits published every day construct visual diaries that show us multiple, plural and at the same time communal “private” stories. They are, in the digital era, the result of the democratization of the image, and acquire meaning once they are shared, not only among a specific group of persons (friends and/or relatives), but among all those who construct meaning through their interactions. The more active the exchange in networks, the stronger the links between their participants.

There are currently pages specializing in selfies that gather images in similar situations (selfiesatfunerals, selfieswithhomelesspeople, selfiesatseriousplaces, museumselfies.tumblr.com), projects that bring together collections of the (app.thefacesoffacebook, A través del espejo by Joan Fontcuberta), studies (selfiecity.net), new trends (Shaky Selfie), competitions, festivals (ClaroEcuador, Olimpiadas del selfie) and every day new apps appear that encourage us to tell a story by capturing images (Frontback). On many occasions film stars, musicians and celebrities such as the Pope or presidents express themselves through this medium, creating an intimate proximity with the public.

Taking photographs (of one’s self) has become an ordinary, everyday action. As Fontcuberta writes, it has become a compulsion. A vital compulsion in which each heartbeat becomes an image, such as the project The Whale Hunt, by Jonathan Harris, which uses 3,214 timed photographs to show in frequencies the most powerful moments of his experience of whale hunting. We are in an era that strives to photograph everything and create an interaction, in a context in which the photographic image has become a desire to speak. May nothing remain unrecorded or unshared! as we only exist insofar as we are present online.

What then of privacy? The intimate has become public. In 2000, a performance was presented called Nautilus, casa transparente.3 It consisted of a space with translucent walls in which a person was carrying out their daily life. People, some curious, others outraged, spend hours obsessively observing this person in his ordinary intimacy, as though he were an animal in a zoo. A few years later, and thanks to photography and its connectivity, we appear to be putting ourselves in this person’s place willingly and living in our own glass houses, exhibiting our everyday life without fear or prejudice.

Today’s democratized self-portrait is a public declaration carrying the message of our identity. The numerous devices and platforms used to communicate through the image enable us to react and create the need to leave a trace, in order for others to discover us. The selfie has become a social phenomenon of self-expression that can be as diverse as humanity itself, but we do not know to what extent social or cultural experiences are measured by the endless software. We are therefore invited to continue to take portraits of ourselves until technology becomes insufficient and we exceed the mobility, ubiquity and connection offered by the fifth moment of photography.4

01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

1 Tifentale, Alise. The Selfie: Making sense of the “Masturbation of Self-Image” and the “Virtual Mini-Me”. February 2014 / selfiecity.net
2 Fontcuberta, Joan. Quote from Joan Fontcuberta: el post-talento fotográfico. February 2014 by Galcerán de Born 
3 Nautilus, casa transparente, an original idea by the Chilean architect Arturo Torres
4 The fifth momento of photography explores the effect of the iphone on photography, the technological 'mash-up' with the internet and omnipresent social connectivity. Edgar Gómez, and Eric T. Meyer. Creation and Control in the Photographic Process: iPhones and the Emerging Fifth Moment of Photography. Photographies 5, number 2 (2012): 203-221.

Vanessa AlcaínoVanessa Alcaíno Pizani (Venezuela, 1980). Lives and works in Mexico. Visual artist. She graduated in Philosophy at the Central University of Venezuela and has a Master’s degree in Spanish and Latin American Thought at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). Since 1994, she has worked in the field of photography at various institutions and organisations in Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico. At the moment, she is part of the editorial team of zonezero.com. You can see her work at: vanessapizani
 
Elia RugoElisa Rugo (Mexico, 1980). Lives and works in Mexico. She is a photographer, videographer and a specialist in visual communication with a degree in Creative Visualisation at the University of Communication. In 2012, she took part in the seminar Contemporary Photography at the Image Centre. She has participated in collective exhibitions in Pachuca, Querétaro, Guadalajara and Mexico-City. At the moment, she is the art director of the websites fpmeyer.com and museodemujeres.com and she is part of the editorial team of zonezero.com. You can see her work at: elisarugo.pro



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That which I call my self-portrait is composed of thousands of days of work.
Each of them corresponds to the exact number and moment at which
I stopped as I painted after a task.

—Roman Opalka

Through the various forms of artistic expression over the last 500 years, the natural relationship born between the creator and his work tool has offered a rough testimony of self-exploration. We can see it from the self-portraits of Renaissance painters to the self-explorations produced by photographers opposite a mirror. The difference is that today we live in, thorough and for the image, and the image has driven us to communicate in a new way. Today, it has become a right to possess images of one’s self, and in this context the selfie appears to have emerged as a logical derivation of this human action.

Could we therefore consider selfies within the tradition of the self-portrait? Do they serve to search for, or develop, one’s identity? Let us begin with the idea that a selfie is not only a self-portrait in the traditional sense of the word. The selfie is created using a smart phone or webcam and places us in a spontaneous context or situation, showing its relative lack of preparation, but it also contains metadata that are commented on and shared repeatedly. This could define it as an emerging sub-genre of the self-portrait1, as taking this photographic image is in line with the new platforms of audiovisual communication.

However, the most appealing facet of this “new” trend is its social value. Current-day self-portraits do not seek to say this is me or this is how I am, as was done in times gone by to construct an identity, but rather they follow the logic of here I am or this is where I am. Being somewhere at a given moment prevails over just being. Persons therefore show themselves in a location, saying: this is where and how I am right now, with a mood: this is how I am today, or even, when in company: here I am with so-and-so. “Photography is not a memory, but an act”.2

The numerous self-portraits published every day construct visual diaries that show us multiple, plural and at the same time communal “private” stories. They are, in the digital era, the result of the democratization of the image, and acquire meaning once they are shared, not only among a specific group of persons (friends and/or relatives), but among all those who construct meaning through their interactions. The more active the exchange in networks, the stronger the links between their participants.

There are currently pages specializing in selfies that gather images in similar situations (selfiesatfunerals, selfieswithhomelesspeople, selfiesatseriousplaces, museumselfies.tumblr.com), projects that bring together collections of the (app.thefacesoffacebook, A través del espejo by Joan Fontcuberta), studies (selfiecity.net), new trends (Shaky Selfie), competitions, festivals (ClaroEcuador, Olimpiadas del selfie) and every day new apps appear that encourage us to tell a story by capturing images (Frontback). On many occasions film stars, musicians and celebrities such as the Pope or presidents express themselves through this medium, creating an intimate proximity with the public.

Taking photographs (of one’s self) has become an ordinary, everyday action. As Fontcuberta writes, it has become a compulsion. A vital compulsion in which each heartbeat becomes an image, such as the project The Whale Hunt, by Jonathan Harris, which uses 3,214 timed photographs to show in frequencies the most powerful moments of his experience of whale hunting. We are in an era that strives to photograph everything and create an interaction, in a context in which the photographic image has become a desire to speak. May nothing remain unrecorded or unshared! as we only exist insofar as we are present online.

What then of privacy? The intimate has become public. In 2000, a performance was presented called Nautilus, casa transparente.3 It consisted of a space with translucent walls in which a person was carrying out their daily life. People, some curious, others outraged, spend hours obsessively observing this person in his ordinary intimacy, as though he were an animal in a zoo. A few years later, and thanks to photography and its connectivity, we appear to be putting ourselves in this person’s place willingly and living in our own glass houses, exhibiting our everyday life without fear or prejudice.

Today’s democratized self-portrait is a public declaration carrying the message of our identity. The numerous devices and platforms used to communicate through the image enable us to react and create the need to leave a trace, in order for others to discover us. The selfie has become a social phenomenon of self-expression that can be as diverse as humanity itself, but we do not know to what extent social or cultural experiences are measured by the endless software. We are therefore invited to continue to take portraits of ourselves until technology becomes insufficient and we exceed the mobility, ubiquity and connection offered by the fifth moment of photography.4

01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

1 Tifentale, Alise. The Selfie: Making sense of the “Masturbation of Self-Image” and the “Virtual Mini-Me”. February 2014 / selfiecity.net
2 Fontcuberta, Joan. Quote from Joan Fontcuberta: el post-talento fotográfico. February 2014 by Galcerán de Born 
3 Nautilus, casa transparente, an original idea by the Chilean architect Arturo Torres
4 The fifth momento of photography explores the effect of the iphone on photography, the technological 'mash-up' with the internet and omnipresent social connectivity. Edgar Gómez, and Eric T. Meyer. Creation and Control in the Photographic Process: iPhones and the Emerging Fifth Moment of Photography. Photographies 5, number 2 (2012): 203-221.

Vanessa AlcaínoVanessa Alcaíno Pizani (Venezuela, 1980). Lives and works in Mexico. Visual artist. She graduated in Philosophy at the Central University of Venezuela and has a Master’s degree in Spanish and Latin American Thought at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). Since 1994, she has worked in the field of photography at various institutions and organisations in Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico. At the moment, she is part of the editorial team of zonezero.com. You can see her work at: vanessapizani
 
Elia RugoElisa Rugo (Mexico, 1980). Lives and works in Mexico. She is a photographer, videographer and a specialist in visual communication with a degree in Creative Visualisation at the University of Communication. In 2012, she took part in the seminar Contemporary Photography at the Image Centre. She has participated in collective exhibitions in Pachuca, Querétaro, Guadalajara and Mexico-City. At the moment, she is the art director of the websites fpmeyer.com and museodemujeres.com and she is part of the editorial team of zonezero.com. You can see her work at: elisarugo.pro



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Intruding the family history

Bruno Bresani

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01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

 

Bruno BresaniBruno Bresani (Brasil, 1973). Lives and works in Mexico. Photographer. He has completed three masters: Production and Artistic Research at the University of Barcelona, Digital Arts at the University Pompeu Fabra and Visual Arts at the National School of Plastic Arts at the UNAM. He has participated in several festivals and exhibitions in various cities in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Austria, Argentina, Colombia, Morocco, Cuba and Spain. To see more of his work go to: brunobresani.blogspot.mx/
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01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

 

Bruno BresaniBruno Bresani (Brasil, 1973). Lives and works in Mexico. Photographer. He has completed three masters: Production and Artistic Research at the University of Barcelona, Digital Arts at the University Pompeu Fabra and Visual Arts at the National School of Plastic Arts at the UNAM. He has participated in several festivals and exhibitions in various cities in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Austria, Argentina, Colombia, Morocco, Cuba and Spain. To see more of his work go to: brunobresani.blogspot.mx/
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Liquid Identity

Alejandro Malo

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8717157387 7213690b55 o
Hiawatha Playfield wading pool, 1912. Don Sherwood Parks History Collection (Record Series 5801-01), Seattle Municipal Archives.

Until a few centuries ago, one’s own image, clear and individual, was an experience many people could only achieve when they gazed at a mirror of water. It is no coincidence that, while Balzac and Dickens were recovering all types of characters from anonymity, technology made mirrors affordable and photography emerged from laboratories. The need arose to recognize one’s self. Suddenly, presenting one’s self and surviving in an image was available to more people, as demonstrated by the business cards popularized by Disdéri in France and Victorian post-mortem photography.

Nonetheless, the concept of identity was gradually constructed and consolidated throughout the 20th century, from various fronts, accompanied by photography. Identity documents and passports, the evolution of cameras, the growing visual recognition and recording of minorities all led to the current possibility of determining for ourselves not so much who we are, but how we wish to be seen. A few years ago, students were typically asked: what do you want to be when you grow up? Today, with photography linked to social networks, many young persons are constantly reporting who they are, and do not have to wait for an uncertain definitive vision of themselves, which technology makes impossible. More and more people, in response to an environment that is changing at breakneck speed, must repeatedly adapt to an identity that assumes the shape of its opportunities, and benefits as much as possible from its learning capacity.

Where there is life, identity cannot be carved in stone. It has now become liquid and we will have increasing opportunities and challenges to guide its flow. Confronted with the risk of our own face slipping out of our hands in the immense torrent of memes, filters and recreations that enable the digital world and facilitate social networks, it is important to know how other persons have channeled their means of depicting themselves. There is an inexhaustible ocean of images for this topic, from which we have selected a small sample that enable us to explore this horizon. This phenomenon, and its most recent evolution, is such a vast sphere that it is barely possible to scratch the surface, but we wish to share this journey with you.

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.



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8717157387 7213690b55 o
Hiawatha Playfield wading pool, 1912. Don Sherwood Parks History Collection (Record Series 5801-01), Seattle Municipal Archives.

Until a few centuries ago, one’s own image, clear and individual, was an experience many people could only achieve when they gazed at a mirror of water. It is no coincidence that, while Balzac and Dickens were recovering all types of characters from anonymity, technology made mirrors affordable and photography emerged from laboratories. The need arose to recognize one’s self. Suddenly, presenting one’s self and surviving in an image was available to more people, as demonstrated by the business cards popularized by Disdéri in France and Victorian post-mortem photography.

Nonetheless, the concept of identity was gradually constructed and consolidated throughout the 20th century, from various fronts, accompanied by photography. Identity documents and passports, the evolution of cameras, the growing visual recognition and recording of minorities all led to the current possibility of determining for ourselves not so much who we are, but how we wish to be seen. A few years ago, students were typically asked: what do you want to be when you grow up? Today, with photography linked to social networks, many young persons are constantly reporting who they are, and do not have to wait for an uncertain definitive vision of themselves, which technology makes impossible. More and more people, in response to an environment that is changing at breakneck speed, must repeatedly adapt to an identity that assumes the shape of its opportunities, and benefits as much as possible from its learning capacity.

Where there is life, identity cannot be carved in stone. It has now become liquid and we will have increasing opportunities and challenges to guide its flow. Confronted with the risk of our own face slipping out of our hands in the immense torrent of memes, filters and recreations that enable the digital world and facilitate social networks, it is important to know how other persons have channeled their means of depicting themselves. There is an inexhaustible ocean of images for this topic, from which we have selected a small sample that enable us to explore this horizon. This phenomenon, and its most recent evolution, is such a vast sphere that it is barely possible to scratch the surface, but we wish to share this journey with you.

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.



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Panopticon

Xtabay Alderete

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01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 08 09 10

This project is based on the idea of the vigilant eye that threatens us to do no wrong. With this idea in mind, the author depicts her family environment, from conflicts to normal daily life, as if they were being monitored by a divine, human or mechanical being (God, spies or Big Brother). She presents these images from the point of view that each one of us is somehow controlled by a system, which reinforces the moral burden one feels when committing sins, crimes and mistakes.

The work presents daily life through images taken from different angles. With her handmade pinhole camera, the author establishes a certain feeling of omnipresence. She allows us to immerse ourselves in her experiences and the daily life between the walls of her home, giving the spectator a panoptic vision of her family as the so-called social unit of our times. Proving, in the end, that the society of the spectacle has encouraged a certain voyeurism through reality shows, which compel us to take sides and to judge the acts of the observed, and which puts us in the position of the divine being that tilts the scale of judgement towards the good or the bad.

We invite you to learn more about the preoccupations and the questionings of the author through this video.

AdrianaRaggiXtabay Alderete (Mexico, 1979). Lives and works in Mexico City. Graduated from the School of Visual Arts, UNAM, with a bachelor´s degree in Visual Arts. At present, she studies a master in Visual Arts at the Academy of San Carlos, UNAM. Her artistic work focuses primarily on photography. In 2013 she took part in the exhibition (Re)Presentations, Contemporary Latin-American Photography, organised by PHotoEspaña, Madrid. Currently, she intervenes in landscapes that contain memory, oblivion, death and devastation, using objects.
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01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 08 09 10

This project is based on the idea of the vigilant eye that threatens us to do no wrong. With this idea in mind, the author depicts her family environment, from conflicts to normal daily life, as if they were being monitored by a divine, human or mechanical being (God, spies or Big Brother). She presents these images from the point of view that each one of us is somehow controlled by a system, which reinforces the moral burden one feels when committing sins, crimes and mistakes.

The work presents daily life through images taken from different angles. With her handmade pinhole camera, the author establishes a certain feeling of omnipresence. She allows us to immerse ourselves in her experiences and the daily life between the walls of her home, giving the spectator a panoptic vision of her family as the so-called social unit of our times. Proving, in the end, that the society of the spectacle has encouraged a certain voyeurism through reality shows, which compel us to take sides and to judge the acts of the observed, and which puts us in the position of the divine being that tilts the scale of judgement towards the good or the bad.

We invite you to learn more about the preoccupations and the questionings of the author through this video.

AdrianaRaggiXtabay Alderete (Mexico, 1979). Lives and works in Mexico City. Graduated from the School of Visual Arts, UNAM, with a bachelor´s degree in Visual Arts. At present, she studies a master in Visual Arts at the Academy of San Carlos, UNAM. Her artistic work focuses primarily on photography. In 2013 she took part in the exhibition (Re)Presentations, Contemporary Latin-American Photography, organised by PHotoEspaña, Madrid. Currently, she intervenes in landscapes that contain memory, oblivion, death and devastation, using objects.
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Interview with Xtabay Alderete

ZoneZero

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Interview with Xtabay Alderete about her process of Panopticon series. Visit her gallery here.
July 2014 by ZoneZero.

AdrianaRaggiXtabay Alderete (Mexico, 1979). Lives and works in Mexico City. Graduated from the School of Visual Arts, UNAM, with a bachelor´s degree in Visual Arts. At present, she studies a master in Visual Arts at the Academy of San Carlos, UNAM. Her artistic work focuses primarily on photography. In 2013 she took part in the exhibition (Re)Presentations, Contemporary Latin-American Photography, organised by PHotoEspaña, Madrid. Currently, she intervenes in landscapes that contain memory, oblivion, death and devastation, using objects.
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Interview with Xtabay Alderete about her process of Panopticon series. Visit her gallery here.
July 2014 by ZoneZero.

AdrianaRaggiXtabay Alderete (Mexico, 1979). Lives and works in Mexico City. Graduated from the School of Visual Arts, UNAM, with a bachelor´s degree in Visual Arts. At present, she studies a master in Visual Arts at the Academy of San Carlos, UNAM. Her artistic work focuses primarily on photography. In 2013 she took part in the exhibition (Re)Presentations, Contemporary Latin-American Photography, organised by PHotoEspaña, Madrid. Currently, she intervenes in landscapes that contain memory, oblivion, death and devastation, using objects.
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Self-representation and mystery

Adriana Raggi

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Throughout the history of art, humans have persistently looked at themselves, leading us all to perceive ourselves in an image that is repeated ad nauseam, yet is at the same time entirely essential. During earlier periods of art, whose productions are assumed to be of particular clarity, the self-portrait existed as a form enabling the artist to stand before others and declare who they were. Today, a complex process is taking place and we can therefore not call it self-portraiture, but seek other names, the most common being self-representation.

1.

Regardless of how we refer to it, a moment occurs in representation in which the artist carries out a performative act, in which he sees himself, which entails identification with the spectator. This action involves questioning the audience, the artist and the medium employed. One specific example is the key moment in Cris Birrenbach’s work Identidade, when he destroys himself before the camera, before us, to show us that gender and beauty can be referred to both playfully and violently, and that gender is merely a social construct achieved through performance. We act it out and repeat it, and in the same vein Birrenbach carries out an action before us which involves removing his gender and putting it on. He adopts it, discards it and then takes it up again. We are his mirror. We see him in this process of destruction, and feel strongly attracted to the image of a practice that we have undergone without realizing.

Identidade by Cris Bierrenbach

2.

On the other side of the mirror is Nicola Costantino, in her work Unfinished Rhapsody. In this video-installation presented at the Venice Biennial and embroiled in political controversy – when the Argentinian government wished to give it its own ending1 Argentina’s collective memory to bring us an intimate Evita, who is Eva and yet Nicola. In this work, self-representation is a form of self-destruction and reconstruction of the image of herself and of a historical icon of modern Argentina. It is a mise en scène, a performative construction of the artist’s body within Evita’s body. Costantino uses technology to reconstruct, through scenography and video, the history of the appliance that Eva allegedly used to support her sick body during her last public appearance. This was an Eva striving to maintain an image of strength. Meanwhile, Nicola’s body reveals a wound and a mystery.

Unfinished Rhapsody by Nicola Costantino

3.

The mystery of Eva is encapsulated in the work Meshes of the Afternoon  by Maya Deren, in which the artist uses her image repeatedly, thus confronting us with episodes from our daily life and psyche and placing us in terrifyingly familiar spaces. Deren is pursuing a mysterious figure to find herself over and over again. The representations of Maya are ominous yet sumptuously beautiful. They remind us that we are only here for an instant.

Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren

Final

When Guillermo Gómez Peña looks at us in his video performance To Death (Second duel), he says: “I have a surprise for you”, and from that moment onwards a mise en scène begins that enables us to understand the performance. Several questions remain unanswered. He puts on his body, as do Bierrenbach, Costantino and Deren. Here, his body is a self-representation but also a teaching tool. In his hands he holds a gun, the most powerful of tools. He aims it at us and shows us directly what all the other works have subtly demonstrated . A performative self-representation comments on the human being itself, and confronts us with what we are and are not. When we see Deren looking at herself, Bierrenbach destroying himself through violence, Costantino constructing herself in the body of another person, and finally, Gómez Peña aiming a gun at us, we realize that we are viewing out own finitude and fragility. What we are and do is determined by time, by the wound of knowing that we are going to die, the fragility of flesh and the absurd captivity of social limitations. At that moment, we can see each and every one of us.

To Death by Guillermo Gómez Peña



AdrianaRaggiAdriana Raggi (Mexico, 1970). Lives and works in Mexico. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts at the National School of Plastic Arts and a Master’s degree and Doctorate in Art History at the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature, UNAM. She also followed the program Photo Narrative and New Media at the Pedro Meyer Foundation. She is professor at the National School of Plastic Arts and a member of the collective Las Disidentes. She has exhibited her work in Mexico and the United States, and also participated in more than twenty collective exhibitions. To see more of her work go to: www.adrianaraggi.net

 

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Throughout the history of art, humans have persistently looked at themselves, leading us all to perceive ourselves in an image that is repeated ad nauseam, yet is at the same time entirely essential. During earlier periods of art, whose productions are assumed to be of particular clarity, the self-portrait existed as a form enabling the artist to stand before others and declare who they were. Today, a complex process is taking place and we can therefore not call it self-portraiture, but seek other names, the most common being self-representation.

1.

Regardless of how we refer to it, a moment occurs in representation in which the artist carries out a performative act, in which he sees himself, which entails identification with the spectator. This action involves questioning the audience, the artist and the medium employed. One specific example is the key moment in Cris Birrenbach’s work Identidade, when he destroys himself before the camera, before us, to show us that gender and beauty can be referred to both playfully and violently, and that gender is merely a social construct achieved through performance. We act it out and repeat it, and in the same vein Birrenbach carries out an action before us which involves removing his gender and putting it on. He adopts it, discards it and then takes it up again. We are his mirror. We see him in this process of destruction, and feel strongly attracted to the image of a practice that we have undergone without realizing.

Identidade by Cris Bierrenbach

2.

On the other side of the mirror is Nicola Costantino, in her work Unfinished Rhapsody. In this video-installation presented at the Venice Biennial and embroiled in political controversy – when the Argentinian government wished to give it its own ending1 Argentina’s collective memory to bring us an intimate Evita, who is Eva and yet Nicola. In this work, self-representation is a form of self-destruction and reconstruction of the image of herself and of a historical icon of modern Argentina. It is a mise en scène, a performative construction of the artist’s body within Evita’s body. Costantino uses technology to reconstruct, through scenography and video, the history of the appliance that Eva allegedly used to support her sick body during her last public appearance. This was an Eva striving to maintain an image of strength. Meanwhile, Nicola’s body reveals a wound and a mystery.

Unfinished Rhapsody by Nicola Costantino

3.

The mystery of Eva is encapsulated in the work Meshes of the Afternoon  by Maya Deren, in which the artist uses her image repeatedly, thus confronting us with episodes from our daily life and psyche and placing us in terrifyingly familiar spaces. Deren is pursuing a mysterious figure to find herself over and over again. The representations of Maya are ominous yet sumptuously beautiful. They remind us that we are only here for an instant.

Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren

Final

When Guillermo Gómez Peña looks at us in his video performance To Death (Second duel), he says: “I have a surprise for you”, and from that moment onwards a mise en scène begins that enables us to understand the performance. Several questions remain unanswered. He puts on his body, as do Bierrenbach, Costantino and Deren. Here, his body is a self-representation but also a teaching tool. In his hands he holds a gun, the most powerful of tools. He aims it at us and shows us directly what all the other works have subtly demonstrated . A performative self-representation comments on the human being itself, and confronts us with what we are and are not. When we see Deren looking at herself, Bierrenbach destroying himself through violence, Costantino constructing herself in the body of another person, and finally, Gómez Peña aiming a gun at us, we realize that we are viewing out own finitude and fragility. What we are and do is determined by time, by the wound of knowing that we are going to die, the fragility of flesh and the absurd captivity of social limitations. At that moment, we can see each and every one of us.

To Death by Guillermo Gómez Peña



AdrianaRaggiAdriana Raggi (Mexico, 1970). Lives and works in Mexico. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts at the National School of Plastic Arts and a Master’s degree and Doctorate in Art History at the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature, UNAM. She also followed the program Photo Narrative and New Media at the Pedro Meyer Foundation. She is professor at the National School of Plastic Arts and a member of the collective Las Disidentes. She has exhibited her work in Mexico and the United States, and also participated in more than twenty collective exhibitions. To see more of her work go to: www.adrianaraggi.net

 

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Instant, infinity and movement

Melissa Valenzuela y Ehekatl Hernández

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Photography has modified not only its devices for recording images but also its range of subjects and of course its means of dissemination. Traditional media such as paper and books were taken over a long time ago by their digital counterparts, which enable thousands of images to be shared on the Internet and mobile devices every day. As time went by and technology evolved, graphic formats emerged with a distinct advantage in terms of image quality, the use of animations and the layer of interaction. Many of these, such as Flash technology, were at first innovative and widely used, but rapidly replaced.

In this context, one of the formats that has existed alongside the Web since its inception, and remains popular, is GIF (Graphic Interchange Format), a form of technology developed in 1987 by the company CompuServe. Long before screen and monitor resolution brought viewers thousands or even millions of colors with sophisticated compression algorithms, such as JPGs or PNGs, the GIF already enabled graphics of a maximum of 256 colors to be inserted. A few years later, an improvement allowed more than one graph to be incorporated sequentially, and for the first time modest animations could be created on the emerging Web, with low weight and rapid display without extra plug-in. And so the ANIMATED GIF was born.


phena head bash HQ

Other formats have gradually fallen into disuse because of incompatibility with new devices, their high processing requirements for proper display and visualization, or their reliance on complex tools to add animation and interactivity. Meanwhile, the GIF has continued to function, thanks to its flexibility and compatibility with many different systems, browsers and even mobile devices. As a result, it has been widely used recently, and is no longer limited to publicists and marketers.

In this context, and as part of the current trend towards immediacy, GIF has established itself as an interesting tool for visual expression and experimentation, because of its particular technical, communicative and expressive qualities. Indeed, ANIMATED GIFs enable users to create authentic moving photographs that record short, repetitive actions. Reproduction in a loop (infinite repetition) emphasizes the idea of the redundancy of the moment, and consequently the instant grows, completes the action and highlights it. Time is no longer suspended for eternity, but is now redundant. This is the case of the so-called “Cinemagraph”, a variation of the animated GIF in which movement is restricted to an area or specific element of the shot. GIFs do not attempt to freeze the instant and instead insist on it, expressing itself time and time again in the image.

cinemagraph-gifs-leon-the-professional   

This narrows the gap between photography, cinema and video. These frames in movement allude to the first cinematographic films by the Lumière brothers, which captured instants of an action and reproduced the sequence to emulate movement. Unlike that era, viewers are currently not only accustomed to images but oversaturated with them. Observation is no longer guided by surprise, but by identification with an instant that is indefinitely prolonged.

melies-131-gif  tumblr mly5nhDL9M1rwe5aro1 250  tumblr m0l9f3fa4o1qg6rkio1 500

In contrast with the visual quality of cinema and photography, ANIMATED GIFs remind us of the texture of the first video cameras, a pastel-colored, poor quality image lacking depth. Cinema and photography maintain a certain expressive and visual independence from video and GIF. Those media refer to different concepts, as they have varied methods of dissemination and a different form of interaction with the viewer. They establish a relationship with an active spectator who repeatedly gives meaning to the image, reconstructing and reinterpreting in accordance with various factors that range from perception and the relation of each person to time, to external factors such as interface and the device supporting the image.

tumblr ljzitm3qHY1qzkq51o1 r1 500 

And yet, the contents manipulated by GIFs often draw on images extracted specifically from photographs, films or videos, and treated to emphasize a concrete action or some elements in movement. GIF narratives are ephemeral but reiterative, describing the instant and action, delving into content and the capacity for seduction and transmitting ideas and feelings. Indeed, action in movement is always the backbone of a visual construction charged with meanings.

Not surprisingly, this digital format is currently being explored by visual artists and photographers, to produce images in movement as an alternative to the formulas of cinema, video or animation shots. Though it may seem complex to understand the spectrum in which the ANIMATED GIF exists, the format has transformed its limited scope in the use of time into its greatest asset, with extensive expressive and conceptual possibilities. It also provides guidelines to redefine the notions and concepts, even at a theoretical level, involved in the constant evolution of photography, which will certainly not be the same in years to come.

 

Giuseppe Lo Schiavo  urbano  bill-429

 

 

Melissa ValenzuelaMelissa Valenzuela (Colombia, 1982). Lives and works in Mexico City. She holds a Masters’ Degree in Visual Arts from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Pláticas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and studied Audiovisual Communication at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá. Valenzuela is an artist, and her work consists of self-portraits and recollections that address various nuances of perception, representation and memory. She also works in curatorship and education to integrate her artistic and research work..
 
Ehekatl HernándezEhekatl Hernández (México, 1975).received a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas at UNAM in Mexico, and a Master’s Degree in Multimedia Applications from the Universidad Poltécnica de Catalunya in Spain. He has over 15 years’ experience in graphic design and planning, developing and implementing web projects. Hernández has given diploma courses in web design at UNAM. He has spent nine years contributing to the web design and multimedia area at zonezero.com, and also works as a consultant for various companies as well as coordinating the e-learning system of the Virtual Campus of the Pedro Meyer Foundation.
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Photography has modified not only its devices for recording images but also its range of subjects and of course its means of dissemination. Traditional media such as paper and books were taken over a long time ago by their digital counterparts, which enable thousands of images to be shared on the Internet and mobile devices every day. As time went by and technology evolved, graphic formats emerged with a distinct advantage in terms of image quality, the use of animations and the layer of interaction. Many of these, such as Flash technology, were at first innovative and widely used, but rapidly replaced.

In this context, one of the formats that has existed alongside the Web since its inception, and remains popular, is GIF (Graphic Interchange Format), a form of technology developed in 1987 by the company CompuServe. Long before screen and monitor resolution brought viewers thousands or even millions of colors with sophisticated compression algorithms, such as JPGs or PNGs, the GIF already enabled graphics of a maximum of 256 colors to be inserted. A few years later, an improvement allowed more than one graph to be incorporated sequentially, and for the first time modest animations could be created on the emerging Web, with low weight and rapid display without extra plug-in. And so the ANIMATED GIF was born.


phena head bash HQ

Other formats have gradually fallen into disuse because of incompatibility with new devices, their high processing requirements for proper display and visualization, or their reliance on complex tools to add animation and interactivity. Meanwhile, the GIF has continued to function, thanks to its flexibility and compatibility with many different systems, browsers and even mobile devices. As a result, it has been widely used recently, and is no longer limited to publicists and marketers.

In this context, and as part of the current trend towards immediacy, GIF has established itself as an interesting tool for visual expression and experimentation, because of its particular technical, communicative and expressive qualities. Indeed, ANIMATED GIFs enable users to create authentic moving photographs that record short, repetitive actions. Reproduction in a loop (infinite repetition) emphasizes the idea of the redundancy of the moment, and consequently the instant grows, completes the action and highlights it. Time is no longer suspended for eternity, but is now redundant. This is the case of the so-called “Cinemagraph”, a variation of the animated GIF in which movement is restricted to an area or specific element of the shot. GIFs do not attempt to freeze the instant and instead insist on it, expressing itself time and time again in the image.

cinemagraph-gifs-leon-the-professional   

This narrows the gap between photography, cinema and video. These frames in movement allude to the first cinematographic films by the Lumière brothers, which captured instants of an action and reproduced the sequence to emulate movement. Unlike that era, viewers are currently not only accustomed to images but oversaturated with them. Observation is no longer guided by surprise, but by identification with an instant that is indefinitely prolonged.

melies-131-gif  tumblr mly5nhDL9M1rwe5aro1 250  tumblr m0l9f3fa4o1qg6rkio1 500

In contrast with the visual quality of cinema and photography, ANIMATED GIFs remind us of the texture of the first video cameras, a pastel-colored, poor quality image lacking depth. Cinema and photography maintain a certain expressive and visual independence from video and GIF. Those media refer to different concepts, as they have varied methods of dissemination and a different form of interaction with the viewer. They establish a relationship with an active spectator who repeatedly gives meaning to the image, reconstructing and reinterpreting in accordance with various factors that range from perception and the relation of each person to time, to external factors such as interface and the device supporting the image.

tumblr ljzitm3qHY1qzkq51o1 r1 500 

And yet, the contents manipulated by GIFs often draw on images extracted specifically from photographs, films or videos, and treated to emphasize a concrete action or some elements in movement. GIF narratives are ephemeral but reiterative, describing the instant and action, delving into content and the capacity for seduction and transmitting ideas and feelings. Indeed, action in movement is always the backbone of a visual construction charged with meanings.

Not surprisingly, this digital format is currently being explored by visual artists and photographers, to produce images in movement as an alternative to the formulas of cinema, video or animation shots. Though it may seem complex to understand the spectrum in which the ANIMATED GIF exists, the format has transformed its limited scope in the use of time into its greatest asset, with extensive expressive and conceptual possibilities. It also provides guidelines to redefine the notions and concepts, even at a theoretical level, involved in the constant evolution of photography, which will certainly not be the same in years to come.

 

Giuseppe Lo Schiavo  urbano  bill-429

 

 

Melissa ValenzuelaMelissa Valenzuela (Colombia, 1982). Lives and works in Mexico City. She holds a Masters’ Degree in Visual Arts from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Pláticas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and studied Audiovisual Communication at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá. Valenzuela is an artist, and her work consists of self-portraits and recollections that address various nuances of perception, representation and memory. She also works in curatorship and education to integrate her artistic and research work..
 
Ehekatl HernándezEhekatl Hernández (México, 1975).received a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas at UNAM in Mexico, and a Master’s Degree in Multimedia Applications from the Universidad Poltécnica de Catalunya in Spain. He has over 15 years’ experience in graphic design and planning, developing and implementing web projects. Hernández has given diploma courses in web design at UNAM. He has spent nine years contributing to the web design and multimedia area at zonezero.com, and also works as a consultant for various companies as well as coordinating the e-learning system of the Virtual Campus of the Pedro Meyer Foundation.
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About definitions

Pedro Meyer

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meyer cel
Pedro Meyer, 2011

The current proliferation of the photographic image is the result of two parallel situations. Firstly, human beings are primarily visual beings, and secondly, we feel the need to tell stories.

The tools to record images permanently are developing in a new and different way, as each click of the shutter is free of cost and can be shared immediately, unconstrained by geographical boundaries. They thus break previous paradigms.

Just as the advent of the printing press transferred the power of reading and writing from a few select monks to the masses, nowadays photography is not only produced by an exclusive group of “image monks" but by a mass of people with a story to share.

There is a very vocal point of view that “we are not all photographers”, expressed as vehemently as the monks would defend their profession of scribes and illustrators of handmade books against those mass-produced by movable type presses. It is clear who triumphed in this debate, and though there are still cases of books being made by hand, history has favored printed books.

There will certainly always be photographers with specific skills and techniques beyond the reach of the mass of “photographers of the people.” The former are concerned that professionals are referred to by the same name as a layman. 

We are facing an issue of identity, not photography. "Photography is no longer what it used to be” – the slogan of my Foundation – encapsulates the idea that we need to review what we call things to understand them better. It therefore appears that in the first instance we understand things by defining them.

Pedro MeyerPedro Meyer (Mexico, 1935). Lives and works in Mexico. He is a photographer and the creator of the ZoneZero portal. The founder and president of the Photography Council, he organized the first three Latin American Conferences on Photography and produced the first CD-ROM with sound and images, I Photograph to Remember. He simultaneously exhibited Heresies, a retrospective of his work in over 60 museums and galleries throughout the world. In 2007, he established the Fundación Pedro Meyer, and in 2014 he inaugurated the FotoMuseo Cuatro Caminos.
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meyer cel
Pedro Meyer, 2011

The current proliferation of the photographic image is the result of two parallel situations. Firstly, human beings are primarily visual beings, and secondly, we feel the need to tell stories.

The tools to record images permanently are developing in a new and different way, as each click of the shutter is free of cost and can be shared immediately, unconstrained by geographical boundaries. They thus break previous paradigms.

Just as the advent of the printing press transferred the power of reading and writing from a few select monks to the masses, nowadays photography is not only produced by an exclusive group of “image monks" but by a mass of people with a story to share.

There is a very vocal point of view that “we are not all photographers”, expressed as vehemently as the monks would defend their profession of scribes and illustrators of handmade books against those mass-produced by movable type presses. It is clear who triumphed in this debate, and though there are still cases of books being made by hand, history has favored printed books.

There will certainly always be photographers with specific skills and techniques beyond the reach of the mass of “photographers of the people.” The former are concerned that professionals are referred to by the same name as a layman. 

We are facing an issue of identity, not photography. "Photography is no longer what it used to be” – the slogan of my Foundation – encapsulates the idea that we need to review what we call things to understand them better. It therefore appears that in the first instance we understand things by defining them.

Pedro MeyerPedro Meyer (Mexico, 1935). Lives and works in Mexico. He is a photographer and the creator of the ZoneZero portal. The founder and president of the Photography Council, he organized the first three Latin American Conferences on Photography and produced the first CD-ROM with sound and images, I Photograph to Remember. He simultaneously exhibited Heresies, a retrospective of his work in over 60 museums and galleries throughout the world. In 2007, he established the Fundación Pedro Meyer, and in 2014 he inaugurated the FotoMuseo Cuatro Caminos.
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ZoneZero 3.0 and Photographic Convergence

Alejandro Malo

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meyer manifisto
Photo: Pedro Meyer, 1985

ZoneZero is, and has always been, a space for dialogue, with photography as a starting point and a subject. Today more than ever, the image has become the raw material of conversations worldwide, beyond any geographical, cultural, ideological or language barriers. Technological progress has enabled anyone with a photographic device to become a potential photographer. Thanks to the incredible abundance of images and the ease with which they can be exchanged, photographic projects can be produced without ever having touched a camera. In this context, the first task of our publishing team is to ask ourselves again, as many others have done, from which point should one speak from and about photography? Moreover, more urgently, what role can and should a space like ZoneZero have?

Half the answer comes from a fait accompli: The first version of ZoneZero fulfilled its role of accompanying photography’s transition “from analogue to digital.” These events not only confirmed its hypothesis but also exceeded all expectations in terms of the speed and scope of this transformation. Since the ZoneZero project was incorporated into the wider context of the Pedro Meyer Foundation in 2009, the decision was made to recognize this in its second version, and a growing trend was observed in the consumption of images “from the light screen.” However, within a few years, reality reasserted itself and it became clear that this was only one element in a new revolution in the photographic sphere. ZoneZero’s role as a privileged witness and promoter of the crossroads between photography and technology lost relevance in the face of unprecedented and rapid change. Indeed, five years ago no-one could have predicted the profound impact of the rise of mobile devices.

Today, ZoneZero is being reinvented in a third version, with a new role, modus operandi and opportunities. As part of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, we are committed to education, which we perceive as the collective development of knowledge with a practical application. In the current context, our role must be to encourage ongoing reflection on the evolution of photography. Our scope must be that of an inclusive but structured conversation. Faced with an avalanche of similar images, we seek to present our selections in context and provide a greater understanding of the processes that trigger new creative possibilities or have a greater social impact. In line with the medium and experience with which we begin, we aspire to have a worldwide reach and cultivate as wide networks as possible. To achieve this, we will explore various formats for distributing content and invite persons to collaborate in the dissemination or production of material that contributes to cultural exchange. Our publication aims to demonstrate coherence with these ideas in each piece presented.

Lastly, the other half of our response to these questions is more complex. Our initial reflections led us to conclude that the concept of expanded photography encapsulated many of the phenomena we thought deserved attention. The idea that the photographic has exceeded its own medium is encouraging for those who work in the field…but that is only half of the story. Cinema, theater, literature, social networks and many other media have also spread beyond their boundaries, moving towards photography. In reality, under a more reflexive analysis, it is not one media in particular that is expanding, but a process of convergence driven by technology that increasingly dilutes borders. What we could call photographic convergence is only a broader encounter towards which all persons working with the media are advancing. Though this meeting, in which all media, geographies, uses and social practices come together, we can carry out the thousands of tasks made possible by the future of visual culture. There is much to be done and a great deal to be learnt. We invite you to begin this with us.

 

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

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meyer manifisto
Photo: Pedro Meyer, 1985

ZoneZero is, and has always been, a space for dialogue, with photography as a starting point and a subject. Today more than ever, the image has become the raw material of conversations worldwide, beyond any geographical, cultural, ideological or language barriers. Technological progress has enabled anyone with a photographic device to become a potential photographer. Thanks to the incredible abundance of images and the ease with which they can be exchanged, photographic projects can be produced without ever having touched a camera. In this context, the first task of our publishing team is to ask ourselves again, as many others have done, from which point should one speak from and about photography? Moreover, more urgently, what role can and should a space like ZoneZero have?

Half the answer comes from a fait accompli: The first version of ZoneZero fulfilled its role of accompanying photography’s transition “from analogue to digital.” These events not only confirmed its hypothesis but also exceeded all expectations in terms of the speed and scope of this transformation. Since the ZoneZero project was incorporated into the wider context of the Pedro Meyer Foundation in 2009, the decision was made to recognize this in its second version, and a growing trend was observed in the consumption of images “from the light screen.” However, within a few years, reality reasserted itself and it became clear that this was only one element in a new revolution in the photographic sphere. ZoneZero’s role as a privileged witness and promoter of the crossroads between photography and technology lost relevance in the face of unprecedented and rapid change. Indeed, five years ago no-one could have predicted the profound impact of the rise of mobile devices.

Today, ZoneZero is being reinvented in a third version, with a new role, modus operandi and opportunities. As part of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, we are committed to education, which we perceive as the collective development of knowledge with a practical application. In the current context, our role must be to encourage ongoing reflection on the evolution of photography. Our scope must be that of an inclusive but structured conversation. Faced with an avalanche of similar images, we seek to present our selections in context and provide a greater understanding of the processes that trigger new creative possibilities or have a greater social impact. In line with the medium and experience with which we begin, we aspire to have a worldwide reach and cultivate as wide networks as possible. To achieve this, we will explore various formats for distributing content and invite persons to collaborate in the dissemination or production of material that contributes to cultural exchange. Our publication aims to demonstrate coherence with these ideas in each piece presented.

Lastly, the other half of our response to these questions is more complex. Our initial reflections led us to conclude that the concept of expanded photography encapsulated many of the phenomena we thought deserved attention. The idea that the photographic has exceeded its own medium is encouraging for those who work in the field…but that is only half of the story. Cinema, theater, literature, social networks and many other media have also spread beyond their boundaries, moving towards photography. In reality, under a more reflexive analysis, it is not one media in particular that is expanding, but a process of convergence driven by technology that increasingly dilutes borders. What we could call photographic convergence is only a broader encounter towards which all persons working with the media are advancing. Though this meeting, in which all media, geographies, uses and social practices come together, we can carry out the thousands of tasks made possible by the future of visual culture. There is much to be done and a great deal to be learnt. We invite you to begin this with us.

 

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

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