In the previous issue of About Images, edited by José Antonio Navarrete, was noticed the overwhelming impact of the COVID19 on the life of the planet and, more extensively, on the practices of collective coexistence. After four months of social distancing, masks, and compulsive cleaning, the dangerous pandemic persists, affecting the normal performance of many social and professional activities.
On April 21, 2020, The New York Times published an online work entitled “Still Lives,” featuring 15 US photographers recording different aspects of the health quarantine due to the pandemic. Among the authors reviewed, it was Maggie Steber, a documentary photographer born in Texas and living in Miami, who focused on capturing her surroundings. “This corona-enforced solitude and quarantine has given me the time to observe the beauty and magic that occurs on a daily basis in my imagined garden and in the real garden just outside my door. It was only by slowing down that I could see these things,” wrote the photographer. Almost a month later, on May 24, 2020, The New York Times no longer published photos, graphics, or articles on its front page, but rather a long list with the names of nearly 100,000 deceased to date and a large obituary headline that read: An Incalculable Loss. In the face of this, the question is: can the images show what has been lost?
Going to exhibitions, visiting museums, or meeting to listen to a lecture are experiences now deferred to the virtual sphere as a palliative. Because of this, in the third issue of About Images, we concentrate on exploring the possibilities of some online digital archives whose subject matter is limited to South Florida. Fortunately, they offer a comprehensive sample of photographic productions, each with a specific profile ranging from historical themes, artistic records, and high-quality environmental captures. There is also a lot to enjoy and learn there, navigating the net (as they say) instead of physically wandering the art spaces as we used to do before the arrival of this strange “new normal.” Strictly speaking, we must not only attend to the images of the pandemic (which is already generating a lot of attention) but also understand the new dynamics for the preservation, circulation, and appreciation of images. That exercise is what we will try in this third edition of About Images.
By: Félix Suazo
“The spectacle is
not a collection
of images; it is
a social relation
that is mediated
Guy Debord. The Society of the Spectacle (1967). Chapter 1, Separation perfected, 4. Translated and annotated by Ken Knabb. Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets, 2014, p. 2.
Interview with Silvia Lizama
Photo: Silvia Lizama. Self-portrait, 2020
Silvia Lizama’s photographic work combines technical reproducibility and hand-coloring to generate images of a strong evocative charge with an immediate reference to her everyday environment. Born in Havana, Cuba, and currently established in Hollywood, Florida, Lizama received her BFA from Barry University, where she is the Chair of the Department of Fine Arts and her MFA from Rochester Institute of Technology. In this interview, she tells us about the teaching of photography, the idea on the landscape, and the relationship between the traditional and the contemporary in the photographic technique.
How do you focus the relationship between traditional media and contemporary languages in your photographic work?
Photography, since its inception in the 1830s, has rapidly and radically changed with technological advances. The ability of the photographic
image to record reality is still seminal to the medium, but the processes
are completely different. With each advancement, our pictures, our
purpose, and our world are affected.
In my latest bodies of work, I have chosen to merge the ease of shooting digitally with the traditional black and white darkroom process that made me fall in love with photography. I then take it a step further and use the 19th-century practice of hand-coloring with photographic oils to make each image one of a kind and bring to life the world I witness.
In what way are notions of landscape, memory and everyday life intertwined in your photographic work?
One of the gifts that artists bring to the world is showing people the world from their unique perspective. As a photographer, I feel so fortunate to permanently capture images of places and landscapes that I find inspiring, yet my memory cannot remain. Photography allows me to record my world, and then hand-coloring will enable me to interpret what I have seen through the filter of my memory. It is not about being accurate; it’s about feeling right.
What has been your experience in the field of photography teaching?
Each time I step in a classroom to teach photography, I learn something new. Through teaching, I feel compelled always to keep learning so that I can give back to students. I feel I gain more than the students from their questions, insights, and mistakes.
Throughout my life, I was very fortunate to have had great teachers and mentors that taught me techniques, nurtured my passion for photography, and supported my career. I owe them so much and hope to repay them by continuing the practice of inspiring others.
It isn’t enough
Peter Goldman in the New York 1960s
By José Antonio Navarrete
Not drugs, not sex, nor love are enough for them. They are always looking for something else that they don’t know what it is. Money? Success? Family? Religion? God? The photographs made by Peter E. Goldman in Greenwich Village, New York, at the beginning of the 1960s, show a group of young people that live every day as the last one of their lives. They consume themselves along with their dreams and nightmares. They are Goldman’s close friends and lovers. They are like he is, and he runs himself the same way they behave.
Goldman’s small and compact photo-negatives archive introduces an unknown chapter in American photography history from the early to the middle sixties and immediately beyond. He was a celebrated filmmaker of the underground cinema and the American link to the French New Wave. Goldman’s films such as Echoes of Silent (1966) and Wheel of Ashes (1968) are unforgettable examples of free experimentation in filmic narrative. However, like in his films, Goldman was also a straight photographer with an acute understanding of emotions. The visual record of his surrounding world is full of passion, sadness, recklessness, and despair.
Goldman worked night and day with his still camera, preferably using ambient light. At night, with scant lighting, he underexposed the negative to increase its sensitivity and achieve high contrasts. A dark atmosphere, displacement of focus, extreme close-ups, spontaneity, irregular framing, were Goldman’s photography resources for narrating his drama.
The German monk Johann Zahn (1631-1707) publishes Oculus Artificialis Teledioptricus Sive Telescopium. He presents descriptions, diagrams, and illustrations of the camera obscura and the magic lantern, being one of the precursors of the camera and the cinema.
The first Cuban daguerreotypist, Don Esteban Arteaga, offers his services in Havana after coming back from Paris.
The Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) takes the first permanent color photograph by the three-color method.
With photographs by Claude-Joseph-Désiré-Charnay and text by architect Viollet-le-Duc, the book Cités et Ruines Américaines: Mitla, Palenque, Uxmal, Izamal et Chichen-Itza is published in France.
Painters Martín Tovar y Tovar (1827-1902) y José Antonio Salas (1842-1936) associate to open in Caracas Fotografía Artística Tovar y Salas.
The German historian Aby Warburg (1866-1929) travels to New Mexico and Arizona for six months, where he learns about the ceremonies and rituals of the Pueblo Indians. He collects various information and photographs with which years later he prepares his famous lecture on the Serpent Ritual.
A group of amateur photographers, the so-called Beijing Guangshe (the Beijing Light Society), founds the formally denominated Research Association for Art Photography. From 1924 to 1928, the group organizes yearly exhibitions and publications.
Zhuang Xueben (1909-1984) begins traveling to China’s far-western border regions in 1934, where he produces between 1934-1939 one of the earliest and in-depth photographic examinations of ethnic minorities in these regions.
In March, at the Havana Lyceum, the Avant-vanguard Cuban photographer José Manuel Acosta presents his first and only individual exhibition of photographs and also joins the membership of the emerging Club Fotográfico de Cuba.
Malian photographer Malick Sidibé (Mali, 1936-2016) opens his studio in Bamako, Mali’s capital, where he devotes himself to documentary photography, focusing on portraiture.
The American company Polaroid introduces the instant color film.
Miami is one of the “uncommon places” that Stephen Shore (b. 1947) photographs during his long trips throughout the U.S. in the 1970s.
Photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta (India, 1956-2012) publishes the book Women (New Delhi: Viking, India) with nudes and female portraits that challenge a taboo subject in Indian visual culture.
The Centro de la Imagen, México City, exhibits Frontera. 9ª Bienal Internacional de Fotografía, curated by an international team composed of Hou Hanru, José Antonio Navarrete, and Guillermo Santamarina.
The couple formed by RongRong (China, 1968) and Inri (Japan, 1973) found the Three Shadows Photography Art Center in Beijing, the first private art space in China dedicated exclusively to photographic and video art.
Walker Evans: American Photographs, exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, from July 19, 2013, to March 9, 2014, is the 68th time that the Walker Evans’ work is exhibited in this institution, which was fundamental for legitimating photography as a visual art practice.
Fotografía Artística de Tovar y Salas
Back of a printed portrait, ca. 1870
On a virtual tour, we visited four photographic archives, three of them located in Miami and the other, with a broader spectrum, including important segments dedicated to Florida. These archives contain documents, records of professional activities, daily scenes, tourist sights in various languages, useful for researchers, the curious and interested in the nature, society, and culture of the USA South East.
1 History Miami Center for Photography
It is dedicated to safeguarding and sharing the history of Miami through the photographic image. It consists of 3000 digitized photos of 1.5 million pictures (negatives, transparencies, prints, standard digital photos.)
Available at: www.historymiami.org/centerforphotography/
2 Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) Digital Collections
University of Miami Libraries
The Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) is dedicated to preserving primary and secondary sources (manuscripts, letters, maps, photographs) related to Cuba and the Cuban diaspora from the colonial period to the present, supporting the research and teaching needs of the University of Miami. Part of this legacy is the Cuban Photograph Collections, comprised of more than 5,000 photographs with historical images of the War of Independence against Spain (1895-1898), hospitals and portraits of island doctors, restaurants and stores of Cuban exiles in Miami in the 1960s, among other subjects.
Available at: merrick.library.miami.edu/digitalprojects/chc.php
3 Florida Memory State Library and Archives
This online archive contains over 200,000 digitized photographs and illustrations with images on agriculture, commerce, environment, transportation, folklore, health, and native groups in Florida.
Available at: www.floridamemory.com/discover/photographs/
4 Getty Images Gallery
Founded in 1998, the Getty Images Gallery is the world’s largest commercial image archive, with over 80 million photographs from the 19th century to the present, including traditional and contemporary languages. It features a wide range of subjects: animals, landscapes, personalities, fashion, recreation, art, transportation, celebrities, sports, social reports, etc. In addition to the topics suggested by the Getty Images Gallery, the internet user can make his/her search. For example, in our tour, we focused in Florida, where we got a copious volume of photos and images: 337,340 of Orlando, 42,106 of Disneyland, and 1,780,993 of Miami, to indicate some locations of the state.
Available at: www.gettyimagesgallery.com