Leica World 1-2007 Reading Sample_en

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A L B E R TO G A R C I A - A L I X J E A N - C H R I S TO P H E B E C H E T R I C H A R D F L E I S C H H U T J U L I O B I T T E N C O U R T J O S E C E N D O N M A R G A R E T M . D E L A N G E C O N S TA N T I N E M A N O S TO M A S M U N I TA ‘ V U ’ M AG A Z I N E P H OTO M E T R O P O L I S M A D R I D


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Photo - Metropolis Madrid

FROM HE RE TO HEAVE N Madrid is booming. Economically and culturally, Spain’s capital is undergoing a remarkable upswing, from which photography is benefiting in no small way. ‘Leica World’ author Moritz Neumüller writes of a flourishing photo scene that includes museums, art spaces, galleries and what has long been one of the world’s most interesting annual festivals.

The Spanish Movida has effectively laid the foundations and has drawn the attention of the international photo scene to a country which until then had been associated mainly with a rather dated form of art photography. Meanwhile photo art in particular is booming. One of the promising talents is, for example, Carlos Lujan, member of the NOPHOTO artists’ group. Here he portrays young toreros at the bullfighting schools in Valencia and Madrid

and the steel-blue sky above the city is shot through with delicate shades of pink, it brings to mind the tapestry cartoons at the Prado by the Spanish court painter Francisco Goya. And you sense the significance of the Madrilene motto “de Madrid al cielo”: from Madrid it’s a straight road to heaven. The empire on which the sun never set ended long ago and the legendary Armada was lost for ever, but in the Spanish capital people still like to reach for the stars. European development grants and the involvement of Spanish companies in Latin-America have strengthened the country’s economy and it is looking confidently to the future. In the Madrid metropolitan area, economic output and the population levels have trebled in the last decade. Similar heights have been achieved in the cultural sector, too, as the recent extension to the Reina Sofía National Museum by French star architect Jean Nouvel and the success of the international ARCO art fair so impressively demonstrate. And in the field of photography, Madrid has also moved up into the first league, thanks especially to its annual PHotoEspaña Festival, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Another photo institution has a special anniversary to celebrate this year as well: it was on February 19, 1907 that the photographic society of Madrid was awarded its royal title by decree and from then on was allowed to call itself the ‘Real Sociedad Fotográfica’. But the great times of the ‘Real’ (not to be confused with the football club founded in 1902, which was not awarded the royal privilege until 1920) are long gone. Whereas the first members of the society had been influential citizens and members of the nobility, today it is no more than a nostalgic amateur club. The photo veterans have striven in vain to persuade the postal authorities to issue a special commemorative stamp for the society’s one hundredth anniversary. After all, the association can pride itself on having played a major role in Spanish photography in the past. This is especially true of the early years, when courtly portraits, allegories and travel photography filled the salons. The period of the republic and the civil war saw the emergence of a number of magazines and propaganda material whose new photographic outlook and avant-garde design were in no way inferior to their Russian and German models. After the seizure of power by the



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fascists, however, Spanish photography finally fell back into pictorialism, from which it could not free itself until the Fifties. Along with the Catalan photographers, a driving force in this catching-up process was the Madrid School. Who did and did not belong to it is still a highly controversial topic – at least in the Real Sociedad Fotográfica. Whereas ninety-three-year-old Vincente Nieto (an RSF member since 1955) favours a broad interpretation of the term, his colleague Gregorio Merino (the society’s treasurer), who is almost as advanced in years, insists on the historical facts: after all, the most distinguished representatives of this new aesthetic came, not from the rather loosely aligned group of artists ‘La Colmena’, of which Nieto was also a member, but from the more exclusive association ‘La Palangana’. Whether beehive or washing trough (so the respective translations), the hard core of the Madrid School – at least in the estimation of the renowned photo historian Publio López Mondéjar – is formed by the photographers Rafael Sanz Lobato, Paco Gómez, Gerardo Vielba, Fernando Gordillo, Juan Dolcet, Carlos H. Corcho and Gabriel Cuallardó. Incidentally, the last of these was also a haulage contractor, which enabled him to supply the group with international photo books and magazines. The influence of their approach – which is akin to Italian neo-realism – was felt for a long time: a good example can be seen in the early works of photographer Cristina García Rodero, who was recently the first Spanish woman to be admitted to the renowned Magnum agency. Her legendary series ‘España oscura’ shows religious customs and the traditional village life still to be found everywhere in the rural Spain of the Seventies.

New rooms for art For Madrid, the end of Franco’s dictatorship in the middle of the Nineteen Seventies marks the beginning of that era of new cultural departures, summed up today in the term ‘La Movida’. The protagonists of this scene were film-makers, musicians, poets, artists and devotees of diverse forms of youth and popular culture. In photography this era was reflected in the publication of new magazines like ‘Nueva Lente’ or ‘Poptografía’ that broke with the prevailing model of the ‘Family of Man’ aesthetic. But the publications were for the most past just as




fast-moving as the period itself. In the Eighties photography started to become institutionalised: 1985 was the year of the establishment of the FOCO photo festival (which stands for Fotografía Contemporánea, that is, contemporary photography) that brought artists of the calibre of a Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, Ralph Gibson or Eikoh Hosoe to Madrid for exhibitions and workshops. This was also when the photography department of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, the Madrid art society, was established. Without further ado, the Sala Minerva, dedicated exclusively to the photographic medium, was established in the basement of the building. The Kodak Company was acquired as sponsor. The squat exhibition room soon became the synonym for small but exquisite individual exhibitions by national and international photographers: Here, for the first time, Oscar Molina, Juan Manuel Castro Prieto and Chema Madoz, today fixed stars in the Spanish photographers’ firmament, were able to present their work to a broader artloving public. The last decade of the previous century saw the beginning of the process that finally established Madrid as a capital of photography: Madrid’s municipal government created a new space for photography in the form of the ‘Canal de Isabel II’ water tower, which was converted into an exhibition centre. It was a double success, because not only could artists exhibit here but its curators (such as Lola Garrido, Oliva Maria Rubio and Rafa Doctor) were given the unique opportunity to use the new space in accordance with their own ideas. The general surge of interest is also reflected in the creation of the national photography prize, awarded since 1995. But the impulses also came via the art market, because the gallery owners also began to acquire a taste for the photographic medium. The Eighties had been the time of the ‘Redor’ and ‘Image’ photo galleries, but these were only projects staged by enthusiasts for a limited period without the necessary market impact. When influential galleries like those of Soledad Alonso, Oliva Arauna and Helga de Alvear decided to extend their programme in the direction of contemporary photography, the scenario changed. Significant in this context is the amalgamation of the art and photography segments (whose separation many regard as artificial anyway). Carlos Urroz, until recently deputy director of the ARCO art fair, was for many years also in charge of the Gallery Helga de Alvear. During that time, Urroz was after all responsible for exhibitions of internationally acknowledged artists like Thomas Demand, Boris Mikhailov, Thomas Ruff or Jeff Wall, but he also helped native talents to achieve international success, for example, Eulália Valldosera and Javier Vallhonrat. To start with, the integration of contemporary photography into the gallery’s programme was met with scepticism: “The collectors kept asking me questions about the exact number of copies, the durability of the material and similar technical factors. This hardly ever happens today”, says Urroz with a smile.

Passion and discipline

The PHotoEspaña 2007 will be presenting Andrés Serrano, one of the most discussed American artists. On show at the Círculo de Bellas Artes are his cycles ‘Nomades’, ‘El Klan’, ‘Budapest’ and ‘La Morgue’ © Andrés Serrano/Paula Cooper Gallery, New York


The market success of this ‘new’ medium also opened new doors that had long been closed to Spanish photographers. “Before that time you were not even allowed in to present your portfolio to the gallery owners or museum curators”, curator Alejandro Castellote recalls. Castellote, who started out as a photographer, later changed to the profession of curator –at the time they numbered only a few – and thanks to his executive work with FOCO and the Circulo de Bellas Artes has become one of the country’s leading experts on photography. In this capacity, he was approached in 1997 by Alberto Anaut, the founder of ‘La Fábrica’. At the time the Fábrica (not to be confused with Benetton’s creative workshop of the same name in Treviso) had existed only for a short while, but had already made a name for itself internationally through the large-format culture magazine ‘Matador’. Anaut’s idea was both simple and compelling: the medium of photography, which was on its way up in the international art and exhibition market, was to be made the draw card for a joint initiative by the Madrilene exhibition houses. Thus PHotoEspaña was created, today one of the most important stops on the international festival circuit, with dozens of exhibitions and a lavish fringe programme. “In the year before the first PHotoEspaña there were altogether perhaps six photo exhibitions in Madrid”, Anaut recalls, “our festival alone, however, brought together

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The Italian Massimo Vitali (our photo) is represented at the PHotoEspaña as part of a group exhibition with the surprising title ‘The End of Globalisation’ at the Sala Canal de Isabel II © Massimo Vitali/Stephan Fruehauf, Berlin

more than 40. Of course, the institutions, as well as the potential financial backers, were already there. What was missing was somebody to take a firm hold of things.” This form of festival organisation led to a change of paradigm in Madrid’s cultural industry. Whereas previously the orientation had been on the (state-organised) French model this initiative now came from a private enterprise. This is also reflected in the festival’s financing structure: the ratio of corporate sponsoring to public funds (city, province and ministry of culture) is approximately 70 : 30 and all cultural institutions wishing to take part in the hurly-burly of the festival activities also have to pay the commensurate price. In the wake of ‘Matador’ and PHotoEspaña, La Fábrica developed further photography projects like the pocketbook series ‘FotoBolsillo’ – the Spanish version of Photopoche, which is completely devoted to national photography – and ‘Conversaciones con fotógrafos’ (Conversations with Photographers) that are published jointly with the Telefónica Foundation. Castellote’s successor, Oliva Maria Rubio, took over as art director of the PHotoEspaña for three years and after that the exhibition section of the Fábrica. An extra gallery was also opened in order to extend the market presence, especially in the photography and video segment. The most recent grand coup was the integration of the magazine ‘Ojo de Pez’, run by Frank Kalero and specialising in documentary photography by young talents. Recently Kalero, an elective Berliner, has also relied more on guest editors from Germany, and the product looks all set to become a cult magazine like ‘Matador’.


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Of course this aggressive market strategy has not only made Anaut friends in the local art scene. But the international success of the festival and the perfect integration of the art factory into the Madrilene culture industry, so profuse in institutional and political pitfalls, are proving him right. The decisive factor in the success story of the Fábrica is, so Anaut, “a successful mixture of passion and discipline”, constant renewal, an immaculate design and a durability often missing in Spain.

A firm fixture in the art calendar The PHotoEspaña is celebrating its tenth anniversary in a big way. The last three years under Horacio Fernández have given the festival the necessary theoretical stringency. This year, on the other hand, it is the artists themselves who will be the centre of attention, without a theme, without an art director. It is planned to hold individual exhibitions by Andrés Serrano, Raymond Depardon, Sylvia Plachy and Zhang Huan, an exhibition by crowd puller Sebastião Salgado and a Man Ray retrospective. The curators, who have put the special finishing touches to the festival, will also have an opportunity to contribute: Enrica Viganó even has two projects, one about Italian neo-realism and another on the subject ‘Unexpected photographers’, with pictures by a good two dozen non-photographers, among them Magritte, Cocteau, Brancusi, Visconti, Allen Ginsberg, Gina Lollobrigida, Wim Wenders, Lou Reed, Bryan Adams, Richard Gere, film-maker Pedro Almodóvar or rock singer Patti Smith. In addition to the large-scale Serrano show,


Four sisters, 1994

Waiting for the dealer, 1982


“I was a rocker, with hair cream in my hair and a knife in my pocket. We were wild, completely inexperienced and thirsting for life.”

part of an elite. We scarcely had a clue about the consequences. All we had to go by was William S. Burroughs’ novel Junkie. It was only when the first of us died from taking the drug that we realised what we had let ourselves in for. But, by then, it was already too late for many of us. The photos do not always show this explicitly, but you can still see it, for example, in the raddled face of a twenty-three-year-old, or a couple totally annihilated by the drug. Another photo is called ‘Esperando el dealer’ (‘Waiting for the Dealer’), and that is exactly what it shows: somebody standing in the street eagerly awaiting the person who’s going to bring him his next dose. M N : How did you manage to escape this death-trap? AG A : Everyone has a personal limit that forces him to change his ways. Some get there faster, others more slowly, and some only when they’ve arrived at the border between life and death. But until you have reached the point when you say: “Here and no further. Enough is enough”, you will never stop. I even sold my cameras just to get hold of this poison. But there were also many phases when I stopped taking heroin, mainly owing to shattering experiences like the death of a friend, or when the police were getting too close for comfort. Those were the phases when photography helped me to change from being a dealer into a mere addict, or even to stop completely for a few months. In this sense, photography was what saved me. I went back to my par-


ents’ home, where I had set up a small darkroom. I was also given something to cope with my withdrawal symptoms there. But, somehow, heroin was always present, even the first time I worked in my own darkroom. M N : So photography went hand in hand with drug consumption. But wasn’t photography also the life-belt that saved you from drowning? AG A : I was not really aware of all this. From today’s point of view, things are completely different, but in those days we used to live from one day to the next, never thinking of the consequences. I had no photographic awareness either. I simply recorded what was happening around me. Apart from that, the camera gave me a sense of power. I was not a photographer who had made it his aim to live from his art. I was not interested in picture stories either, but only in recording what was going on around me in a private and personal way. Today I might say, “Oh, if only I’d taken that photo!” But I don’t. I was self-taught and things just happened of their own accord. M N : And when did you change from being a drug addict with a camera into a photographer? AG A : In 1986: My brother had died two years earlier, and the police were after me. I had no flat, no job, no girlfriend, nothing. I told a gallery owner my story and he said to me: You can hold an exhibition in my gallery, but you’ve only got two months to get it ready. So I shut

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Willy and Carlos, 1979




Leica Oskar Barnack Award

EMOTION AND ENLIGHTE NMENT Photographers are pursuing new paths. Classic reporting is searching for an intellectual foundation and an artistic orientation. A good barometer for moods and trends is the annual Leica Oskar Barnack Award. This time, three international photographers succeeded in convincing the jury with their unusual projects.

being able to explain our world by means of ‘decisive moments’ and the idea of unobserved participation. Bittencourt creates a stage. He plainly enters the territory of conceptual camera art without giving up his interest in exploring the political and social. While Bittencourt literally takes a look at the world opposite, the Norwegian photographer Margaret M. De Lange turns something most definitely private into something public. Born in Oslo in 1963, she graduated from photo school and since the beginning of the Nineties has been working professionally for magazines, publishers or advertising agencies. Parallel to this, she pursues her own projects, undeniably influenced by the Scandinavian School (Strömholm, Petersen). At the centre of her “When I shot the pictures I decided not to tell a story in the traditional way, I just wanted to show madness, series, which received an honpain and fear through the eyes of the inmates, to express the suffering of the region. To be honest, I really ourable mention, are her own daughters. ‘Daughters’, begun JOSE CENDON wanted to hit the people who look at the pictures.” twelve years ago, explores childhood and the process of growing up with a rare brutal frankness: Youth, not as an enchanted In terms of formal aesthetics, colour is becoming increasingly imporGarden of Eden, but as a fairytale in which the grim, bizarre or dark tant. In the sense used to describe a story fashioned according to the sides of life most definitely have a place. De Lange tells her story as if it rules of the press, the classic report is in the retreat. There is a very conwere a vague and distant dream. The content is reminiscent of Sally spicuous trend towards the conceptual, towards the well-conceived Mann. But in terms of formal aesthetics De Lange definitely goes far essay in combination with a pictorial language that strives for a perbeyond her American counterpart. sonal trademark, more with a view to a portfolio or book, museum or The jury (Agnès Sire, Gaëlle Gouinguené, Gero Furchheim, gallery wall than a desire to seek and find its place in the classic illusFrançois Hébel, Hans-Michael Koetzle, Brigitte Schaller) were particutrated magazine. “Photography goes art” – this sentence is also, and larly impressed by the work of Spanish photographer José Cendón especially, true of those young documentary photographers of whom (born 1974), for which he received an honourable mention. After the best succeed, compellingly, in combining human interest and studying economics and journalism Cendon started to work free-lance form, commitment and an often courageous aesthetic. at the age of 28. In Africa he worked as an author and photographer for Born in Brazil, 26-year-old Julio Bittencourt, who has been working AP and AFP. His journalist’s interest is currently focused on the conflict for the past six years as a professional photographer based in São between Ethiopia and Somalia. ‘Fear in the Great Lakes’ is part of a Paulo, is the winner of this year’s Leica Oscar Barnack Award. And if larger work about mental illness in East Africa – a theme that runs there is any cycle that confirms what was said at the beginning, then it counter to the mainstream, because the usual topics covered by the is his series comprising twelve selected works with the title ‘In a wininternational press are, so Cendon, the wars and the genocide there, dow of Prestes Maia 911 building’. Windows, says Bittencourt, have and – admittedly – the bloodiest conflicts since World War II. And always interested him. These translucent interfaces between the these overshadow the dismal fate of the many mentally ill, looked indoor and the outdoor world: isolation and communication at the after, as best they can, by a Belgian brotherhood, the ‘Frères de la Charsame time. ‘His’ house at the Prestes Maia 911 used to be one of the ité’. Cendón’s approach comes closest to the concept of compassionate most modern buildings in Latin America. Much dilapidated in the photojournalism, although the Spaniard has committed himself to an meantime, it had become a squat for more than 460 families: a tempoemphatically subjective pictorial language: “I decided not to tell a story rary society whose daily life he had been eager to explore and which in the traditional way”, says Cendon. “I just wanted to show madness, motivated him to create the present series. So as not to intrude, Bittenpain and fear. And, to be honest, I really wanted to hit the people who court makes life come to the window, making visible what actually look at the pictures.” hmk takes place inside the apartments, creating a set for social behaviour and photographing it from the window opposite. In doing so, Bittencourt pursues a clear concept that includes orthogonal access as well as The award winners will be officially announced at the 38th Rencontres constant focal length (50 mm), the identical cropping that makes the d’Arles. Selected works from the Leica Oskar Barnack Award competition pictures compatible, as it were, and the interest in basically banal activwill be on display at the Leica stand in Arles every day during the opening ities, which, taken together, add up to something akin to a grammar of week (July 3 – 8) between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Deadline for entries for the next fundamentally human emotions. Bittencourt rejects both the notion of Oskar Barnack Award is the end of January 2008. P H OTO G R A P HY AWA R D S always point in two directions. They say something about the contents that are of interest to committed photographers and they say something about their aesthetic orientations. And they bear out the expectations of a – usually well-informed – jury that, in passing its verdict, points the way, or provides examples of the medium’s artistic status, or simply specifies tendencies, or, by means of its vote, is capable of initiating trends. Around 350 competitors participated in the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2007. Slightly more than 70 made it to the final elimination round, among them photographers from Brazil and South Africa, Australia and China, India and the USA.


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The American Constantine Manos, member of the renowned Magnum photo agency, is one of today’s most prominent contemporary colour photographers. He was given a very early opportunity to familiarise himself with the LEICA M8. His spontaneous judgement: “The camera worked perfectly for me from the beginning and produced high-quality images in all kinds of lighting conditions.” The photos shown here were taken at night in Times Square, New York (above) and at a public festival in Massachusetts/USA (photos on right)

FIDE LIT Y TO A GREAT TR ADITION LE ICA PHOTOGR APHE R CONSTANTINE MANOS ON THE DIGITAL LE ICA M8 When I received a Leica M8 test camera back in mid-August, I was delighted first of all to see and feel that, yes, it is truly an M camera – the digital descendant of the legendary M cameras. The size of the camera is related to the size of the sensor and to the fact that the camera can utilize all the existing great Leica lenses. A full-frame sensor, which many had hoped for, would have called for a larger camera and an entire set of new lenses. The M8 is a compromise perhaps, but a brilliant compromise. The camera worked perfectly for me from the beginning and produced high-quality images in all kinds of lighting conditions, without any filters. It was with some surprise that I learned later of an ultraviolet problem and the need for a corrective filter. Even with the early software in my first test camera, I would only have to tweak the colors occasionally in Photoshop to get things right, something we often have to do with film images – which sometimes have green or blue or magenta casts, depending on the light and film batch. So, memory and Photoshop are often the best resorts to getting honest color. My favorite lens is the 28mm, which translates to 37 mm on the M8. The swish of the shutter is not the traditional quiet click of yore, but it is certainly quiet enough – as I learned in the process of shooting many candid pictures of people as close as three feet. And there is no visible shutter-lag with the M8, an important feature in split-second street photography. When I first showed some 24"x36" prints from the M8 to a group of friends who teach digital photography, they were amazed at the quality. They said they had never seen digital pictures like this, even from full-frame cameras with more megapixels. There are a roundness and depth to the M8 images, which are missing from other digital cameras. The bottom line is that Leica did a brilliant job with this camera. For me personally there is a sigh of relief that the Leica M lives on into the digital age in such a quality camera. The M8 disproves the myth that a full frame and more megapixels necessarily produce higher quality. The M8’s success derives from a combination of factors – the quality of construction, the sensor, the lenses, and a fidelity to tradition.


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