…But I Am Not a Photographer
The 9.99 Gallery is pleased to present the exhibition, … but I am not a Photographer that will open within the frame of Festival GuatePhoto 2015, and in which, the artists Alejandro Almanza Pereda, Darío Escobar, Alexandra Grant, Patrick Hamilton, Sandra Monterroso, Gabriel Orozco, Sebastián Preece, Richard Prince, Isabel Ruiz and Inés Verdugo are grouped together.
In Roland Barthes’s book La Chambre Claire (1980), he explains that the critical part of photography focuses on the mechanical moment. The moment in which the brain decides and the finger clicks is the moment in which the “[t]he obstinacy of the referent in being there, always there” is present. Currently, that moment continues to be the most important; it is the one that makes the difference between points of view. Photography as a technique has rapidly shifted from the dark room into digitalization. When it started in the nineteenth century, it was a contraption. The expertise one needed to have in physics for the light aperture, along with the chemistry knowledge required to reveal the images have all but faded away. Technological advances allow many of us to carry a camera in our pocket.
Photography’s goal is to capture a moment that takes place only once, whether it is in the various classifications borrowed from academic painting: still-life, landscapes, people and historical moments. The way in which we approach them, and the stories that these images tell us, are not from a specific moment; but rather from the combination of several moments: to click, to develop, to manipulate, and finally, to single that moment and to make its invisibility present.
The exhibition consists of 27 pieces, which presentation starts from a photographic aspect challenging its more orthodox definition as it returns to an academic classification. Installed in a “cabinet of curiosities” style, we see a small compilation of works that goes from landscape to photographs of historical moments, in different formats and presentations, highlighting its rareness or its single imperfection as “impure” photography.
The exhibit starts with the hesitation and manipulation of the countryside landscapes Paisajes Perforados I y II (Perforated Landscapes I and II, 2009) by Patrick Hamilton (Chile, 1974), whose dalliances venture into his well-known photographic shots and manipulations of building materials in the series Proyectos de arquitecturas revestidas para la Ciudad de Santiago (Architectural projects re-covered for the City of Santiago, 2008) or Posters (2008), and returns to the landscapes, not only to manipulate them but to turn them into three-dimensional objects, based on repetition and reflection, as in the case of his most recent piece Escape al Paraíso (Escape to Paradise, 2014) and Spatula #1 (2015).
Playing with repetition, The less things change, the less stay the same (2013) by Alejandro Almanza Pereda (Mexico, 1977), a work that obtained an honorific mention at the XVI Bienal de Fotografía in 2014 at the Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City, here we see a series of moments in an exercise of constructive transformation of materials, tinged with nostalgia, which will be reactivated in Geometría Imperfecta (Imperfect Geometry, 2012) of Darío Escobar (Guatemala, 1971), but where instants are even more ephemeral as light is the main composition and appeal, or in the case of Untitled (2002) where memory is contained in the oil stains.
At first sight, the photography of Gabriel Orozco (Mexico, 1962) could be a ready-made of a balloon in the middle of nature. In reality the manipulation of an object within its context gives it a particular placement, which is one of the more evident features of portraiture. Although we usually refer to a portrait as the likeness of a person, the truth is that a person’s own objects also speak about their specific characteristics; they show us the “observing subject,” as is the case of the series Equilibrio (Equilibrium) by Patrick Hamilton and Volume XIV (2008) of Sebastián Preece (Chile, 1972).
The human figure is revisited in the gestures of Alexandra Grant (United States, 1973). In her series Shadows, a collaboration with the actor and writer Keanu Reeves, the technical manipulation creates a game of colors, shadows, and movement. This, on the other hand, is hidden in the work by Richard Prince (United States, 1949) where the manipulation is referred to as a physical object—Bill Powers’s novel What we lose in flowers (2012). The pin-up style female nude, behind a strip that reminds us of DVD titles, gives a new meaning to the idea of mixed media. The human figure is also the protagonist in Sandra Monterroso’s performance documentation (Guatemala, 1974), Tu Ashé Yemaya (2015), presented in the 12 Bienal de La Habana, and in the light boxes of Isabel Ruiz (Guatemala, 1945) in the series Río Negro (1988), where photography is on the verge of gesture. Finally, the exhibition closes with a gaze looking at another gaze, that of Inés Verdugo (Guatemala, 1983) in her work Continuidad (Continuity, 2015).
While at the beginning of photography the end of painting was predicted, today the photographic image has become such a generalized practice that “we are all photographers.” However, photography is still a specialized field where questions of light, focus, and perspective are endless challenges to overcome.