Category Archives: Review / Text

10 remarkable African Photographers (Repost from PHmuseum)

Even if we are already halfway through the year, this article posted on May 25th at PHmuseum was called “10 African Photographers to Watch in 2020”.

So what? Let’s repost it anyways, because the timing could not be better …


On the occasion of Africa Day, we asked Africa is a Country‘s contributor Drew Thompson to highlight 10 artists from the continent we should follow and support this year.

Founded by Sean Jacobs in 2009, Africa is a Country is a site of opinion, analysis, and new writing started as an outlet to challenge the received media wisdom about Africa. Drew Thompson is the photography section contributor of the platform and Africana Studies Director at Bard College, read his words to discover more about the selected photographers and their practice.

Mónica de Miranda

Working between Portugal and parts of Portuguese-speaking West and Central Africa, the Lisbon-based artist uses photography and video installations to model and interrogate the complex historical and architectural spaces that the descendants of formerly colonizing and colonized populations in Africa and the Diaspora occupy. Through a combination of storytelling and reenactment, she introduces still and moving images that allow for a visualization of the transmission of history along with the forms of looking at self and others that mark documented spaces.

Fatma Fahmy

Currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa at the famed Market Photo Workshop, the Egyptian photographer uses a highly-trafficked tram in Alexandria as her photographic backdrop. In ways strikingly similar to the late South African photographer Santu Mofokeng’s 1986 series “Train Church,” she photographs the intimate spatial and personal relationships commuters enter in order to travel. Seemingly invisible to her sitters, she looks outside and through the tram’s windows, giving form to passengers’ stolen glances, unsaid thoughts, and the conversations overheard. Here, daily life is about onetime moments of escape and reprieve.

Rahima Gambo

How do you photographically tell the story of Nigerian female students who have been kidnapped by armed militias, and leave behind no visual trace. How do you photograph daily life within a space characterized by such violence? Elements of disappearance and recovery characterize the creative process of Rahima Gambo whose multi-media installation “A Walk” involves sculptures, collages, and still photographs. Drawings that resemble tree branches and plant stems provide new lines of sight by uniting and separating the torn photographs, thereby reinforcing the imaginative meanings mapped onto photographs and the memories that photographs impart.

Eric Gyamfi

Eric Gyamfi adamantly resists the notion that he photographs marginalized LGBT+ groups in Ghana. Instead, his photographs embrace and showcase highly-stigmatized and misrepresented aspects of sexuality and create a much-needed archive of people whose daily lives are cast to the shadows of history. His most recent work involves the layering of two photographs, one of himself and the other of the American composer Julius Eastman, and considers how the look and form of photographs change over time.

Thembinkosi Hlatshwayo

The childhood memory of seeing a dead body profoundly marked the South African photographer who grew up in shebeens, an informal social establishment. He disassembles and reassembles the photographic surface first by re-photographing elements of printed images, and by marking prints in obscuring and defacing ways. Aspects of his body appear intermittently throughout the series, thereby problematizing notions of self-portraiture. In the process, he mobilizes photography as a tool of healing and references personalized and fragmented histories of trauma and violence.

Delio Jasse

Born in Angola and having lived in Portugal without the privilege of citizenship, Jasse creates photographic archives out of largely found images with the aim of questioning the place of black populations in white settler rule. His experimentation with film printing processes and screen printing expose the gaze of colonizing populations and the normalizing effects of the images they viewed. His latest collages highlight the tensions between histories of colonization and independence in Congo’s Katanga province.

Gosette Lubondo

Photography is intensely personal for Lubondo whose father was a photographer. Coming off her participation at the 2019 Lumumbashi Biennale, she stages her own historical memories as well as those of the people of Congo. In “Imaginary Trips” (2016), she recreates the journeys of people and the activities they performed in specific spaces, like train cars and classrooms. Lubondo actively photographs herself as a participant in these explorations of Congo’s history, and, in doing so, offers a fresh and enlightening perspective on the moments of disappearance that are formative to the making of historical memories.

Barbara Minishi

Far too often, fashion photography is an underrecognized genre in African photography. Barbara Minishi takes her cues from carefully constructed sets in order to showcase her clients’ rich sartorial designs. Her deftness at photographing her sitters from striking angles under stark lighting makes fiction become reality. The stories she tells through her colorful pictures are playful and mystical.

Abdo Shanan

Exile is a condition in which a person is separated, or broken apart, from a place, and Shanan’s series “Exile” involves trying to catch glimpses of circumstances and possible feelings of exile in Algeria. While sentiments of alienation and displacement can be intensely felt, we cannot see how they appear in the moment; Shanan explores this concept. By picturing scenes people deem unworthy of photographing or are not in a position to photograph themselves, notions of belonging appear ambiguous and unclear.

Aida Silvestri

In her early body of work “Even this will pass” (2013), Silvestri focused on the experiences of Eritrean migrants to Great Britain. Rather than showing the faces of her sitters, she blurs their images and maps the routes they travelled through dots and lines. Almost in complete opposition to the fear many of her sitters confront with being photographed, in the recurring series “the Black History Month” (2018 and 2019), Silvestri presents an untitled and collective portrait of black existence—the often undepicted side of migration that exposes the identities not afforded to black migrants by nationality or citizenship alone.

Drew Thompson is a contributor at AIAC and serves as an Assistant Professor and Director of Africana Studies at Bard College. He recently authored, Filtering Histories: The Photographic Bureaucracy in Mozambique, 1960 to Recent Times (University of Michigan Press, 2021), and is currently at work on a book about the history of the Polaroid in Africa.

This article is part of the work PHmuseum have started in the last few years to support and promote photographers from the African continent. A work that has included initiative as the Prize in collaboration with African Artists’ Foundation or the online exhibition in partnership with MFON.

Photobook Conference. Call for Papers. Deadline: Nov 15, 2018

CFP: The Photobook (Oxford, 14-16 Mar 19)

Maison Française d’Oxford, March 14 – 16, 2019
Deadline: Nov 15, 2018

Maison Française d’Oxford 2019 Photobook Conference :

The British, American and French Photobook:
Commitment, Memory, Materiality and the Art Market (1900-2019)

A conference to be held at the Maison Française, Oxford
Thursday 14 to Saturday 16 March 2019

The Maison Française conference committee invites proposals on the social history of the British, American or French photobook from 1900 to the present. Papers will address: commitment or explicit political engagement; memory, commemoration and the writing of history; materiality (whether real or virtual), and how material form affects circulation, handling, critical responses and the social life of the photobook. We invite contributors to analyse these topics with respect to the growth of the market for the photobook as a commodity and an object of bibliophilic attention. Proposals focusing on contemporary productions are particularly welcome.

Recent illustrated anthologies in the vein of The Photobook: A History (Gerry Badger and Martin Parr, 2004, 2006, 2014) have established three things: firstly, the photobook-photographer is an editor and an author, or auteur (in the cinematographic sense, but applied to “directing” the production of a book); secondly, the photobook is an autonomous work of art, and a collectible object of connoisseurship; thirdly, the photobook “art world” now exists and can be studied.

This conference will concern itself with the social history of the photobook, whether photographer-driven, writer-driven, editor-driven, or publisher-driven. For the purposes of this conference, the definition of the photobook will be extended to include all photographically illustrated books, regardless of subject matter or the proportion of text to image, or indeed whether or not the images are “illustrative” in the strict sense of the word.

Three major questions arise concerning the photobook as a medium:
• Firstly, what place is there for literary fiction or imaginative picture-making in photobooks committed to documentary truth-telling or historical accuracy? In a word, how do fact and fiction, objectivity and subjectivity, cohere?
• Secondly, to what extent does the self-fashioning of the photographer in the art market interfere with the narrative meaning of a photobook? What is the influence of the art market on the photobook or on the writing of photobook histories? And how has the art market for photobooks changed since the bibliophilic creations of the early twentieth century?
• Thirdly, unlike individual prints that become unmoored without their captions, and which can be appropriated and re-used against themselves, can a photo-text shore itself up against appropriation? Is it a privileged pedagogical medium? A self-sufficient medium? This leads to a related question: how have certain photobooks changed with time? How have famous or reprinted photobooks been differently interpreted by different audiences? What has been the afterlife of politically committed photobooks? How, and in what circumstances, have certain photobooks contributed to writing or re-writing local memory or “collective memory”, at the time of their publication and over time?

To answer these questions, specialists in the history of photography, book studies and visual studies are invited to dialogue with researchers in such disciplines as sociology, anthropology, critical race theory, queer theory, gender studies, post-colonial studies and comparative literature. Papers may be disciplinary or multidisciplinary.

Papers shall be given in English.
Proposals are due by 15 November 2018.
Send 300-word abstracts (as an email attachment in Microsoft Word format, RTF, or PDF) along with a one-page CV to

Roundtable sessions of 60 to 90 minutes may be proposed. They should be pre-organised, and include 3 to 5 panellists. To propose a roundtable, the discussion moderator will send a single 300-word abstract describing the chosen topic, as well as supplying the full details of each panellist, namely their contact information (email and phone number), affiliation and a one-page CV for each. Please be sure to confirm the participation of all panellists before submitting an abstract.
Roundtable proposals are due by 15 November 2018.

Confirmation of acceptance will be sent by 15 January 2019.
One-page/500-word abstracts must be sent by 15 February 2019.

Conference venue :
Maison Française d’Oxford
2-10 Norham Road
Oxford OX2 6SE

Paul Edwards (MFO, CNRS/LARCA, Université Paris Diderot)

Conference website :

Bibliography (selection)
AUER M. et M. (2007), Photo Books from the M+M Auer Collection, Hermance, Editions M+M.
BOOM Mattie and SUERMONDT Rik (1989), Photography between Covers: The Dutch Documentary Photobook after 1945, Amsterdam, Fragment Uitgeverij.
BOUQUERET Christian (2012), Paris. Les livres de photographies des années 1920 aux années 1950, Paris, Gründ.
DI BELLO Patrizia, WILSON Colette and ZAMIR Shamoon (eds) (2012), The Photobook: from Talbot to Ruscha and beyond, New York, I.B. Tauris.
EDWARDS Elizabeth and HART Janice (eds) (2004), Photographs Objects Histories: on the Materiality of Images, London, Routledge.
EDWARDS Paul (2016), Perle noire. Le photobook littéraire, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes.
FERNÁNDEZ Horacio (2011), The Latin American Photobook, New York, Aperture.
FERNÁNDEZ Horacio (2014), Photobooks Spain 1905-1977, Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía/RM/Acción Cultural Española.
FERNÁNDEZ Horacio (2017), New York in Photobooks, Barcelona, Editorial RM/Centro José Guerrero.
GIERSTBERG Frits and SUERMONDT Rik (2012), The Dutch Photobook, New York, Aperture.
KANEKO Ryuichi and VARTANIAN Ivan (2009), Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and 70s, New York, Aperture.
KARASIK Mikhail and Heiting Manfred (2015), The Soviet Photobook 1920-1941, Göttingen, Steidl.
MEIZEL Laureline (2018), “Inventer le livre illustré par la photographie en France 1876-1897”, DPhil, Paris I University.
NEUMÜLLER Moritz and MARTIN Lesley A. (eds) (2017), Photobook Phenomenon, Barcelona, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona/Fundació Foto Colectania/RM Editores.
PARR Martin and BADGER Gerry (2004, 2006, 2014), The Photobook: A History, 3 vols., London, Phaidon.
PARR Martin and WASSINKLUNDGREN (2016) : The Chinese Photobook: from the 1900s to the Present, New York, Aperture.
PFRUNDER Peter (2011), Swiss Photobooks from 1927 to the Present, Zurich, Lars Muller Publishers.
RITCHIN Fred and NAGGAR Carole (2016), Magnum Photobook, London, Phaidon.
ROTH Andrew (2001), The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century, New York, PPP Editions/Roth Horowitz.
ROTH Andrew (ed.) (2004), The Open Book: A history of the photographic book from 1878 to the present, Gothenburg, Hasselblad Center.

AC/E Digital Culture Annual Report for Download

Interested in digital trends in the arts? 3D-Printing? Neuroscience
applied to technology? Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and
Big Data applied to culture, and the use of digital technology in music. Then download Acción Cultural Española’s fourth edition of the AC/E Digital Culture Annual Report.  It follows an editorial policy of familiarising professionals of the culture sector with the main digital trends they need to be aware of over the coming years.


Why The Tate Gallery is right to put on a queer art exhibition: Issues in justifying queer art, by Jonathon Austin

This is a repost of Jonathon Austin’s thesis, for the Master in Art Studies: Museum and Curatorial Studies, at the University of Porto, Faculty of Fine Arts. Thank you for sharing your point of view with us, Jonathon.


Why The Tate Gallery is right to put on a queer art exhibition.

Issues in justifying queer art
by Jonathon Austin


Queer curating can be thought of as an attempt to dismantle heterosexist and normative concepts of society in contemporaneity embodied by the art museum. This means taking into consideration Art History’s discourse but also how history is being defined by values of present times. Sexual and gender dissidence is not usually taken into account in Art History as art and culture institutions remain rather conservative on the topic. One could even go to the length of saying one could attend a museum exhibition about Andy Warhol without learning about his sexuality. One could also claim that it is one irrelevant piece of information. Is identity irrelevant to the production of art? Are not sexual and gender identity part of one’s self construct? What or who determines its relevance to the production of art to the point of eliminating it from the historical discourse? Given the apparent irrelevance why does this seem to call forth a clash between outrage for censorship measures and free expression in a discussion still kept alive to this day? Queer art attempts to make the point that an alternative history can be told because Art History is generally uninterested in its issues. This is not to say that queer is the only account to be told in history’s discourse but it’s an account that has not been told for institutions keep choosing to maintain it that way. This paper finds its justification on the premise that a queer perspective is inviting to think of the multiple worlds in which art is produced and enjoyed and the difference of artistic expression in private and public forms. This paper is titled with the exact opposite premise of a famous newspaper article intended to perpass a queer art exhibition by The Tate Gallery as wrong and unnecessary. The arguments used here are made in an attempt to contradict the aforementioned article’s arguments while several past queer art exhibitions are brought up as support evidence to justify them.


Keywords: queer curatorship; Queer Theory; art; LGBTQI+



Following the celebration of half a century upon the decriminalization of male homosexuality in England, The Tate Gallery has announced its first LGBTQ-related British art exhibition with artworks ranging from 1867 to 1967. The Tate has given good grounds for the public to expect an exhibition where it will be possible to explore art from a century marked by the evolution of the concepts of gender and sexuality. From political to erotic themes, the artworks to be shown are to reveal a variety of personal stories from individuals whose identity and sense of belonging to a community were still in development as the LGBTQI+ acronym wasn’t yet recognized[1].

Views on why such an exhibition is wrong and unneeded have been expressed, this being a contested position in attempts to underline the necessity of the first exhibition of this kind to be organized by The Tate. The claim that our society has been losing the capacity to react to art freely because of its fixation on sexuality[2] calls indeed for the recognition that the concepts to be dealt with by this exhibition reflect the dominance in our society of the concepts of gender and sexual identity – as these are dominant traits in our thinking. In spite of this, these definitions are a cause for celebration since the decriminalization of male homosexuality (as lesbianism had never really been criminalized by the law) marks an important turning point in the history of LGBTQI+ people.

The Tate exhibition proposes a queer lens through which great art can be experienced by the public. This is a valid analysis perspective of art by artists who might have identified themselves with the recently reclaimed meaning of queer to different degrees. This means a queer lens can uncover lost or hidden meanings and stories in art from a time when queer feelings, desires and thoughts were repressed or hidden for the simple sake of survival. A queer aesthetic might even be exposed since the imagery and self-expression of queer identities were kept out of sight or concealed from normative society, thus allowing the possibility of a new and informed gaze upon issues around gender and identity politics of the 19th and 20th centuries. This is only one way through which art can be examined as different stories can be told according to the lens used to find meaning.

The relevance of grouping artists such as David Hockney, Duncan Grant, Francis Bacon and Keith Vaughan based on their sexual preferences was also questioned. Queer is not equivalent to homosexual as it refers to a much extensive spectrum of identity possibilities through variation of the normative concepts of gender and sexuality. Thus, queer art exhibitions or art queering exhibitions promote a critical standpoint to the institutionalized art exhibition as a symbol of hierarchical power and the ways by which cultural institutions act as education mediators and influence thinking and taste in the making of history’s discourse. This can better be understood if linked to the theories and practices defended by New Institutionalism and Institutional Critique. These theories promote a series of questioning tools to a better understanding of ways art institutions can become more inclusive of the society they fit in and represent – this marks a move from the classical museum towards the new politically and socially engaged art institution which is critical of its own functions and mechanisms of action. These also attempt to analyze the way naturally taken historic discourses are in fact socially and politically constructed to maintain a status quo.

The exhibition “neoqueer” at Seattle’s Center on Contemporary Art (2004) makes an effort to contest the idea that queer art is always regarded in association with sexuality. As stated by the curators, instead of specifically looking for homoerotism and queer content, the show focused on modern art, with quality and originality as key concepts – and not sexual orientation[3]. Although without a defining theme, or at least with an ambiguous one, the show asks the question of what it means to be LGBTQI+ and what role does sexuality play in an artist’s work – a necessary dialogue between queer artists and the public in order to dismantle preconceived ideas about queer art. The show does not portray the usual stories drawn up by queer shows that focus on the political statements of the previous century marked by the sexual revolution, nor does it solely present homoerotic drawings as art. Indeed, the collection of works selected by the curators range from the poetic to the provocative and the explicit. It tries to push queer beyond those boundaries, indicating an ever increasing trend towards “subtlety and individualism”[4].

Looking beyond the issue of whether Tate’s queer art exhibition should have gender and sexuality transgression as a worthy cause for celebration or should solely serve the purpose of reminding us of our obsession with these definitions[5], perhaps it would be more constructive when seen as a particular position or place that allows critical thinking about the paradigm of these issues given the symbolic date. By simply giving viewers a critical lens on why and under what circumstances gender and sexuality have become dominant in our thinking, this exhibition has a plausible reason to exist. Furthermore, it can help the public question the relationship between normative society and transgressive queer identity.

While trying to prove the point that this exhibition is wrong and unnecessary there’s a failure in questioning the definition of queer and the representation of queer in all its extension of identity possibilities. This is a common issue of art exhibitions titled and advertised as queer nowadays resulting in attempts to essentialize queer identity and stripping it down to the white homosexual figure. Queer art exhibitions are a way of depicting queer issues and experiences in an effort that stretches way beyond the necessity of making the institutional art world a more inclusive space. Museum studies and curatorship practice must be informed about Queer Theory in order to not pass on discourses perpetuating the construction of concepts such as gender and sexual identity based on normativity[6]. This is where an intersectional perspective must be adopted in order to fully explore the potential of queer identity without neglecting other categories and dimensions of experience and sensibility.

Categorizing a queer show as gay is biased and reductive. This is not a promotion of the condition of being gay or queer but instead a question of visibility. Being visible means being acknowledged as part of society and thus, requires being given the opportunity to be seen, heard and represented. Being visible means existing. Essentializing queer down to the homosexual figure means omitting a wide range of fleeting self-identification possibilities between the gender and sexuality spectrum.

Attempting to pass through this kind of exhibition as unneeded by arguing that everybody knows there are artists who are queer only adds to the institutional conservatism in the art world that accounts as part of the reason why queer identities still lack representation. A queer exhibition makes a contribution so that queer identities and content aren’t still only tolerated by normative society. Whenever consuming any form of culture people tend to look for signs of themselves and of a community in which they fit. Queer individuals, perhaps to a greater extent than average exhibition visitors who do not identify as queer, seek these spaces that celebrate their community, culture and history.

Exploring and digging up queer content in works of art is different from searching for a queer sensibility hidden behind imagery but a combined approach of the two would be rather interesting in making perceptible to the viewer the intricate complexity of queer identity through its aesthetics, sensibilities and content, and also its difficult relationship with the normative workings of society[7]. The viewer would be prompted to ask himself if some stories are queer in essence despite whether they portray or not queer content, and if some stories are not queer in essence (i.e. heteronormative) despite of whether or not queer content is portrayed. What then is queer content and queer sensibility?

There seems to exist understandable confusion as to what queer stands for in our days, with much prejudice arising from the distortion of its ambiguous meaning. It does not refer to an identity’s specific essence and thus, does not refer specifically and intrinsically to LGBT individuals. Queer can instead be thought of as the corporealization of an experience or sensibility which uses a discourse that intimately connects the personal/intimate and the social/public realms in an attitude of resistance and self-affirmation. Artistic production in this context aims the questioning and challenging of dominant ways of production and representation in art and it can ally itself with the subversion of traditional form, genre, structure and aesthetic in art. This approach consequently results in a form of provoking and experimenting which celebrates at the same time its transgressive characteristics – what keeps it from being absorbed into normative behavior and thinking.

In reply to the question of the validity in jumping to conclusions by labelling something or someone as queer, a queer perspective can be applied even to art produced by artists who do not specifically identify as queer. To queer or queering refers to this method which the institutional art world can apply to be more socially inclusive at least to the length of bringing visibility issues under the spotlight. Assuming this method is only concerned with exploring homosexual individuals and content in art is wrong as it concerns everything and everyone that characterizes as transgressive, as in not corresponding to societal norms in terms of sexual and gender identity and power structures based on that. Queering works of art not only contributes to making visible these individuals but can also provide viewers some initial support for understanding and accepting it. Furthermore, it can uncover hidden information that can be useful for another understanding of these works and artists. This does not mean ignoring already known traits of works as this method can additionally incorporate them into constructions of different interpretative meanings. A queer perspective on art does not neglect a work’s theme and try to replace it with the word queer – usually in association with sexuality. Moreover, it does not obliterate or deny previous values of an artwork but it can add more information to them. This is not to say that a queer lens is the only valid perspective an artist’s work is to be analyzed, interpreted or enjoyed.

A queer perspective can be sustained by drawing up Umberto Eco’s discussion about the open work of art. The notions of completeness and openness refer to the viewer’s reception of a work as an authorial construction of communicative engagement with the viewer[8]. Each individual can participate in dialogue with the piece through stimulus, being that this is dependent on their receptiveness, sensibility and capacity to respond. In this response, the viewer presents an overview of his own being, an amalgamation of beliefs, tastes, and prejudices. The original work’s meaning conceived by the artist is thus later adapted by the receptacle that is each individual with different perspectives formed by personal and cultural backgrounds.

Without invalidating any sense of original significance, these different approaches of viewing and understanding a work’s meaning make a work of art on the one hand open to numerous external susceptibilities of interpretation, and on the other a complete and unique product by the specificity imprinted on it by its maker. Assessing a work of art requires, not necessarily to the same degree, interpretation and performance, resulting in an intricate meeting between the viewer’s personal experience and the artist’s imprinted signifying connotations.

In this sense, a queer analysis of art proposes only one possible different approach which requires a new set of questions in finding meaning behind works. Queering, in a museum context, foresees the questioning of how museums collect. In curatorial practice, it questions the selection of the pieces altogether. In both cases, it makes the viewer wonder which narratives are depicted and which ones are omitted to construct a discourse or stimulate discussion[9].

Subjective perceptions of artworks by the viewer can be seen in parallel to the camp aesthetic. Although it is difficult to pin it down to a specific aesthetic, camp refers to a queer sensibility and sense of humor with its use of the theatrical and kitsch. Its discourse hasn’t always been so out and well integrated into popular culture as it is now with its beginnings reporting to a subversion of the mainstream and queer subjects being both the producers and consumers of this coded language. Camp was about elevating the low culture of the repressed, giving queer individuals opportunity to challenge representations in normative discourses. As dominant culture absorbed the camp aesthetic, a queer sensibility found its way to the core of mass popular entertainment. Although the glitter and diva-icons, as Gordon Hall points out, are essentializing images and direct references to queer, the camp sensibility hasn’t only been present in artistic expressions made by and for queers but extends itself to imagery with not necessarily queer innuendo.

Popular music by David Bowie and Cher – representing androgynous glam-rock and sense of style in the pop/dance music scene -, drag performance with satire and parody and the vogue dance style all make up references to burlesque entertainment and the MGM musical and film scene of the 40’s. Camp embodies this set sumptuosity, elaborate costumes, dazzling dance moves and stars such as Judy Garland – a timeless icon in queer culture. The spectacle element aiming the viewer’s fascination is adopted by camp to engage in dialogue with dominant culture, presenting resistance to normative values and representational systems mainly concerned with sexuality and gender[10]. Androgyny, drag performance and vogueing are praised for the ability to dismantle the gender normative concept while presenting exaggerated forms of both edges of the binary. Theatricality, entertainment and humor are weapons used to show reversed social norms about gender and sexual identity. Drag and camp illustrate and support Judith Butler’s definition of gender as a performance as opposed to a false idea of gender identity based on essence.

Camp is also an open work as its nature is dual, lending its features to products that are not conceived as such by their creators. This sensibility can be either imprinted onto objects when they are consumed by the public – such as Judy Garland’s Dorothee in The Wizard of Oz – or be deliberately created by artists – this being the case of Andy Warhol or drag performers. Camp is thus found in the experience of the viewer and in the object’s traits.

Warhol’s persona adopted the camp extravagant sensibility although contemporary discourses on the artist have often been evasive on the subject of his sexuality, omitting the influence it had in his work and in the queer climate of the 60’s [11]. Surely, a queer reading of Warhol doesn’t seem to be unconvincing if one takes the cover of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers depicting a crotch in skinny jeans, or the images of drag queens in Ladies and Gentlemen, or even the polaroids in Torsos and Sex Parts of men recruited in gay saunas having sex. Institutional and critical conservatism is rather obvious when works depicting queer content this explicit are not commonly shown and stay hidden in museum archives such as Warhol’s many experimental films – the most explicit being Blow Job showing an act of oral sex between two men and My Hustler with a plot of an intergenerational lust triangle involving three men[12].

Queer speaks of an unstable and precarious position towards dismantling normative constructions of the self[13]. This position is fundamentally a sensibility – not an essence of gender or sexual identity or any kind of essentialism[14] – engaged with the ways of being oneself. The aesthetic of the queer work of art is related to art production in the context of the civil liberation movements of the 70’s, and more prominently to feminist art. This means queer art reclaims experiences that aren’t “historically valued in the white-hetero-masculine system” [15] as a form of attack of political and social structures of gender and sexuality. With its unstable and undefinable nature, queer seeks to destabilize the sense of established natural being, the performance of everyday normative life, queering the status quo instead of reaffirming it[16]. Queer’s refusal to support and perpetuate societal norms and power structures strives for other possibilities to be constructed, which is why queer opens a whole dimension for new perceptions in art[17].

Artworks speak a lot about their makers and what significance they have received by their makers’ specificity. What if they could teach us a lesson about the ways we perceive? Gordon Hall claims they show how to see gender and bodies differently in a non-normative way, which means art could be a valuable resource for thinking about sexuality and gender even if imagery of queer experiences is not depicted[18]. Artworks are usually described as queer when portraying LGBTQI+ individuals, when produced by LGBTQI+ artists or when referencing to their culture by including tangible forms of queer aesthetics. Hall references characteristics that immediately refer the viewer’s mind to queer aesthetics, taking this phenomenon as an essentializing issue: “[…] the glitter problem. Or the leather problem. Or the pink-yarn, 1970s-crafts, iconic-diva, glory-hole, pre-AIDS-sexuality, post-AIDS-sexuality, bodies and body-parts, blood-and-bodily-fluids problem”[19]. This calls forward the question if it’s possible to find queer meaning in non-representation or pure formalism without any kind of overt queer context such as “dicks, vaginas, menstrual blood, references to Jean Genet, cum, anuses, bondage, surgery scars, reclaimed pronouns”[20].

Hall takes the difficult example of minimalist sculpture – as objects with no apparent resonance of gender in their form – in relation to queer content. If it’s possible to point out gender constructs in blank, monochrome and consistent objects it means a queer gaze of physicality and psychological associations can be applied to objects that are not queer in essence even when queer content is not portrayed – as minimalist sculpture appears completely devoid of narrative and symbolism. The only communication being made is through their placement in time and space – it’s the physicality of objects what allows intimate interaction with the viewer’s position and architectural setting.

Without wanting to claim that only queer art exhibitions are targets of controversy and censorship, they are no strangers at all to one another, despite this being an era where supposedly queer people are seen as equal. As expected, anything that disturbs the normative functioning and thinking of society always generates some critical backlash. The negative response, coming either from the public, institutions or patrons, seems stronger when political and religious views are put up against a wall to be challenged and objected.

Warhol’s mural 13 Most Wanted Men (1964) for the World’s Fair depicts prison photos of outlaw men in America. The work caused political controversy and was ultimately erased despite the artist’s already established status. The choice of subject challenged norms of taste in society and in the arts, containing coded language reporting to queer desire, thus being dissed by critics and censored by authorities. The images present the double meaning of most-wanted, as in criminals searched by the police and receptacles of desire. Moreover, this represents a form of outlaw desire if the gaze is male.

Three queer art exhibitions illustrate the sort of censorship that lies deep in the art world nowadays as it did back in 1964. The recent “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” (2010-2011) at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery was targeted by right-wing political and religious figures demanding control over the choice of works to be displayed. It was demanded the removal of Wojnarowicz’s video Fire In My Belly (1987). This piece, an excellent metaphor of the AIDS crisis, showed a crucifix covered in ants. The pressure was felt as the building was threatened to be closed in spite of the exhibition not being funded by public money. The video ended up being removed but the issue gave rise to a necessary discussion about what art was worthy of public funding and what kind of art was really displayed at public art institutions if not one censored within a controlled constructed discourse[21].

The slogan “silence = death”[22] doesn’t seem so far removed from the reality of nowadays as artworks and artists continue to be erased from sight to protect and not offend others[23]. One of the show’s curators, Jonathan Katz, has spoken about the urgency for “queer political advocacy” taking into consideration that this show had been numerous times rejected to be presented at various museums throughout the US[24].

Public funding of art exhibitions has some history of controversy. Regarding the issue of the AIDS crisis, the exhibition curated by Nan Goldin “Witnesses: Against our Vanishing” (1989), in part funded by public money, was caught up in great scandal created by political forces as well as the public. The exhibition catalogue criticized the lack of government and church funding for the AIDS cause, resulting in the cancellation of the grant given the public pressure to cut back on what kind of art should receive federal funds.

In comparison, “Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment” (1990)[25] has also seen a huge proportion of backlash against the homoerotic themed photographs it displayed. The CAC’s director was even legally charged for promoting obscenity in some of the show’s explicit photographs displaying S&M gay sex and child nudity[26]. The show, intended to be a retrospective view on the late openly homosexual artist’s work, ultimately came under the spotlight of the public, resulting in political debates about federal art funding. These debates mainly approached the topic of depiction of gay S&M imagery[27].

The exhibitions, even though different in terms of aim for public audience and location, suffered immense backlash from the public against queer content, resulting in chaos for political forces in managing the issue between funding and explicit content. Both exhibitions from last century, distant in two decades from “Hide/Seek”, show public rage toward queer art funding and is still present nowadays although a dramatic shift has been felt in public opinion with greater acceptance becoming the norm[28].


References (APA)


Bastos-Stanek, M. (2016). The Contested History of Queer Themes in American Art Exhibitions. Retrieved December 14, 2016, from


Earnest, J. (2013). Contemporary Art and Queer Aesthetics. San Francisco Arts Quarterly. Retrieved December 15, 2016, from


Eco, U. (1989). The Poetics of the Open Work. In The Open Work (pp. 1-23). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Hall, G. (2013). Object Lessons: Thinking Gender Variance through Minimalist Sculpture. Art Journal, 72 (4).


Hirsch, F. (2011). Hide/Seek Curator Speaks Up at CAA. Art in America. Retrieved December 15, 2016, from


Jagose, A. (1996). Queer Theory: an introduction. New York: New York University Press.


Nguyen, V. T. (2013). Towards a Queer Intersectional Museology (Masters dissertation in Museum Studies). University of Sydney.


Prono, L (2007). Encyclopedia of gay and lesbian popular culture. Santa Barbara: Greenwood.


Sirkin, H. L. (2016). Why I defended Mapplethorpe’s ‘obscene’ ‘Perfect Moment’. The Washington Post. Retrieved December 15, 2016, from


Steorn, P. (2010). Queer in the museum: Methodological reflections on doing queer in museum collections. Lambda Nordica, (3-4), 119-122. Retrieved December 15, 2016, from


Street-Porter, J. (2016). The Tate Gallery is wrong to put on a ‘queer’ art exhibition. Retrieved December 05, 2016, from


Tate (2016). Queer British Art 1861–1967 – Exhibition at Tate Britain | Tate. Retrieved December 5, 2016, from


Trescott, J. (2010). After Smithsonian exhibit’s removal, banned ant video still creeps into gallery. The Washington Post. Retrieved December 14, 2016, from

[1] Tate (2016).

[2] Street-Porter, J. (2016).

[3] Potterf, T. (2004).

[4] Potterf, T. (2004).

[5] Street-Porter, J. (2016).

[6] Nguyen, V. T. (2013).

[7] Hall, G. (2013).

[8] Eco, U. (1989).

[9] Steorn, P. (2010).

[10] Prono, L (2007). P. 52

[11] Prono, L (2007). P. 278.

[12] Prono, L. (2007). Pp. 276-277.

[13] Jagose, A. (1996). Pp. 76-77.

[14] Attribution to each gender of a fixed essence taken as natural, which is determined by biological, physical and psychological traits.

[15] Earnest, J. (2013).

[16] Earnest, J. (2013). Reference to Judith Butler’s theory of performance of gender in which gender is seen as a performance and thus, an exteriorization of identity through behavior and physical appearance. This performance of gender can perpetuate societal constraints that support the gender binary system – as in taking on a role from the binary to reproduce and reaffirm it.

[17] Jagose, A. (1996). P. 76-77.

[18] Hall, G. (2013). Pp. 46-57.

[19] Hall, G. (2013). P. 47.

[20] Hall, G. (2013). P. 47.

[21] Trescott, J. (2010).

[22] Reference to ACT UP’s 1987 activist project that draws a parallel between the governmental indifference toward the AIDS crisis and the Nazi period concerning the oppression the homosexual community has suffered.

[23] Bastos-Stanek, M. (2016).

[24] Hirsch, F. (2011).

[25] Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati.

[26] Sirkin, H. L. (2016).

[27] Bastos-Stanek, M. (2016).

[28] Bastos-Stanek, M. (2016)

Repost – The Photographer’s Guide to Instagram Hashtags

Check out The Photographer’s Guide to Instagram Hashtags from PhotoShelter and Feature Shoot. An interesting survey with good tips.

I copied some of their conclusions here. You can download the full guide at

We’ve seen that editors do use
hashtags to find new work, and regularly seek
new emerging talents via popular and niche
Instagram feature pages. Many photographers have been
hired, sent on assignments or sold prints due to Instagram
publicity, and there are many images which have the
potential to get this kind of attention if promoted well.
Across the board it seems that feature page curators, inundated
with new submissions every day, often judge images
based on the thumbnail—so this must be striking. A
combination of both submittable and searchable hashtags
does help you get more exposure, as both have their audiences.
Feature page curators also appreciate hashtags that
provide extra information about an image, for instance
those which communicate the camera used, the format,
the location. Many also explicitly ask for geolocation.
Below are a few further reflections on how to continue to
promote your photography using hashtags on Instagram.
How many hashtags should I use and
where should I put them?

While Instagram sets a 30-hashtag limit, most photographers
don’t adhere to this. Too many hashtags
can overwhelm users and discourage them from
checking out the rest of your profile. For this reason,
photographers who have already established large followers
tend not to use any. But you will want to use
hashtags if you’re still growing an audience and want
to draw interest beyond your existing followers. Some
photographers opt to include hashtags at the end of
the caption, is there is one, and sometimes these can
be divided by a “//“ for clarity. For aesthetic preferences, others put this information below the image as a
first comment. Either way, it will help your photograph
reach new people.

Hashtags to avoid
It is advisable to steer clear of spammy hashtags such as
#follow4follow which might get you followers, though
are likely to deter photo editors, fellow photographers
and photography enthusiasts.
Larger vs smaller submittable feature pages
This is really your call. Feature pages with larger followings
will without a doubt get you more exposure
should your photograph be selected, though these are
also more competitive due to the high number of submissions.
Smaller feature pages with a niche interest are
less competitive and may be worth applying to if they
have a particular aesthetic which you like, or if there
are editors or writers among their followers. To increase
your chances of gaining exposure, it pays to use hashtags
from a variety of feature pages, big or small.

How to find new Instagram hashtags
With time, some submittable hashtags become too
competitive, cease activity or have a change in artistic
direction. Fortunately it is always possible to find new
hashtags. Scouring the profiles of Instagram influencers,
photographers whose profiles are increasingly popular
or seeing who editors are following can help you discover
new feature pages. There are new ones cropping up all
the time. Some searchable hashtags become too overloaded
with spam and so sometimes it is worth playing with words to find new hashtags which still appeal to
people working within the medium and/or genre.
A note on the future of hashtags
That last point brings us onto another question; if
some searchable hashtags are becoming saturated with
spam or unrelated photographs, what is the future of
hashtags? It can be frustrating to search for what you
want via Instagram only to find images that are completely
irrelevant. More and more, editors and writers
are turning to submittable feature pages to get a curated
selection of photographs that have been qualitychecked.
Whether the hashtag method of submission
is sustainable, or more feature pages turn to email submission
is at this point unclear.

Final words
Beyond your use of hashtags, it is important to have
a consistent, quality feed, post regularly, and have an
interesting profile to keep your followers interested.
Architect and architectural photographer Jeroen van
Dam has been featured by big hubs, though has found
that what is most important for him is interacting
with other people on Instagram. “In that way they
are more likely to comment back and start following
you” he emphasizes. People who like your style and
are interested in the stories you have to tell will keep
checking up on you. Instagram is at times a reciprocal
platform—new followers are more likely to find your
page if you regularly engage with others, be it by liking
or commenting on their images.
Once you’re satisfied with the number of followers or
interest you can always opt to drop hashtags to get the
cleaner look that Instagram influencers usually go for.
Instagram is fun, and can also be a powerful tool for
promoting your photography.

8 Ways to get your work out there…

New Zealand artist Harvey Benge had his friend and colleague Antoine D’Agata scribble “8 Ways to get your work out there”, on the back of an envelope. Follow these steps and nothing can go wrong anymore.

1. 90% of life is showing up (Woody Allen)
2. Take the long view – 30 to 50 years
3. Make your work authentic
4. Don’t try and be famous
5. Don’t show dodgy work to everybody who has ever drawn breath
6. People work with people they like
7. Luck has a lot to do with it
8. Get naked, make porn

Article on DIY residencies (Repost from the Guardian)

DIY residencies: a career in the arts on your own terms

From 24-hour plays to co-op leasing, US artists are ditching traditional residencies in favour of working on their own terms
Last week, US rail company Amtrak officially began offering writing residencies on its trains after writers mounted a lively social media campaign sparked by an interview with author Alexander Chee, in which he floated the idea. The announcement attracted headlines around the world and put a mainstream spotlight like never before on the role that residency programs can play in fostering the development of both artists and their art.

At the same time, however, the fact that so many writers were clamouring for Amtrak to launch the programme underscored that formal residencies are often out of reach for many artists. They can be highly competitive and are often too lengthy or too far away to be affordable for the many artists who rely on day jobs to make ends meet.

It is not surprising then that more and more artists are taking matters into their own hands by organising do-it-yourself residencies. These pioneers are establishing new models for residencies by experimenting with alternative approaches to funding, space and time, while still creating an experience that allows them and other artists to break away from the daily grind in order to explore and develop ideas, collaborate and network with other artists, and make art. Some of the innovative ideas and solutions being tested include:

Co-op leasing

To avoid the huge financial outlay of owning a facility to host a residency, the Austin-based Rubber Repertory theatre used a co-op financial model to help cover the cost of the lease on a church space for their own long-term placement. It supplemented its costs by offering affordable short-term residencies ($50 for a week stay) to more than 80 artists from around the world over the course of a year.

Theatre company co-founder Josh Meyer recently told Fast Company that anyone could easily copy their model: “The artists don’t need a lot from us. What we’re really giving them is the time and the space. Anyone with a year to do this could probably start their own artist colony.”


Crowdfunding sites such as IndieGoGo, RocketHub, and Kickstarter are powerful new tools that artists can use to both fundraise for a residency program and to engage a broad base of project supporters. In fact, Rubber Repertory raised over $9,000 via crowdfunding campaign to cover a portion of rent and utilities on the church space it used for its residency.

The Indy Convergence, founded by a trio of artist entrepreneurs, including an actor, dancer and designer, has also successfully used crowdfunding to fund its pop-up residency – a two-week summer gathering of professional artists from across the US who collaborate on cross-disciplinary projects.

The 24-hour residency

One way to make costs more manageable is to significantly limit the length of the traditional residency experience. There are many examples of creative professionals from diverse disciplines who have come together to collaborate and create an original artwork within a restricted timeframe, such as 24 Hour Plays, the 48 Hour Film Project and twenty-four magazine.

By limiting their lengths, these projects make it easier for more artists with day jobs to participate and, more importantly, maximise the potency and creative energy of the artists’ time together. The accelerated creative process allows ideas to be explored and processed overnight, cultivates new creative relationships in real-time, and leaves participants with a renewed sense of motivation, self-confidence and purpose.

Earned revenue

Detroit-based choreographer and dancer Kristi Faulkner worked out a deal to use under-utilised space at Michigan State University for her DIY residency. To cover the additional costs of a three-artist residency, she ran classes for the public to generate the needed funds. She invited two other collaborators from different disciplines – artists she wanted residency time to create new work with – which resulted in a larger audience for the classes by attracting people passionate about different artforms.

As a variation on the idea, artists could approach local schools or colleges, which are vacated during the summer, or a holiday resort or campsite, which tend to be under-used in the winter, and offer their artistic expertise as a service.

A month-long residency in a cabin in the woods with complete privacy to focus on creative work will never be accessible or feasible for most artists. Thankfully, more and more artists are reimagining the traditional residency for a new generation of independent artists who are building and sustaining careers in the arts on their own terms.

Lisa Niedermeyer is a programme director at Fractured Atlas – follow the organisation on Twitter @FracturedAtlas

Repost from Guardian Culture Pros Network.


Repost: Sochi Project and Crowdfunding – Interview

Photographer Tina Remiz recently interviewed her peers Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen – the duo behind The Sochi Project – for IdeasTap. This is a repost of the article, which gives great insight into their work (just in time for the Olympic Games) and into themes such as Crowdfunding, Collaborative work and documentary photography. Enjoy!

Zarevitch Capitanovsky


Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen on the Sochi Project

Since 2007, photographer Rob Hornstra and writer-filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen have colllaborated to document Sochi, Russia, where the 2014 Winter Olympic Games will be held. They talk to Tina Remiz about crowdfunding and working across different platforms…

How did The Sochi Project change over the years you worked on it?

Arnold van Bruggen: We originally intended it as an online project with a large publication at the end. When we launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance the work, we promised our donors an annual gift and, because we’re real book lovers, we decided to make a publication at the end of each year.

Rob Hornstra: The first annual publication – Sanatorium – was just a booklet, but in 2010 we produced a really comprehensive document about [the territory of] Abkhazia, which was received and reviewed by many as a book on its own. This made people take The Sochi Project more seriously.

Why did you decided to divide the project into smaller stories?

Rob: Early on in the project we realised that it could be divided into three regions, so each one became a separate chapter of the story. This model fits our way of working. We do slow investigative journalism, spending a long time on each story, which allows us to make separate publications for each chapter.


The Sochi Project © Rob Hornstra / Flatland Gallery


Why did you decide to crowdfund? 

Arnold: We didn’t want to depend on arts grants or compromise the narrative to sell articles editorially, so crowdfunding seemed like a logical choice. We had a story with a clear deadline that involved the Olympic Games, a centuries-old conflict and the incredibly photogenic region of Abkhazia, so we were sure to have thousands of donors in the first year.

Rob: We believed there was a dedicated crowd, that understands this kind of story can’t be funded by the traditional media and is ready to pay for it directly. Probably we were a bit naïve.

Why did you decide to set up your own crowdfunding system instead of using platforms like Kickstarter and what did you learn from the experience?

Arnold: Back in 2009, crowdfunding wasn’t that popular; Kickstarter was just starting out and run by an invitation-only policy. Even now, the most successful crowdfunding campaigns are for short-term projects with clear goals, like “fund my book” or “pay for my trip”. We had a five-year-long project and would have to ask for around €300,000 at once, with no or little material to show.

Rob: One of the inspirations for our crowdfunding model was the Obama campaign, which was largely funded by very small – around $5 – donations. We set up a three-level donation model for €10, €100 and €1,000 and called them bronze, silver and gold respectively because of the Olympic Games reference. Our goal was to convince 1,000-2,000 people to donate €10 per year in exchange for some behind-the-scene stories – but that was a mistake. The crowdfunding system required a lot of administration, and we never had more than 300 bronze donors at a given time.

The biggest challenge was bridging the gab between people saying that they’d donate and actually doing it. This wasn’t because they didn’t want to fund the work, but because the step of giving €10 was too insignificant for them. On the other hand, silver and gold donors were very loyal to the project and infused it with substantial amounts of money.


The Sochi Project © Rob Hornstra / Flatland Gallery


What would you recommend to someone considering crowdfunding?

Rob: Keep it simple, set a clear goal and make your campaign a bit sexy to increase the audience.

Arnold: Know what you’re getting yourself into and be prepared to spend 50% of your time working on the project and 50% administrating the crowdfunding campaign.

Rob: On the bright side, by the time you finish the project, you have a dedicated audience enjoying and willing to promote your work.

The Sochi Project now exists in the form of a book, exhibition and website – what are the differences between each?

Rob: The storyline’s the same, but you get a different experience on each platform. We achieve this by separating the responsibilities: Arnold is in charge of the website, while I manage the exhibition and we bring the Kummer & Herrman design team on board when working on the books.

Arnold: We went through several versions of the website and settled on one that presents a tight edit and strictly linear narrative and allows us to control how you experience the story.

What advice would you give photographers and journalists planning to work on a long-term project?

Arnold: Be ambitious and look for opportunities to collaborate. Make complex stories and care not only about the content, but also its presentation

Rob: Focus on quality. There are too many people trying to do everything at the same time. Don’t underestimate what you can achieve either, just set out to make the best project ever.


The Sochi Project © Rob Hornstra / Flatland Gallery



Images: © Rob Hornstra / Flatland Gallery. From: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus (Aperture, 2013).

Original article

Repost: Article on Spanish Photobooks

This article was posted today by Madrid-based Valeria Saccone, just in time for tomorrow’s F.I.E.B.R.E. book fair. Using a similar model as the Parisian OFFPRINT, PhotoIreland’s Book and Magazine Fair, and the recently announced Photobook Bristol (organised by RRB Books), F.I.E.B.R.E. will feature local and international publishers – and self-publishers. Valeria quotes Martin Parr, who was recently in Madrid, for his annual workshop in the IED Madrid’s European Master of Fine Art Photography, and Horacio Fernandez, who will open his exhibition at the Reina Sofia, on recent Spanish photobooks next week (here is the Press Release as PDF, in Spanish). She also mentions some of the recent highlights, such as Ricardo Cases’ Palomas en el Aire, Cristina de Middel’s Afronauts, Carlos Spottorno’s PIGS and Oscar Monzón’s Karma, as well as Txema Salvans’ The Waiting Game, Antonio Xoubanova’s book on the Casa de Campo and Julian Barón’s CENSURA.

And there is more to come, such as the exhibition which Horacio Fernandez is preparing for PHotoEspaña 2014, on historic photobooks, or the visit of Kassel Photobook Festival’s Dummy Collection to the IED Madrid Photography Department this coming summer. Some speak of a bubble in the photobook market. For example, the Photobookclub Barcelona posted a critical article by Alex Sinclair on its Facebook page, and there was a vivid discussion on the subject. For photographers from Spain, however, the photobook seems to work, and there publication projects are highly recognized by critics and the public. Or, as Cristina de Middel has told me in an soon-to-be published interview for the next PhotoResearcher Magazine:

Is true that there have been suddenly many photobooks in Spain, but all seem to have their place in the market … they are totally relevant books, it’s not like “I’m going to do a book because it is fashionable to do the book.” They were made because the book-form it was the best solution for the particular work.

Enjoy Valeria’s article, in its original version hereafter, or in its automatic Google translation!


El fotolibro revive y los españoles tienen mucho que ver con ello

by , (@valeria_ypunto) December 13, 2013


“The photobook is here to stay”. El fotolibro ha llegado para quedarse. Lo dice Martin Parr a su paso por Madrid, donde ha venido a presentar Los inconformistas, su libro número 65. Nada del otro mundo, comparado con los 12.000 volúmenes que guarda, religiosamente ordenados por países, en su casa de Bristol. “Hemos asistido a un retorno del fotolibro en la última década y eso continuará. Cada vez más personas están entusiasmadas con los fotolibros”, asegura Parr, que en su frase usa “revival”, una palabra que rezuma nostalgia.

El gurú del género no es el único que augura larga vida al fotolibro. Horacio Fernández, comisario y director de PhotoEspaña entre 2004 y 2006, se expresa con palabras idénticas.

“El fotolibro ha llegado para quedarse”, afirma desde una mesa del Café Comercial, un lugar histórico para las tertulias. “Deja-vu”, como diría Ralph Gibson. “Hoy asistimos a una búsqueda de público y de comunicación por parte de los fotógrafos. Antes solo había una vía comercial para mostrar las fotos: las revistas y la publicidad. Esta generación ha intentado hacer visible su trabajo de otra forma, con fotolibros, fanzines… Seguramente habrá una bajada, siempre hay subidas y bajadas en la montaña rusa del arte, como en los años 80 y 90, cuando casi no se producían fotolibros, y eso que se hacían cosas de mucha calidad”, matiza Horacio.

“Libros de fotografía se han hecho desde que la tecnología lo permitió. Lo que sucede ahora es que se les está dando más protagonismo y se están viendo las posibilidades de este medio”. Palabra de Eloi Gimeno, el diseñador que ha contribuido a crear Karma, de Óscar Monzón, considerado el mejor primer fotolibro del año en Paris Photo 2013. “El libro se quedará, pero posiblemente el interés de coleccionistas y de personas dispuestas a pagar grandes cantidades de dinero por libros nuevos acabará desapareciendo. Como en todo, el tiempo pone las cosas en su sitio”, añade Eloi.

El libro de Óscar Monzón ha sido coeditado por la francesa RVB y por Dalpine, una distribuidora de libros online que ha contribuido de forma decisiva a impulsar la cultura de los fotolibro en España. “Es una tendencia que ha ido afianzándose a lo largo de varios años. Los fotógrafos confían cada vez más en este formato para dar a conocer su trabajo y que este llegue a un público más amplio”, reflexionan los fundadores, José Manuel Suárez y Sonia Berger.

El interés por el fotolibro se extiende por Europa y los españoles se están llevando una buena tajada. Además de Karma, el libro de Carlos Spottorno, The Pigs, acaba de recibir el Photobook Award 2013 al mejor libro de fotografía del año en Kassel, Alemania.

The Pigs cover

Portada de The Pigs de Carlos Spottorno

The Pigs es una obra con fuerte contenido político. No es un asunto ni personal ni poético. Yo utilizo todas las herramientas que mejor domino -la fotografía, el diseño y la comunicación de masas- para hacer activismo político, para analizar la deriva histórica de los núcleos de poder, la manipulación periodística y los estereotipos. Y por supuesto, para invitar a la autocrítica. Porque a pesar de todo, no todo es culpa de los demás”, explica Spottorno.

No es el primer año que los fotógrafos españoles llaman la atención de críticos y expertos internacionales. En 2012, también lo lograron Cristina de Middel y Julián Barón. Ambos quedaron finalistas en Paris Photo. The afronauts, que también fue nominado para la prestigiosa Deutsche Börse, se agotó en dos meses y sus ejemplares llegaron a costar 2.000 dólares en eBay, un ejemplo de la locura que puede llegar a desatar la autoedición bien empleada. Hoy el nombre de Cristina está muy cotizado. En 2012 llegó a hacer 25 exposiciones en toda Europa y periódicos como el New York Times y The Guardian han confiado en ella.

C.E.N.S.U.R.A., de Julián Barón, también se ha convertido en un libro de referencia internacional aunque su autor no canta victoria para la industria. “Es cierto, se puede decir que son buenas noticias. Pero es pronto para hacer balance, todavía queda mucho camino por recorrer”, asegura Barón.


Censura de Julián Barón

¿Estamos antes un momento dulce de la fotografía española? “Agridulce, diría yo. Es muy difícil trabajar en estas circunstancias, tanto para los propios fotógrafos como para los que estamos a su servicio, es decir los editores, diseñadores, comisarios, críticos… Por otro lado, es maravilloso ver que vale la pena y que hay tanto reconocimiento internacional para lo que se crea en este país”, señala Moritz Neumüller, responsable del Máster de Fotografía de Autor del IED.

“Donde yo vivo no hay demasiada dulzura. Todo es trabajo, trabajo, trabajo y pocos resultados satisfactorios a todos los niveles. En España se ha derrotado la cultura, la educación, lo social”, apunta Barón con cierto desconsuelo. “Si algo hay aquí es temperamento, cabezonería y capacidad de sacrificio. Es un topicazo, pero creo que se nota en el resultado de los proyectos de muchos fotógrafos españoles”, agrega Monzón. Es la visión desde dentro de los que no han parado de trabajar en la última década, “los eternos caminantes”, como algunos definen a los fotógrafos de Blank Paper, un colectivo que acaba de cumplir 10 años.

Entre ellos está Ricardo Cases, que con su Paloma al aire ha removido la fotografía española dentro y fuera de nuestro país. Su trabajo sobre el culto evangélico en los EE UU ha sido aclamado por Time LightBox.

Sin olvidar a Antonio Xoubanova, cuyo Casa de Campo ha sido publicado por Mack, la prestigiosa editorial británica. “Para mí ha sido una muy buena experiencia trabajar con un editor que ha hecho muchos de mis libros favoritos. He aprendido muchas cosas y le han dado muy buena visibilidad al trabajo. Es el mejor contexto que podía tener. Esto te anima a seguir trabajando”, señala Xoubanova.

Casa de Campo de Antonio M. Xoubanova

Casa de Campo de Antonio M. Xoubanova

No son los únicos. El colectivo NoPhoto es otro ejemplo de “cabezonería”, por citar las palabras de Monzón. Sin embargo, el balance que hace uno de sus fundadores es más optimista. “Era mas fácil de lo que parecía, solo había que conseguir que los buenos fotógrafos que siempre ha habido se atrevieran a salir fuera a enseñar lo que estaban haciendo”. Así explica Juan Valbuena el reconocimiento internacional que por fin ha llegado a los autores españoles.

“Desde finales de los 90, hay circunstancias que han ayudado de un modo evidente y que han creado una pequeña red local en torno a la fotografía, formada por festivales, colectivos, instituciones, comisarios, galerías, editoriales, escuelas, librerías y consumidores. Para mí solo falta una buena revista de tirada nacional con un buen editor gráfico y un par de críticos. De ese modo, ya estaríamos todos y nos podríamos poner a crecer”, añade Valbuena, que este año ha lanzado Phree, una editorial “especializada en fotografía documental en primera persona”.

“Aquí está llegando ahora lo que en otros países empezó hace muchos años. En España ha habido un fuerte retraso cultural por el paternalismo de las instituciones. Pero hay otro elemento: si los españoles están triunfando es porque no han parado de trabajar en la última década”, alega Fosi Vegue, director de la escuela Blank Paper.

Txema Salvans, ganador del tercer Concurso Fotolibro Iberoamericano de la editorial mexicana RM con The waiting game, atribuye ese ‘descubrimiento’ de la fotografía española a varios factores: una nueva generación de fotógrafos jóvenes, que dominan la tecnología y son capaces de enviar fuera los trabajos; y el hecho de que la idea del proyecto como trabajo fotográfico se ha instaurado de una manera definitiva. Expertos receptivos y amantes del fotolibro, como Martin Parr, han hecho el resto. “Está claro que se está alimentando un caldo de cultivo y una forma de ver las imágenes totalmente nueva y eso provoca la creación de nuevos proyectos”, resume Fosi Vegue.


The Wainting Game de Txema Salvans

A todo esto se ha sumado el tema de la crisis en España. “Nos ha dado visibilidad en otros países, aunque no sea por lo que nos gustaría. Y ahora cuando ves un proyecto sobre España hecho por españoles, ya te interesa. Pero este es otro asunto. Por fin los españoles hemos empezado a fotografiar lo propio. Excepto Cristina García Rodero y unos pocos más, en general casi no había trabajos sobre el territorio. Y al final estos proyectos acaban teniendo mucha fuerza”, señala Salvans. “Lo que está triunfando es el libro español con mucho carácter y con un lenguaje propio, como los de Cristóbal Hara. Este es el país de Buñuel y de Ortega y Gasset: lo hemos mamado y ahora lo vomitamos”, analiza Vegue.

El resultado se refleja en una amplia producción de libros. “Cuando dirigí PhotoEspaña, era difícil encontrar a fotógrafos jóvenes con proyectos interesantes. Pero a partir de 2009, la cosa explota. El próximo 17 de diciembre inauguro una exposición de fotolibros en el Reina Sofía y muchos (y buenos) están hechos por españoles entre 2009 y 2013”, afirma Horacio Fernández. “Una vez más corroboro que las crisis son buenas para la creación”, bromea.

Su análisis mordaz va más allá: “Ahora seguramente tendremos una sobredosis de reconocimiento a esta generación. Veremos festivales dedicados a la fotografía española y a curadores rancios que intentarán apuntarse el mérito (esto lo puedes poner tal cual)”, asegura Horacio. Por supuesto, no se refiere a la exposición sobre fotografía española que se inauguró el 13 diciembre en Le Bal, en París. Un homenaje a Ricardo Cases, Antonio Xoubanova, Aleix Plademunt y Óscar Monzón.

“Lo que hay ahora mismo en España son fotógrafos y artistas con mucho talento, que han sabido encontrar imágenes que interesan al público. La clave está en las personas, en la calidad de sus miradas y en su capacidad de superar las dificultades. Es el caso de Ricardo Cases, Julián Barón, la gente de Nophoto… Es una generación brillante, que todavía tiene mucho que dar de sí y que seguramente formará a la siguiente generación”, señala Horacio. “Es una respuesta espontánea y desde abajo que perderá toda la fuerza e interés cuando se fagocite. Nos están comprando”, advierte Eloi Gimeno.

La palabra crisis se repite una y otra vez en el discurso de fotógrafos y comisarios. “Por un lado la crisis nos ha obligado a salir fuera de España para encontrar algo de reconocimiento y espacio de crecimiento, ya que España está en un momento muy delicado desde el punto de vista de la cultura. Eso no ha sido fácil para todo el mundo, porque cuando no se tiene trabajo ni dinero, es complicado participar en el juego internacional, que es caro y exigente”, señala Spottorno. “Por otro lado la crisis nos ha hecho detenernos a reflexionar. Hay mucha gente fotografiando este momento tan peculiar, lo que de alguna manera genera un ‘corpus’ que en algún momento deberá ser estudiado”, añade.

Karma de Oscar Monzón

Karma de Óscar Monzón

Horacio Fernández cuenta que en Gran Bretaña el arte después del pop art tuvo una etapa ruinosa durante mucho tiempo, al igual que la literatura y el cine. Una tendencia que se rompió en la época de Thatcher, cuando hubo una explosión de creatividad.

“Otro ejemplo es Holanda, donde no se hace arte plástico de calidad desde hace mucho tiempo. Lo han matado las subvenciones. Todos los años los artistas tienen la obligación de entregar al Estado una obra de arte, que se acumulan porque nadie las quiere: ni siquiera los hospitales o las empresas como meros objetos decorativos. ¿Por qué? Porque son malas. Hoy cuesta trabajo nombrar a un solo artista holandés decente. El mundo de las subvenciones crea monitos amaestrados. Y las crisis eliminan estas figuras: gana el que resiste, el que tiene más cosas que decir”, asegura.

“Aunque siempre es delicado relacionar crisis y creatividad, lo cierto es que en muchos aspectos es directamente proporcional. La necesidad de opinar, de comunicar posiciones respecto a la situación social es más acuciante. Parece natural que se multipliquen las propuestas y que el contexto actual sea un escenario recurrente”, destaca Alejandro Castellote, curador independiente y director del Máster Latinoamericano de Fotografía en el Centro de la Imagen de Lima.

“La crisis y los despidos en medios de comunicación, periódicos en su mayoría, han provocado que fotógrafos que llevaban mucho tiempo experimentando con la fotografía en sus huecos libres, hayan podido dedicar todo su tiempo y energías a profundizar en la fotografía”, asegura Olmo González, fotógrafo y apasionado del género. Ejemplo de esto son Óscar Monzón y Antonio Xoubanova, que antes de trabajar por cuenta ajena estuvieron en El Mundo. “Un día me llamaron por teléfono y me dijeron que no iba a trabajar más, y eso fue todo. A la postre puedo decir que es el mayor favor que me han hecho nunca, porque gracias a esto he podido dedicar a mi proyecto el tiempo que necesitaba”, cuenta Óscar.

Pero ¿qué futuro le espera al fotolibro? Está claro que la autoedición ha contribuido a su crecimiento y difusión. Es un hecho que la mayoría de los libros que aparecen en las listas internacionales de lo mejor del año son autopublicados. ¿Es el camino lógico en está década?

The Pigs - Book

Foto: Carlos Spottorno de su obra The Pigs

“Es una consecuencia de la informática. La facilidad de los programas de edición y de impresión simplifican la autoedición”, señala Horacio Fernández. “Los formalistas decían que las nuevas técnicas crean nuevas formas artísticas al cabo de un tiempo. Es un juguete muy bueno y es lógico que se produzcan libros derivados de estas técnicas. Luego habrá que limpiar. El tiempo se ocupará de eso y el propio artista también, comparando su libro con el de otros”.

Los fundadores del Photobook Club de Madrid, que organizan varias actividades mensuales para fomentar la cultura del fotolibro, creen que hay un exceso de autopublicaciones. “Es por falta de cómplices que asuman riesgos y faciliten el camino, que conozcan el medio, no solo la parte técnica, sino todos los procesos a posteriori: la distribución, la difusión y promoción del libro. Un síntoma de todo eso es el éxito reciente en los premios europeos de fotolibros hechos por fotógrafos, editores y diseñadores españoles. Estos libros son publicados, distribuidos y promocionados por editoriales de fuera de España o en coediciones, lo cual da cierta esperanza”.

Para Olmo González, es bastante probable que se conviertan en objetos de coleccionista, con tiradas cortas y caras. “Pero siempre habrá espacio para libros accesibles en cuanto a precio, y seguramente la tendencia sea hacerlos accesibles también en cuanto al contenido. Ahora mismo llaman la atención internacional libros de fotografía cuyo lenguaje queda bastante alejado de la población”, asegura.

Y aquí está el quid de la cuestión: la endogamia de un soporte que muchas veces no consigue salir del mismo círculo de siempre. “Hay libros hechos por fotógrafos para fotógrafos, comisarios, galerías o festivales”, advierte Fosi Vegue. “Cada vez pienso más que la fotografía debería ser un grito contra todo lo que está pasando en el mundo. Para mí el paradigma sigue siendo Oliviero Toscani con sus vallas publicitarias y su capacidad de comunicarse con todo el mundo. O como Ai Weiwei, aquel fotógrafo chino que usa la fotografía como arma política y se arriesga mucho”, añade.


Paloma al aire de Ricardo Cases

Salir de esa endogamia parece haberse convertido en una necesidad para algunas personas del medio, como Juan Valbuena. “Es lo que PHREE intenta con cada libro que hacemos. Por eso reivindicamos el papel de la fotografía documental en papel. Creemos que la foto que maneja como referente una realidad tiene códigos compartidos con más personas y, por tanto, puede comunicar mejor y ser más relevante”.

Julián Barón también cree que es importante trabajar en este sentido. “Lo hago todos los días, sin descanso. Una de las estrategias para que nuestra visión del mundo a través de la imagen llegue a mas público es la educación y que no existan trabas para el acceso a la cultura. Sin educación estamos muertos”, apunta. “Tendría que haber una gran enciclopedia y libros de fotografía en todos los colegios y las bibliotecas. Porque a veces llega más una foto que muchas páginas de libros de historia”, añade Fosi Vegue.

El éxito de un fotolibro no depende tanto de las ventas, sino de la intención con la que se crea la obra. “Por ejemplo, si yo hago un libro con fotos de la boda de mi hermano, lo considero un éxito si le gusta a los novios y sería un exitazo si le gusta a toda la familia. Si, en cambio, lo que se persigue es hacer un superventas, habría que utilizar un lenguaje más asequible y no quejarse de que la gente no te entiende”, señala el Photobook Club Madrid.

Hay quien cree que una feria del fotolibro ayudaría a afianzar este género, una carencia que FIEBRE, organizada por la escuela Blank Paper, intenta suplir. Otros, como Valbuena, vislumbran “un futuro híbrido, con productos en papel que tengan continuidad en pantallas, tipo web asociadas con información ampliada, y al revés”. Y por qué no, un fotolibro digital que dialogue e interactúe con las tabletas. “Ya hay algunos artistas que utilizan códigos QR para que puedas escuchar una entrevista mientras miras el libro. Pero los QR son muy feos y tecnológicamente obsoletos. Serán sustituidos por otros códigos mas inteligentes”, prevé Moritz Neumüller.

“Me gusta pensar que en un futuro será posible hacer tiradas de 10.000 ejemplares. Esto bajaría los costes de producción y los precios”, señala Xoubanova. Hoy las tiradas de los fotolibros van desde los 100 ejemplares a los 4.000, en el mejor de los casos. Del libro de Salvans se han hecho 2.000 ejemplares. “¿Tú te imaginas 2.000 ejemplares en un cómic, en un libro de niños, en literatura? Sería un negocio ruinoso”, dice el autor, que acepta que no todo el mundo puede conectar con este lenguaje.

“Nosotros de alguna manera somos frikis en eso de la fotografía. La porción de personas que se interesan por nuestro trabajo aún es muy pequeña (…) Pero yo no me siento solo en este mundo, ni necesito a más gente a mi alrededor. Nunca he estado tan bien como ahora. Estamos en el mejor de los momentos”, añade Salvans.

¿Entonces podemos jubilar el concepto de foto única y de instante decisivo? “Hoy las fotos tienen más sentido como series. Eso ayuda a solucionar el problema clásico de la fotografía con el tiempo, porque una foto solo muestra un instante congelado. El cine superó este escollo a la perfección, con la sucesión de imágenes y un discurso. Los fotolibros son hoy lo que en su día fue el cine”, concluye Horacio Fernández.