Ausstellung mit Sebastian Mejia in Wipkingen am 28. September 2018.

Download Text und Werkliste (deutsch) / Download Text and Object List (German)

Sebastian Mejia Piedras
Sebastian Mejia Piedras
Sebastian Mejia Piedras

PIEDRAS EN MOVIMIENTO – Essay

by Matthias Pfaller. September 2018.

„There remains an essential and significant difference between Ruscha [and the photographs in the show New Topographics]… The nature of this difference is found in an understanding of the difference between what a picture is of and what it is about. Ruscha’s pictures of gasoline stations are not about gasoline stations but about a set of aesthetic issues.“ 

William Jenkins, New Topographics, 1975

 

Nine stones pushed a few inches forward, leaving deep marks on the ground. Nine cuboids on a barren land, in a similar shape and setting. The camera is pointed directly at the center of each stone (“piedra” in Spanish) and the remarkable circular frame cuts out the surrounding environment except the marks in the soil. A viewer’s first impression is likely of confusion, as these enigmatic photographs raise more questions than a cursory glance could answer. What are these stones? Where are they? Why were they moved? None of these queries will lead to a satisfactory explanation of the series by the Colombian photographer Sebastian Mejia. The straightforward questions, which are otherwise the cornerstone of our everyday life in news cycles, commerce, or science, are a dead end in Mejia’s exploration of visual strategies of the image, and especially in regards to the medium of photography. 

Mejia received his higher education in the US, equipping him with a solid knowledge of the history of Western photography and art history. Furthermore, he has taught photography for several years at Chilean universities, employing a wide set of historical references in his courses. Unsurprisingly, his practice finds itself consciously embedded in photographic history, thematically as well as technically. This background provides a fruitful basis on which to build further interpretation of Piedras.

As we struggle to pinpoint the photographs, we realize that the pictures of stones are not about stones, just as William Jenkins described Ed Ruscha’s photographs of gasoline stations as not being about their subjects in the quote at the beginning of this essay. Jenkins wrote these lines for his landmark 1975 exhibition New Topographics at the George Eastman House in Rochester NY, featuring photographers such as Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd und Hilla Becher, and Stephen Shore. Jenkins describes their works as bearing „stylistic anonymity“, an alleged absence of style. Being inspired by Ruscha’s conceptual photo-books such as 26 Gasoline Stations, he elaborates on the unrecognizability of stylistic choices, the pure concentration on the subject-matter, and the eschewing of “beauty, emotion and opinion” in the photographs of the show. Ironically, today, the Bechers’ typologies, for instance, or Robert Adams’ lyricism, have become a recognizable style and part of the photographic canon as uniquely distinct positions. Yet Jenkins’ analysis has been utterly important in recognizing this non-style, putting it into words and express its concerns. The plainness first perceived in the photographs of New Topographics led to a new understanding of what a photograph can be and how it can be utilized in both documentary and conceptual approaches. The frankness and minimal narrative of these canonic works also manifests itself decades later in Mejia’s series Piedras. 

Following Jenkin’s consideration of style and complicating its internal tensions and contemporary standing in Piedras, we may approach the present series in a similar manner. Adapting Quentin Bajac’s description of documentary photography, we may say that “in its simplicity [the objet trouvé], its systematic nature (the unvarying composition, the regular intervals), and its vocabulary (black-and-white film, [35mm focal length]), the series seems to embody a certain documentary essence of the photographic medium” [Photography at MoMA, 1960 to Now, p. 238]. Indeed, Mejia’s practice as a whole has a strong documentary tendency, demonstrating a deep concern with this method as well as elaborate skill. Yet, in comparison to his others series, Piedras is the most stylistically rigid in terms of subject-matter and presentation. It evokes the pattern of a typology, but deliberately lacks the background information as exemplified in the work of industrial architecture by Bernd und Hilla Becher. By virtue of using analog methods of photography Meija’s works are endowed with a truth value, yet the subject matter does not need to prove its existence in the same manner as, for instance, press photographs. Hence we may state the style is undoubtedly documentary,  but is the content? 

In fact, the repetition of very similar stones in the same position and the same light neutralizes their differences and thus the sense of novelty of each photograph in sequence. More so, the rigor of the series is the epitomization of a core capacity of photography: that of pointing. The act of pointing is a semiologically self-referential gesture, ultimately reflecting back to the person behind the camera or in front of the print. Therefore, the uniformity of the subject-matter and presentation rather suggest the strategies of conceptual art. This continuity is mainly achieved by the aforementioned style in which Piedras is executed. The execution itself, however, is unlike the point-and-shoot practice of references such as Ruscha or Garry Winogrand. It is a conscious decision of Mejia’s to work slower with multiple steps of developing the film and print and embrace the contingency the analog process brings forward. The sophisticated selection and editing process and high quality printing stands in contrast to a mere photography-as-a-gesture practice and turns the focus to the materiality and processuality of photography.

In this vein, Piedras is reminiscent of another thematic exhibition in photographic history, the Guggenheim’s 2015 Photo-Poetics. This show, conceived with artists in mind that build on the legacy of Conceptualism and at the same time reference today’s digital transformation of photography and art, emphasized the validity and duration of certain key principles of photographic practice. Points in case are participants such as Elad Lassry and Erin Shireff. Lassry’s cat photos take on the cultural phenomenon of photographing cats, but with utmost technical sophistication and therefore increased attention to production and its subject (“Is a cat usually photographed in a frame? Does it stand still?”). Shireff’s video of photographs she took of the UN building in New York City, in turn, express the double distance she experienced while looking at the building from across the East River and again while reviewing the photographs she took. In the video, the materiality of the photographs resurfaces in the reflections of the glossy paper, and with it the re-presentational character of them and, in analogy, the building. This “photography about photography” with a strong theoretical inclination is exactly what Mejia is engaging with, too. 

In Mejia’s own words, his two main points of preoccupation are photographic time and scale, and how we must reconsider these points despite our routine experience and use of photographic images. Regarding the first, the question seems initially obvious. While photography does have the capacity to indicate the passage of time on indirect levels, such as blurriness due to a long exposure or the sharpness of splashing water drops, the photograph always presents itself “in one instant”. Time is not visible in the pictorial content, but in its technical reproduction, requiring previous knowledge of the functioning of the photographic process so as to decipher blurriness as a long exposure, for instance. The viewer does not experience this time as a lived time as she would if watching a movie or a performance. In Piedras, time is visible in the marks on the ground, suggesting a movement which presumably took at least several seconds. Imitating film and mimicking performance photography, Mejia could have pictured the process while it happened, step by step, so as to emphasize the momentariness of each stage and thus its gradual change. However, Piedras is a series of completed time, condensing the sequence of the action into the result and therefore only alluding to time passed. In this vein, it could be described as an image for Henri Bergson’s concept of duration: As humans we are unable to measure the passage of time, since each measuring point would not halt time but instantly become a thing of the past; the duration of the movement goes on, only fathomable by intuition [The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics, pp. 164f]. Piedras are such points. They may suggest the continuation of the movement, but cannot predict it so as to keep up with its duration. Again, Mejia tries not overstretch the capacities of photography with technical tricks, but lays bare the limits of a photographic image and the necessity for interpretation that is implied in them.

The latter, scale, is a problem of optics and pictorial context. Mejia is known for his photographic walks in the city of Santiago, resulting in studies of plants in the urban fabric and geometric formations of sidewalks and buildings. What crosses his part documentary, part flaneur-like view is at the heart of his projects. This human perspective (as against the bird or frog view, or that of a Google Street View car or surveillance camera, to name but two examples of the extended perspectival chart of today’s photographic production) explains the slightly elevated view onto the stones, which is subtle enough to also suggest a kneeling position. This is where the main question comes up: How large, in relation to common references points, are these stones? Again, the exact answer is banal and does not interest us. A studium of clues in the picture like leafs and other vegetable debris would give us an idea, but to what end? The key point is that the photograph betrays our eyes at first sight, that pictures as simple as Piedras are confusing our quickly scanning eye and forcing it to halt. The round shape of the images is therefore not just a superficial stylistic diversion from the usual rectangular picture frame, it evokes a couple of associations of photographic history relating to scale: Astronomical photography and photomicrography, as early as the 1840s, produced circular images due to the setup of the camera with telescopic or microscopic lenses (figs. 1 and 2). The resulting images of planetary surfaces or cell lumps are often confusingly similar, yet ranging from the smallest to the largest scale imaginable in human terms. This play on the perception of different scales has, among others, also been masterfully employed by aerial photographers such as William Garnett in the 1950s-1970s .  

The allusion to historic photographs and the employment of analog camera technology is adding to the initial bewilderment in regards to the depicted. Mejia’s works are not trying to trick the eye through unusual perspectives or image manipulation—rather, the quasi scientific approach and unedited, analogue (i.e., indexical) image suggest the neutrality of the photographer, readily showing the cards on the table. However, unlike scientific photographs that were devised with a clear research query in mind, Mejia is not giving any guidance as to how to proceed with the interpretation of the information given, thus completely opening up the possible readings. 

Although Mejia avoids clear references to specific locations in his photographs, it is worth looking at the historical and pictorial relation of Piedras to the genre of landscape photography and his current country of residence, Chile. Since Latin America had been colonized for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of photographers, many salient (and populated) regions had already been cartographed and represented pictorially. However, in the wake of the independence of the Latin American nation states and developing industrialization in the second half of the nineteenth-century, the territory received fresh attention. Like the US-American West—the mythic land of Mejia’s idols, such as Carleton Watkins—, the vast South American continent was subject to increased scientific and especially commercial interest, seeing expeditions of government officials, mining speculants, and geologists making their way through untapped areas, often equipped with cameras to document their findings. The importance of visual proof for recipients in far off capitals (Santiago, New York, and London, in the case of Chilean mining explorations) justified costly and cumbersome travels of photographers and photographic equipment to the extremes of the country. The effort of the photographers was, in any case, worth the investment, and already the first step of the industrial infrastructure, or, as the scholar Tomás Cornejo puts it: “where the camera can go, so will the machines” [“La fotografía como factor de modernidad”, in HISTORIA, 45, vol. I, (2012), p. 14]. Along their way, the “wonders” of these soon-to-be westernized lands became famous postcard motifs, such as the Piedra Movediza in Argentina (with accompanying tourists for a better sense of scale, fig. 3), and it made nature itself the subject-matter and a representative image of a country. Landscape photography therefore became an important means for states to claim territories and create a national imaginary. 

 Accordingly, Chilean photographic archives are full with documentary photographs (documentary in the sense of the late Walker Evans, as bearing concrete pieces of information and serving a purpose, see Interview with Walker Evans, Art in America, 1971, pp. 120-2), ranging from geographic surveys in the nineteenth century and the large scale exploitation of natural resources in the twentieth century. These photographs directly picture the value of the land and the wealth of a country embodied by waterways, fertile plains, modern cities, and industry. In the middle of the twentieth century, Antonio Quintana and Luis Ladrón de Guevara stand out as depictors of a modern Chilean industry, the latter having worked for decades for private and governmental companies consigned to photograph and advertise mines, power plants, and engineered agriculture (fig. 4). Yet, the process of exploration and exploitation is not a static, nor a linear one. Both the exhaustion of raw material deposits and economic fluctuations such as the Great Depression have had a considerable effect on these artificial landscapes. Mines and miners’ cities were built and abandoned only to be rebuilt again in an economically and geologically more profitable environment. Chile’s strong economic dependency on its copper (and formerly nitrate) exports has made the whole population identify with the exploitation of their natural resources and the cultivation of landscape. 

Quintana and Ladrón de Guevara also employed photography in non-utilitarian ways to depict Chilean landscape. Interestingly, both worked on a series “Piedras de Chile”, of which Quintana’s would later enjoy a visibility unusual for photography at the time in the eponymous collection of poems by Pablo Neruda (fig. 5). The literary and photographic praise of the Chilean land, exemplified by peculiar rock formations along the extensive coastline, fostered national pride and the identification with a landscape that had first been the subject of colonial rule and later foreign industrial exploitation. The mythification of the rocks, ubiquitous on the borders of the ocean and the Andean cordillera, is a powerful attempt to grasp the defining features of this geography and the feeling it imbues in its people. It was furthermore a unification of a literal stretch of land that reaches from the desert of the North to the Arctic in the South, a process of such immense conceptual scope that could only be achieved through the embrace of multiplicity. The Nobel laureate understood to de-link Chilean nature from Chilean landscape, the latter being a product of rapid technological modernization of the past one hundred years. Instead, the rocks are emptied from any economic value and seen as a primordial home to its people.

Mejia’s Piedras are reminiscent not only of Chilean geography, but also its concrete use value and centuries of manipulation through its inhabitants. These stones have been pushed away to reveal something and to make room for new developments. Mejia, as an attentive pedestrian in urban Santiago, is a witness and maybe also a tourist of this ongoing modification of his surrounding landscape which began on a large scale 150 years ago. Chileans, however, have been used to the ceaseless transformation of their environment not only since real estate speculators got hold of cities and nature alike. Natural catastrophes like earthquakes, tsunamis, and wildfires have shaped the mentality of the people for thousands of years. They therefore adapted not only to recent technological progress, but to a natural state of perennial change. For them, stones can be obstacles in a road or bearing copper ore, they can be the remnants of a destructive earthquake or building material for new houses. Piedras, as reduced in context as it is and quite opposed to any industrial practicality, continues the deep connection of Chilean nature with the country’s history in science, industry, arts, and poetry. It is both a reflection on the specific use of photography in its own history and a quiet homage to its very grounds. What it communicates to the world is not so much the mineral riches of Chile nor the poetic symbolism of the actual stones, but the self-reflexivity and critical potential of its thinkers and their tools. 

The scrutinization of photographic time and scale, the act of pointing, the materiality of the analog process, and the connection with the subject-matter will remain the most important approach to photographic images. This is because these issues are fundamentally about our personal relation to images, in a very corporeal setting behind camera or in front of the print. Piedras is exemplary in its strategies to delineate this specific thematic field through subject-matter, style, and concept. By reducing interferences, such as an obvious narrative and an ostentatious visual décor, he develops an almost meditative process, comparable to praying along a rosary, the circular frame and the stones resembling the beads. Ultimately, the questions raised in Piedras are long-lasting inquiries into the capacities of the photographic process and its images. Mejia’s goal is not to answer them nor to exhaust them visually. Rather, they are an exercise of asking the same fundamental questions, almost two hundred years after the invention of photography, and particularly today as every technological novelty generates an array of micro-studies and sub-theories. Mejia’s rootedness in the history of photography proves a distinct awareness of this tradition and not only continues it, but also connects the dots along this ongoing process.

Bernard Léon Foucault and Armand Hippolyte Louis Fizeau, Engraving of a Daguerreotype of the Sun, 1845, Library of the Observatoire de Paris.
Bernard Léon Foucault and Armand Hippolyte Louis Fizeau, Engraving of a Daguerreotype of the Sun, 1845, Library of the Observatoire de Paris.
Auguste-Adolphe Bertsch, Male Itch Mite, ca. 1853–57; San Francisco Museum of Art.
Auguste-Adolphe Bertsch, Male Itch Mite, ca. 1853–57; San Francisco Museum of Art.
Pedro Momini, “Piedra Movediza” in Tandil, Buenos Aires province, Argentina, ca. 1900.
Pedro Momini, “Piedra Movediza” in Tandil, Buenos Aires province, Argentina, ca. 1900.
Luis Ladrón de Guevara, Prospección minera en el mineral de hierro (Iron Ore Mining Exploration), contact print, ca. 1965, Biblioteca Nacional de Chile.
Luis Ladrón de Guevara, Prospección minera en el mineral de hierro (Iron Ore Mining Exploration), contact print, ca. 1965, Biblioteca Nacional de Chile.
Cover of “Las Piedras de Chile”, Pablo Nerudo (author), Antonio Quintana (photographer), Editorial Losada, 1961.
Cover of “Las Piedras de Chile”, Pablo Nerudo (author), Antonio Quintana (photographer), Editorial Losada, 1961.

PIEDRAS — Installation views

In the artist’s words — Background

Alle Fotos / all images: Sebastian Mejia

Tuve la suerte de estudiar fotografía en plena transición de tecnológia análoga a digital.  Desde el año 2001 al 2007, una carrera prolongada que empezó en Chile en una escuela técnica y terminó en Nueva York en una escuela de artes visuales.

He cometido todos los errores posibles en el laboratorio, desde cargar la película a la cámara al revés hasta pasar largos ratos en la oscuridad tratando de meter el rollo en el carrete para poder revelar mis propios rollos en blanco y negro.

Eso me dejo una  relación física con el soporte fotográfico, oler los químicos en mi ropa, manejar el papel con mis manos, crear sombras bajo la ampliadora, son todas formas de sentir el medio de una manera muy directa.

Mi primera cámara me la regalaron a los 16 años, una Canon A-1 de los años 80s.

Desde entonces no he dejado de hacer fotos.  Para mi trabajo actual uso la cámara digital todos los días, es una herramienta que no deja de sorprenderme, pero para mi trabajo personal todavía uso cámaras análogas. El trabajo de Piedras lo hice con una cámara parecida que desafortunadamente ya no tengo en mis manos.

Nunca he sido bueno para coleccionar equipo, como muchos fotógrafos, que gozan de un repertorio óptico para cada ocasión, en los últimos 10 años solo he usado 2 cámaras para crear obra: una de gran formato otra de formato medio, les voy a contar un poco sobre ellas.

Mi cámara de formato grande no es muy distinta a las cámaras del s. XIX, lo único distinto es el lente moderno que tiene una definición tremenda.  Tiene un cuerpo de madera y fuelles, la compré un Nueva York en mi último año de universidad.

Mi cámara de formato medio es como una cámara de 35mm pero agrandada.

Produce un negativo de 6x7cm, es portátil y manejable pero con suficiente información en el negativo que me permite hacer copias de buen tamaño sin tener que sacrificar calidad.

La parte más importante de mi trabajo ocurre sin las cámara, en las caminatas por la ciudad, yendo al supermercado, paseando a mi hijo en coche o en tránsito a cualquier parte.  En esas instancias veo cosas que me llaman la atención para luego volver con cámara.

La cámara de formato medio es ideal para hacer un primer recorrido, me permite desplazarme libremente observando, obturando y caminando.  No me corta el flujo de las caminatas, es un tipo de observación a la pasada que le da campo a una mirada intuitiva.

La cámara de formato grande requiere otra estrategia, es una mirada más pausada.

Una vez que ya tengo más claridad en mi búsqueda acudo a ella, y el resultado es una imagen muy descriptiva más acorde a una mirada contemplativa.

Ich hatte das Glück, Fotografie während des Umbruchs von analoger zu digitaler Technologie zu studieren. Meine Ausbildung erstreckte sich über einen längeren Zeitraum von 2001 bis 2007, angefangen in einer professionellen Akademie in Chile bis hin zum Abschluss an einer Kunsthochschule in New York.

Ich habe alle Fehler gemacht, die in der Dunkelkammer möglich sind, vom falschen Laden des Films bis zum stundenlangen Herumprobieren in der Dunkelheit, um den Film richtig einzuspannen und meine eigenen Schwarz-Weiss Fotos auszubelichten. Dabei entwickelte ich eine ganz direkte Beziehung zum Material, als ich die Chemikalien in meinen Kleidung roch, das Papier mit meinen Händen vorbereitete, und Schatten im Vergrösserer verursachte.

Meine erste Kamera bekam ich mit 16 geschenkt, eine Canon A-1 aus den 1980ern. Seitdem habe ich nicht aufgehört zu fotografieren. Für meine tägliche Arbeit benutze ich eine digitale Kamera, die mich immer aufs Neue überrascht. Für meine künstlerische Arbeit aber benutze ich immer noch analoge Kameras. Piedras entstand mit einer ähnlichen Kamera wie meine erste, die ich leider nicht mehr besitze.

Ich habe noch nie viel Zubehör angesammelt wie andere Fotografen, die für jede Gelegenheit die passende Linse haben. In den letzten zehn Jahren habe ich nur zwei Kameras benutzt, eine Grossformatkamera und eine Mittelformatkamera.

Die Grossformatkamera unterscheidet sich nicht viel von denen aus dem 19. Jahrhundert, der einzige Unterschied besteht in der modernen Linse, die eine enorme Auflösung hat. Die Kamera an sich hat ein Gehäuse aus Holz und einen Balg. Das Set habe ich während meines letzten Jahres an der Universität in New York gekauft.

Meine Mittelformatkamera ist wie eine 35mm Kamera aber leicht vergrössert. Sie ist handlich und leicht, und mit dem 6x7cm grossen Negativ erzielt sie eine ausreichende Auflösung für Bilder mittlerer Grösse, ohne dabei an Qualität einbüssen zu müssen.

Der wichtigste Teil meiner Arbeit geschieht ohne Kamera auf meinen Streifzügen durch die Stadt, während ich zum Supermarkt gehe, meine Kinder im Auto fahre oder sonstwo unterwegs bin. In diesen Momenten sehe ich Dinge, die meine Aufmerksamkeit auf sich ziehen und mir für später merke, wenn ich mit der Kamera zurückkomme.

Die Mittelformatkamera ist ideal für eine erste Tour. Sie erlaubt mir, mich frei zu bewegen und weiter Ausschau zu halten. Sie stört das Tempo meiner Schritte nicht und eignet sich für ein spontanes Überblicken der Wege, immer meiner Intuition folgend.

Die Grossformatkamera braucht eine andere Strategie, sie erfordert ein langsames und konzentriertes Sehen. Ich nehme sie mit, wenn ich eine klare Vorstellung von einem Motiv habe. Das Resultat ist ein sehr deskriptives Bild, das zu einem intensiven Betrachten einlädt.

 

I was lucky to have studied photography in the midst of the transition from analog to digital technology. My education ranged from 2001 to 2007, a long phase that started in Chile in a professional school and ended at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

I made all the mistakes conceivable in the darkroom, from loading the film the wrong way to trying many hours in the dark to get the film on the reel and develop my own rolls of black and white photographs. This gave me a very physical relation to the photographic material as I smelled the chemicals in my clothes, learned to handle the paper with my hands, and produced shadows under the enlarger.

I got my first camera at the age of 16, a Canon A-1 from the 1980s. From then on I never stopped taking pictures. In my daily work, I use a digital camera, which keeps surprising me. However, for my artistic work I still use analog cameras. Piedras was shot with a similar camera like my first one, which unfortunately I no longer have with me.

I never accumulated a lot of equipment, in contrast to other photographers who boast with a range of lenses for each occasion. In the past ten years, I have only used two cameras in my artistic practice: a large and a medium format camera, of which I am going to tell you more. The large format camera is not much different from those used in the nineteenth century. The only difference is the modern lens which yields a tremendous definition. The camera itself has a wooden body and a bellow. I bought it in New York during my last year of school. My medium format camera is like a 35mm camera but slightly larger. It yields a 6×7 cm negative and is very portable but with a high enough resolution to produce decent sized copies without a tradeoff on quality.

The most important part of my work happens without cameras while I move through the city, go grocery shopping, drive around my kids or run other errands. In these moments I see things that I will later go back to with my cameras.

The medium format camera is ideal to get a first shot. It allows me to move freely and spontaneously, still looking out for motifs on the go. It does not limit me in my ways and gives me the possibility to observe as I still walk around and follow my intuitions.

The large format camera requires another strategy, it is a much more focused way of looking. Once I get a better sense of what I am looking for, I turn to this camera. The result is a very descriptive image due to its incredible resolution, and thereby invites a more contemplative reception.

mapablog-alta-25xx
contact

Mis caminatas no son muy extensas, por razones que todos pueden entender, la vida moderna me ofrece breves ventanas de oportunidad para deambular por la ciudad.  Eso me limita a un radio cercano a casa, pero no ha sido limitación para encontrar material fotográfico. El resultado de mis paseos lo voy revelando y acumulando por aproximadamente un año, luego empiezo a editar.  

En este proceso suele participar alguien más, ahí es donde separamos los aciertos de muchas imágenes inútiles.  Lo ideal es hacer esto con las fotos ya impresas, arriba de una mesa donde se puedan mover. Es el equivalente a un contacto (contact sheet) donde selecciono lo que va a pasar a la siguiente etapa.

A esta altura ya me voy dando cuenta de dirección que va tomando el proyecto, y con eso en mente puedo volver a terreno con otra actitud, con algo mas especifico en mente, aunque muchas veces todavía no lo pueda nombrar.  Es difícil cuanto tiempo me puede tomar este proceso, pueden ser 6 meses o dos años, mi estilo de trabajo nunca se aleja de un mismo tema, es algo cíclico siempre centrado en cambios leves de la corteza terrestre.

Aunque me pase gran parte del dia pegado a una pantalla, como la mayoría de los seres humanos actualmente, nunca me acostumbré a ver fotografía en el computador. Para mi es clave el trabajo impreso y creo que el libro es un vehículo perfecto para comunicar las intenciones de un fotógrafo de una manera completa.  La edición, secuencia, materialidad y la relación de la imagen al texto que ofrece una publicación impresa produce una experiencia intima con el trabajo.

Acá tengo una breve selección de joyas de mi biblioteca personal:

Ed Ruscha: Sabe darle el potencial dramático a las cosas más banales, que antes estábamos acostumbrados a verlas como parte del fondo de una imagen.

Richard Long: Camina como parte clave del proceso creativo, dejando una huella a escala personal, de mucha compasión y conexión con el entorno.

Walker Evans: Supo identificar el poder del lenguaje documental como herramienta de comunicación social y poética (personal) al mismo tiempo.

Robert Adams: Su insistencia en que la cultura es parte integral del paisaje, es comunicada de una manera tan bella, (con tanta atención a la luz), que uno no se da cuenta del filo crítico que cargan sus imágenes.

 

Sebastian Mejia

 

Meine Spaziergänge sind nicht sehr weitläufig, da einem das moderne Leben nicht allzu viele Gelegenheiten bietet, ausführlich in der Stadt umher zu wandern. Das begrenzt mich auf einen bestimmten Radius um mein Zuhause, aber ich habe es noch nie als Nachteil empfunden, um neue Motive für meine Arbeit zu finden. Die Ergebnisse meiner Ausflüge entwickle ich und sammle sie für ungefähr ein Jahr, und fange dann mit dem Sortieren und Bearbeiten an. Für diesen Schritt hole ich mir oft externen Rat, um die besten Bilder auszuwählen. Am besten funktioniert das, wenn die Bilder gedruckt sind und auf einem grossen Tisch ausliegen, wo man sie überblicken kann. Das ist wie mit einem Kontaktabzug zu arbeiten, wo die Bilder für die nächste Runde ausgesucht werden.

Während dieses Prozesses wird mir die Richtung meines Projekts langsam klarer, und mit diesem Eindruck gehe ich nochmal raus und fokussiere mich beim Fotografieren auf diese Idee, auch wenn ich sie noch lange nicht in Worte fassen könnte. Es ist schwierig zu sagen, wie lange dieser Prozess dauert, es können sechs Monate oder zwei Jahre sein. Mein Arbeitsstil verändert sich aber nie grundlegend, er bewegt sich zyklisch um die subtilen Veränderungen in der Oberfläche der Erde.

Obwohl ich, wie die meisten Leute heutzutage, den Grossteil des Tages vor dem Computer verbringe, habe ich mich nie daran gewöhnt, Fotografien auf dem Bildschirm zu betrachten.  Für mich ist es immens wichtig, die Bilder gedruckt zu sehen, und meiner Meinung nach ist das Buch das perfekte Format, um die Intention des Fotografen in seiner ganzen Bandbreite zu präsentieren. Die Bearbeitung, Abfolge, Materialität und die Beziehung zwischen Bild und Text in einer gedruckten Publikation sind eine ganz eigene, intime Erfahrung mit dem Werk.

 

Hier stelle ich ein paar Lieblingsstücke aus meiner Büchersammlung vor:

Ed Ruscha: Er weiss, wie man den ganz banalen Dingen, die wir vorher nur in Bildhintergründen gesehen haben, ein dramatisches Potenzial entlockt.

Richard Long: Das Gehen als Schlüsselelement des kreativen Schaffens gibt seinen Werken eine ganz persönliche, buchstäbliche Spur, voller Mitgefühl und im Einklang mit seiner Umwelt.

Walker Evans: Er wusste, wie man die Macht der dokumentarischen Sprache sowohl in der gesellschaftlichen als auch poetischen (persönlichen) Kommunikation herausstellt.

Robert Adams: Die Eindringlichkeit, Kultur als integralen Teil der Landschaft zu sehen, ist so meisterhaft in seinen Bildern verankert, mit einer unglaublichen Wiedergabe des Lichts, dass man fast den kritischen Aspekt seiner Werke vergisst.

 

Sebastian Mejia

My walks do not go very far, as modern life does not offer too many opportunities to wander around the city. It limits me to an area relatively close to my home, but so far this has not been any serious restriction in finding things I want to photograph. I usually gather images for a year or so, and only then begin to sort and edit them. At this stage I reach out for advice from friends to select the best pictures. Ideally, this happens with test prints on a big table where we can move things around. You could say this is the equivalent to a contact sheet where I choose the images with which I will continue. After this, I develop a sense of which direction the project is leading to, and with this idea in mind I go back outside with a more focused view, although in most cases I could not even express this notion. It is hard to say how much time this will go on for, maybe six months, sometimes two years. My style of working never really strays too far from one topic, it is cyclical and always concentrated on the slight changes in the surface of the earth.

Although I spend most of my day in front of the computer, like most people nowadays, I never got used to look at photographs on the screen. For me, the printed work is crucial, and I think the book is the perfect and most complete format to express the intentions of a photographer. The edition, sequence, materiality, and the relation between text and image afforded by a printed publication accounts for an intimate experience with the work.

 

At last I want to present to you some of my favorite books in my collection:

Ed Ruscha: He knows how to reveal the dramatic potential of the most banal things, things that before we were only used to seeing in the background of pictures.

Richard Long: In his creative process, walking is an integral part, imbuing it with a personal (and literal) trace, with a lot of compassion and a profound relation with his environment.

Walker Evans: He knew perfectly how to identify the power of documentary language as a means of both social and poetic (personal) communication.

Robert Adams: His insisting on including culture as an important part of landscape comes across so magnificently, with so much attention to light, that one almost forgets the critical undertone of his photographs.

Sebastian Mejia

Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard
Richard Long
ed
Ed Ruscha
robert adams
Robert Adams