2018 – ongoing
#Curatorial: MAPA Latin American Art
In spring 2018, I co-founded MAPA, a not-for-profit association to promote Latin American Art. Its principal site is Zurich, Switzerland. In its first year, MAPA funded and organized three exhibitions, a printmaking residency, and led several visits to exhibitions and cultural events on Latin America for its members in Zurich.
#Research: Historiography of the History of Photography in Chile — Writing a National History of Photography Today
Since the first publication of a history of photography in 1942, Chilean scholars have been reflecting on the medium and its use from different angles. From the arrival of the camera in 1840 to identity politics in the 1960s to current artistic trends, the proposed angle of the project is to investigate how Chilean scholars look at photography as an expression of their own visuality. Who has been writing which version of history, and from which perspective? Drawing on the outcomes of this investigation, I will further discuss the implications of writing a nation-based history and suggest possible directions of future scholarship. Whether the country-specific approach is limiting and exclusive, or a still valid framework for the sake of coherence, will be the focus of this second part. Why and to what end do we study a national history of photography today?
PhD Research begun in 2018 at Folkwang Universität der Künste in Essen, Germany.
#Research: Review of Delitos Fotográficos
Review of Delitos Fotográficos by José Pablo Concha is now published in the English journal History of Photography: Read it here
Delitos Fotográficos, José Pablo Concha. Ediciones Metales Pesados, Santiago, 2016. 124 pages, with 24 black & white illustrations. Softcover CLP 9,000, ISBN 978-9-569-84310-5
#Research: Review of Extensión Fotográfica
Writing about key issues in contemporary image production such as the body, communication, and politics, Rodrigo Zúñiga demonstrates the far-reaching changes incited by photography. PDF of the review available here.
La Extensión Fotográfica. Ensayo Sobre el Triunfo de lo Fotográfico. Rodrigo Zúñiga. Ediciones Metales Pesados, Santiago, 2013. 114 pages with four black and white illustrations. Softcover chil$ 8.000, ISBN 978-956-8415-56-3.
#Visit: Festival de Fotografía de Valparaíso
The international festival of photography in the port city of Valparaíso is the most important date in the calendar of Chile’s documentary photographers. For its 7th edition, the organizers once again put together an impressive program of exhibitions, workshops, and talks. Moreover, the collaboration with the festival of photography in Sète, France, makes it a truly international gathering of not only photo aficionados but also a substantial number of professionals and artists.
While the series of events usually lasts for one week in early November, the exhibitions in various places shape the city’s cultural scene for more than a month. In 2016, the festival occupies the biggest local arts venue, the Parque Cultural de Valparaíso, with an exhibition of the works of last year’s photographers in residence. Furthermore, a survey of previous festival publications as well as Sète’s considerable donation of photobooks to FIFV’s library are on display there. Other thematic exhibitions are spread throughout town in an alternative art space, a hair salon, an upscale café, and not to forget the containers at the scenic harbor boardwalk.
For the participating photographers, the brigadas are the most distinguishing aspect of the festival. Under the lead of internationally accomplished professionals, these little groups roam the city and create a body of work within the first days. Thanks to the FIFV’s own print lab, the results are edited and produced immediately and published on the closing day of the festival. Workshops and portfolio reviews complete the creative program for aspiring photographers.
For visitors, the festivals offers a great number of diverse talks with renowned photographers, curators, editors, and other relevant figures of the scene. Again, the organizers seek to build an international platform of exchange, and speakers come from surrounding countries like Argentina, Brazil, Peru, but also Mexico, France, and Sweden. This year, a new public format was introduced, namely the DJ book session. For this, famous photographers of the field bring along their favorite photobooks and present them to the audience, telling anecdotes or elaborating on their influences. Naturally, the dense programming makes the festival a meeting point for photographers of rank and an excellent opportunity for young artists to get in touch with each other.
Despite the numerous and diverse activities, exhibitions, and guests, the festival stringently focuses on a specific type of photography, the fotografía de autor. This conceptually and stylistically coherent genre roots in the photojournalism of 1980s Chile, when politically marginalized and repressed photographers stood up to the censorship of the military to document life during the dictatorship. Today, this type of photography lives forth in the socially conscious, narrative-based, and often grainy, black-and-white series of the artists associated with the FIFV.
#Visit: Ch.ACO 16
In 2016, for its eighth edition, Chile’s biggest art fair Ch.ACO moved to the affluent neighborhood of Las Condes in the east of Santiago, relatively far from the city center and its many cultural institutions, but closer to its potential clientele. With approximately 7.000m2 of exhibition space and 50.000 visitors, it is an important event for Chile’s still small but growing number of collectors. Most of the country’s art galleries and publishers participate, as well as dealers from surrounding countries like Peru, Argentina, and Brazil.
Whereas the galleries try to convince buyers with artworks that have proven to be a solid investment, the participating publishers present their newest works. It is also the print scene that is currently most thriving in Chile, as the successful first edition of Impresionante, a Chilean version of the NYABF, demonstrates. Photography in particular benefits from this trend as both art and a material medium, although thoroughly researched and high-quality publications such as Revista S/T are still rare.
Personally, my favorite part of the fair was the space of Galeria Isabela Aninat with the work “Verás un mar de piedras” by Chilean poet Raúl Zúrita. From an edition of four, whereas three are reserved for purchase by institutions, this is the only set of 22 picture-poems that is available to collectors.
#Research: The Archive of Luis Ladrón de Guevara
Luis Ladrón de Guevara (1926-2015) is one of Chile’s masters of photography. A magnificent book (2012) and a subsequent exhibition (2014) at the Museo Histórico Nacional (MHN) explore the work of a photographer that usually stands behind the more famous AFI photojournalists working under the dictatorship and founding fathers of Chilean photography like Antonio Quintana. However, with a legacy comprising around 100.000 negatives in a well-organized archive housed at the MHN, Ladrón de Guevara forged what came to be known as the “image of the modernization of Chile”. He mainly photographed for companies of key industries like energy and mining, and during his day, the only venue for his stunning photographs were promotional publications, which is why his work is still widely unknown.
The bulk of his pictures solely exist in negatives, and publications like those for FIGALEM that he kept with his archive are hints at how the pictures would look like on a bigger scale. Sadly, none of the large prints he produced for industrial fairs and expositions were preserved. Nonetheless, the many contact prints he produced for his various assignments offer a glimpse into his editing process as well as wide range of topics and places he portrayed.
From copper mines and salpeter pots in the north to water energy plants and ports in the extreme south, Ladrón de Guevara covered all of the many landscapes of Chile, often spending up to several weeks travelling to a site and photographing it. Recurring aerial views testify the impassibility of the vast terrain and demonstrate the exceptional achievements of Chilean engineers.
To give a sense of scale of both the buildings and their natural surroundings, Ladrón de Guevara often used panoramas stitched together from various negatives, not rarely four or more. Accordingly, he designed brochures with fold-out pages to accommodate his overwhelming images.
As part of his assignments, Ladrón de Guevara portrayed the inside of factories as sophisticatedly as the breathtaking landscapes around them. The large artificial structures offered him a wealth of angles to capture their abstract geometry and thus create a highly aesthetic representation of industrial progress in Chile in the 1960s and 70s.
Although Ladrón de Guevara’s archive at the MHN excludes his private photographs, there is a number of pictures that he took during assignments which go beyond his work and tell us about his curiosity and photographic eye. From street photography to wave studies, he was a prolific hunter of all kinds of motifs, singling out details and presenting them in context of their surroundings.