BEYOND THE DOCUMENTARY IN LATIN AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHY

By Nathalie Goffard, Professor & Art Historian
Oct 20, 2015

Art comes with its own clichés and fictions and Latin American art has often been reduced to its politics. One could agree with the commonly held assertion that ‘all art is political’, not just for the messages it transmits, or for the themes it discusses, but because it is a direct reflection on society and its time. The wide range of practices in Latin American photography has mainly been reduced to a particular type of photojournalism that was predominant during times of political instability and social inequality. Latin American photographers, seeking to give visibility to their peripheral status and write their own story within the historical context in which they lived, relied on a political aesthetic in order to become part of an international discourse. This perpetuated the myth that the realities these authors recorded should be defined as ‘documentary’.

 

In attempting to understand what we mean by Latin American photography, we should question whether the ‘Latin American’ label constitutes an identity per se or if it stands as a symbolic reference. In addressing this debate, intellectuals from the region agree that the essence of what is ‘Latin American’ stems from a culture of hybridization, where historical, geographic, economic, social and political influences have combined to generate new cultural forms. These multiple influences are paradigmatic concerns for Latin American societies and determinant in the current local and global dialogues and tensions.

 

The works selected for this exhibition reference memory, history and identity and attest to these superimposed layers of reality – formal or symbolic. It is perhaps no longer a question of defining and making Latin America visible to the other, but rather, to listen to the artists’ own reflection on their identity through photographic works that threaten and blur the boundaries between aesthetics, politics and fiction