In 2003, the world became aware of the abuses against Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison thanks to the unplanned circulation of photographs made by the same American officials responsible for these human rights violations. Shortly after that, in 2005, by the action of witnesses who activated the cameras of their mobile phones to record them, we learned of the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the London Underground system on July 7.
Enabled by digital technology, ordinary people transformed themselves into image producers of shocking events. A new mode of picture production and circulation initiated worldwide, propitiating unprecedented social relations between image recorders and viewers because of their interchangeable roles. Besides, since 2007, the democratization of the visual technological output increasingly expanded with the incorporation into mobile devices of cameras able to filming videos.
Visual journalism has been completely remodeled during the first two decades of this century. That not means that professional journalism will disappear. But now everyone, at least in principle, can be the author of the images that tomorrow will have millions of audience on the front pages of newspapers or international television newscasts. More importantly, however, is the fact that social networks are today relevant channels to disseminate photos and videos with contents disapproved by governments or beyond the informational interests of the corporate media.
We can all contribute to different readings of the news with our images. The COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated this type of alternative, non-official visual record. The brutal methods used by law enforcement agencies in Wuhan to maintain citizen control have transcended the borders of China by circulating through social media. The numerous gestures of solidarity, with which the citizens of this globalized world want to keep alive today the affectivity and human solidarity, also pass through them.
By: José Antonio Navarrete
The good work will
come over time,
and, of course, you’ll
still feel terrified
bother? That’s when
you need a sense of
humor and humility,
because in the end,
we’re all beggars here.
It’s All Dreaming. Essential Writings about Photography from Aperture
Aperture Foundation, 2018, p. 35
Produced by Aperture in partnership with LensCulture
Photo: Peggy Levison Nolan, 2020
Born in Albany, New York, in 1944 and established herself in Miami, Peggy Levison Nolan has developed a very personal career in the field of photography. Her work and daily life are intimately connected. In this interview, she tells us about her experience as a photographer, in addition to addressing issues related to education and life.
In 2018, you stated in an interview for the online magazine Lenscratch that your book, Real Pictures, brings together “a good version of wonderfully ordinary life.” What is “wonderful” in the “ordinary life”? How do you feel to be a photographer of the “ordinary life”?
Peggy Levison Nolan
I have never been attracted to the “slam dunk” moments that highly skilled journalists and advertising photographers are so adept at capturing for the broadest audience possible. My ideas about “wonderful” concern perhaps the first time a baby figures out how to roll over. If I’m lucky enough and smart enough to be standing in the right light at the right time, bravo. How do parents hold their kids’ hands when crossing a street? How does teenage boredom look? These are the waters worth fishing.
A part of your body of work is in black and white, while the rest is in color. How do you decide to take black and white or color photographs?
I started photographing when I was a housewife raising seven kids. The black and white process was much more affordable and accessible than that of color. Back then, I only saw the world in black and white. Much later, when I was employed full time at Florida International University (FIU) and contemplating graduate school, I decided to conquer color. I had seen a Nan Goldin picture of a couple in The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, and the woman had the red eyes of someone who had been crying. I knew that black and white film could not say this so subtly. I was ready for blue skies.
You studied at the Florida International University and currently work at the Photography Labs on the FIU Modesto Maidique Campus. What links do you find between your photographic practice and your photography teaching skills?
I don’t believe in the hierarchy of teacher to student. I have had more experience, for sure, both in life (I’m 75) and in photographic practice than most students. Still, the nature of the medium implies accidental successes and a healthy amount of risk-taking. In this arena, we are more equal players. I often envy the access many folks have to the social structures of their particular culture, their home turf, so to speak. For most of this, I am an outsider and don’t have the understanding to make good work.
What discursive space do you prefer to show your work: the exhibition space or the book?
I love the idea of a total stranger looking at my book on her lap, entering the world of the folks I care about, and the spaces that I find beautiful; beautiful in a photograph, like a tissue stuck in the crevice of a green chair. Pictures on the wall are public and must compete with sound and space and other people. The intimacy of one person looking is gone.
Modern Ruines on the Seafront
Photographs by Mitya Trotsky
By José Antonio Navarrete
In the turn from 2016 to 2017, Artmedia Gallery presented the first solo exhibition of Mitya Trotsky, former Russian performer and producer, who established himself in Broward County a few years ago. Today is the day, the title of the show, was also the title of the extensive series of photographs with which Trotsky encouraged his artistic career, since then devoted to a sensitive and regular exploration in photography as an art practice. With this series, the artist intended to participate actively in current discussions about the transformations of Miami’s urban, cultural, and social landscape.
Trotsky photographed intensively the seafront of Miami and Broward counties where he registered the hastened demolition of houses and buildings mainly constructed from the 1950s to the 1970s, which has been giving way to new properties. This was the point of departure of his work because, more than just a documentation of the process itself, Trotsky was interested in reflecting on the cultural meaning of this kind of business fever. He explored its consequences in the context of the local imaginaries and the recent history of the area. Then, his exploration implies how photography can deal with the representation of cultural values as well as social and political issues, transforming observed facts in artistic comments.
The particular virtues of this Trotsky’s series rest on the ability demonstrated by the author in reaching his objectives without conceding an inch to literality, but never distant of the careful examination of reality that photography provides. Through his collection of images, he stated to be aware of the fact that the polysemous possibilities of photography can be compatible with the appreciation of its visual sharpness as a medium.
Even though no one person appears inside the ruins he portrayed, these speak about people because they show many traces of human life, like a reminiscent inventory of a past time that gets meaning on many levels. More than one could be related to the unrestrained excitement engaged with an uncertain future.
In Nanhai, a rural area in Guandong province, the scholar Zou Boqi investigates several optical effects, including the pinhole image, and produces in 1844 the first Chinese photographic camera.
The beginning of the photographic era is dated on August 19, 1839, when scientist and deputy François Arago (1786-1853) presents the technical details of the daguerreotype process to the public in Paris as a gift to the world from France.
English botanist and photographer Anna Atkins (1799-1871) publishes the first photographic illustrated book, part I of British Algae, with images created by the cyanotype method.
French photographers and painters Victor Deroche (ca. 1823-1886) and Auguste Beauboef travel throughout Chili and produce a collection of photographs that title Viaje Pintoresco a través de la República.
In Saint-Louis, Senegal, Washington de Monrovée inaugurates the first daguerreotype studio for portraits.
As an amateur photographer, during the last two decades of the XIX century Ralph Middleton Munroe (1851-1933), Commodore and yacht designer, takes the earliest photographs of Miami as a new settlement in the US southeast region.
The first number of Camera Notes, The Official Organ of the Camera Club, New York, appears in July.
In Tokyo, images by photographers Kazumasa Ogawa (1860-1929), Kozaburo Tamamura (1856—1923), and T. Enami (1859-1929) compose the book Fuji-San (Mount Fuji), an English-Japanese bilingual edition published by K. Ogawa.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, starts its collection of photography with twenty-two pictures by Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) donated by the artist.
From December 3 to 14, Tina Modotti (1896-1942) presents at the National Library in Mexico City the first and only solo exhibit she had during her lifetime.
At the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the exhibition New Photographers, curated by Beaumont Newhall (1908-1993) and inaugurated on June 19, includes two Latin American photographers: Antonio Reynoso (1919-1996), from Mexico, and Alfredo Boulton (1908-1995), from Venezuela.
1959 - 1968
Senegalese photographer Oumar Ka (1930-2020) develops his practice as an itinerant photographer portraying rural communities of his country, across the Baol region, in open landscape and architectural backgrounds.
A seminal book under the direction of leading sociologist and cultural theorist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002), Un art moyen, Essai sur les usages sociaux de la photographie, is published in Paris by Éditions de Minuit.
Primer Coloquio Latinoamericano de Fotografía (First Latin American Photography Colloquium), organized by the Consejo Mexicano de Fotografía (Mexican Council of Photography) in Mexico City, reaches extensive participation of Latin American photographers, artists, art researchers and critics.
On February 19, Adobe Inc. releases the raster graphics editor called Adobe Photoshop, created in 1988 by brothers Thomas and John Knoll.
At the historic Grand Palais in Paris takes place the 23rd edition of Paris Photo, the largest international art fair dedicated to the photographic medium.
K. Tamamura. Fuji from
Yoshidaguchi, plate #24
from the book Fuji-San,
published by K. Ogawa in
Tokyo in 1912
Touring through several art spaces in Miami, we find some exhibitions in which photography has a significant presence along with other media and languages of modern and contemporary art. This phenomenon marks an increasingly frequent tendency to consider photography as one medium within contemporary visual art instead of showing itself independently as it used to be in the recent past. The uses of the photographic image vary, according to the different interests of artists, as a document, experimental resource, or self-reflective language. The capture, printing, and exhibition techniques also vary according to the purpose of each author.
1 Hybridizations / Contemporary Strategies
Juan Carlos Maldonado Art Collection
December 3, 2019-April 4, 2020
The Hybridizations / Contemporary Strategies exhibition at the Juan Carlos Maldonado Art Collection (JCMAC) offers a reflective look at modern and contemporary art, juxtaposing different media and artistic languages. In the route of the exhibition, there are two-dimensional and three-dimensional works, among which are photographs by Vik Muniz and Carlos Garaicoa that dialogue with the notions of space, representation, and structure as symptoms of modern utopia. Muniz’s photographs evoke the series of paintings with cuts by Lucio Fontana. Garaicoa’s work, meanwhile, is confronted with a sculpture by Nicolas Shöffer.
2 Robert Gober
The Institute of Contemporary Art - ICA exhibits a series of 22 photographs of Robert Gober, taken between 1978 and 2000, which refer to little-traveled places, press clippings with traumatic news, and symbolic images of American life. The photographs share the space with an Untitled sculpture (1993-1994) by the same author, installed on the ground, under a drain, through which you can see a submerged male figure. The proposal configures the critical testimony of a dramatic event, alluding to the notions of body, violence, and gender.
3 Transitions and Transformations
NSU Art Museum Collection
On view through January 2021
The Transitions and Transformations exhibition features a review of the NSU Art Museum Collection. Among others, the show includes several photographic works by Cindy Sherman, Zanele Muholi, Nan Goldin, Louise Lawler, Lorna Simpson, and Crystal Pearl Molinary. Some of them incorporate time as a principal discursive element or suggest the passage of time. Others represent physical transformations as well as turning points in the history of contemporary art.
October 27, 2019-July 5, 2020
In NSU Art Museum, you can also see the exhibition Happy!, that presents a photographic set of Adler Guerrier along with works by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Yoko Ono, Keith Haring, and others.
5 I Paint my Reality. Surrealism in Latin America
On view through Spring 2021
I Paint my Reality. Surrealism in Latin America, another exhibition in the same museum, gathers a series of black and white photographs by Ana Mendieta that records ephemeral actions the artist made in Iowa, in the 1970s, based on references to the Caribbean aboriginal mythology.