Photographing Identity: The Syncretic
Tradition in Contemporary Latin American Photography
Although Manuel Alvarez Bravo's surreal photographs are among some
of the most celebrated works by a Latin American photographer, the
field of Latin American photography in general encompasses a much wider
spectrum. The history of Latin American photography begins in the 1840s
and spans the large regions of Central and South America as well as the
Caribbean. The diversity of these artistically rich and culturally
complex regions, with a history that goes back to Pre-Columbian times,
offers artists a wide variety of sources to draw from.
It would be limiting to speak about a Latin American identity and/or
discuss paradigms within its photographic art even though the work may
share certain themes related to socio-political and historical issues.
On a stylistic level, the traditional practice of the medium has been
straight black-and-white photography and photojournalism and shows a
general preoccupation with humanistic values. However, the
non-traditional approaches of modernists such as Edward Weston, Tina
Modotti, and Manuel Alvarez Bravo, who were active in Mexico during the
1920s and '30s, set the stage for younger generations to experiment
with the medium. Their efforts still inspire contemporary
photographers to push the limits of photography even further. Formal
and aesthetic aspects aside, contemporary Latin American photographers
are creating work that reflects the complexity of their national and
cultural heritage. Yet contemporary Latin American photography varies
widely and its many styles range from photo documentary and reportage
to magical realism and conceptual art.
Latin American photography still remains a largely unexplored field,
however it is gaining exposure on the international art scene due to
the recent exhibitions and publications featuring Latin American
photography which are creating an increased interest in this area.
The exhibition, "Photographing Identity: The Syncretic
Tradition in Contemporary Latin American Photography" features
work by Juan Carlos Alom (Cuban), Albert Chong (Jamaica), Flor
Garduño (Mexico), Marta Maria Perez Bravo (Cuba), and Javier
Silva Meinel (Peru).
The images in this show address issues related to the syncretic
cultures of their countries of origin which have a strong indigenous
presence. Each photographer explores the complexities inherent in
countries marked by pre-Columbian, colonial, and post-colonial values.
Drawing inspiration from Afro-Caribbean rituals or pre-Colulmbian
symbolism, these photographers convey a cultural quest imbued
simultaneously with rich spirituality, beguiling aesthetic vision and
documentary immediacy .
Yona Bäcker Director, Throckmorton Fine