latin american photography

Open today:  Viewpoints: Latin America in Photographs
The geography, people, and rich culture of Latin America have long inspired photographers to capture visually their experiences and impressions. Their photographs, in turn, entice viewers to marvel at that which is foreign or to reminisce about the familiar. Viewpoints: Latin America in Photographs exhibits over 100 images from the 1860s through the present. Presented in parallel trajectories, the photographs trace the perceptions of foreigners and locals and offer insight into varying cultural perspectives. The exhibition, drawn exclusively from the Library’s immense Photography Collection, is the first devoted solely to the subject of Latin America.

“2iPM009,” from the series Pinturas Móviles, by Magdalena Fernández, 2009

Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Nov. 19, 2015

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Going Analog with Producer @quanticmusic

To see more of Will’s photos from South America and around the world, check out @quanticmusic on Instagram. For more music stories, check out @music.

For Will Holland, digging for records in Medellin, Colombia, has become a tradition. There’s one spot he favors, located inside a small house in a dodgy neighborhood downtown with wall-to-wall music. On his most recent trip, Will took photos of the dusty records left in crooked stacks on the ground, and columns of coverless 45s and 78s lining the stairs (which he fittingly dubbed the “Stairway of 45s”).

“The last time I went it was in a completely different neighborhood, and they managed to transfer all the records to this other new place,” says Will, better known as the producer Quantic (@quanticmusic). “There were four of us and we went through it for a day. It was pretty entertaining. But it was hard work.”

Will’s connection to Colombia dates back to a recent seven-year stay in the country (he lives in New York City now), where he hopped around recording music, learning the accordion and experiencing the culture. For a record collector, Medellin was always a good place to visit –– an epicenter of the Latin American recording industry, it was the perfect spot to stumble on bucket list albums.

“The great thing about Latin America: Records are currency, even if they are without a cover and stacked in a column,” he says.

Will has always been drawn to an eclectic mix of sounds. Growing up in Birmingham, England, his parents encouraged him to explore different genres, both through records and live music. His mom would take him to different shows –– one night, it would be baroque musicians in traditional dress, the next, revolutionary Jamaican poetry. Meanwhile, his father was obsessed with Americana.

“He was a very good banjo player who learned all these American songs,” says Will. “So I had this very American-orientated household life as well, where I listened to a lot of American, a lot of Southern, a lot of folk.”

It should be no surprise that the now 35-year-old musician is known in the music world for his chameleonic efforts. Will’s most recent solo album, Magnetica, captures a variety of sounds from different genres and eras, mixing elements of Latin, soul, reggae and hip-hop.

That historical component of music has always played into Will’s creativity. That’s why, for instance, he began playing the accordion (“I like the mysticism of all these folkloric tales of these accordion players riding horses or donkeys and playing at the same time”), or why he’ll opt for old analog equipment in his songwriting and photos.

“It’s just the grandeur of it,” he says. “They really concentrated on the aesthetic of how they looked. You have the faceplates and the designs and the way the colors are used and the chroming. It’s like something akin to vintage cars, where you have this illustrious and classic look, which sums up the sound as well.”

–– Instagram @music

Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Jan. 26, 2016

*Photo by my wife, Rachel Mohl, who spent 11 days in Cuba researching for her Ph.D. in Latin American art at Rice University. 

Regina Scalzilli Silveira with her intervention piece, “Irruption” (2005), at the opening of Continent Beauty exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Nov. 19, 2015 

“2iPM009,” from the series Pinturas Móviles, by Magdalena Fernández, 2009. “Contingent Beauty” exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Nov. 19, 2015.

(This is a similar image to one I previously posted, only this one was made on 35mm film, rather than digital, and from a slightly tighter focal length.)

Le Sacre, by Guillermo Kuitca, 1992

Contingent Beauty exhibition, Museum of Fine Art, Houston, Nov. 28, 2015

“Kiss of the Egg,” by Gabriel Orozco, 1997

Contingent Beauty exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Nov. 20, 2015

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The Latin American Photobook, by Horacio Fernández

I just got this one and it looks great! Not only excellent reviews of books, but also carefully taken pictures that give you a better feeling of beautiful photography books of Latin America.

And few examples of Venezuelan photo books (pictures taken with my iPhone this time) …  

The Latin American Photobook is a result of four-year research on photography in Latin America by Horacio Fernandez. This is the best source for discovering photographers from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and, the most important (for us) Venezuela. 

“Woven Water: Submarine Landscape,” by María Fernanda Cardoso, 1994. Contingent Beauty exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Dec. 11, 2015

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Manuel Álvarez Bravo, the pioneer of artistic photography in Mexico, is considered the main representative of Latin American photography in the 20th century. His work extends from the late 1920s to the 1990s.

Álvarez Bravo was born in downtown Mexico City on February 4, 1902. He left school at the age of twelve in order to begin making a contribution to his family’s finances after his father’s death. He worked at a textile factory for a time, and later at the National General Treasury.

Both his grandfather (a painter) and his father were amateur photographers. His early discovery of the camera awakened in him an interest that he would continue to cultivate throughout his life. As a self-taught photographer, he would explore many different techniques, as well as graphic art.

Influenced by his study of painting at the Academy of San Carlos, he embraced pictorialism at first. Then, with the discovery of cubism and all the possibilities offered by abstraction, he began to explore modern aesthetics. He had his initiation into documentary photography in 1930: when she was deported from Mexico, Tina Modotti left him her job at the magazine Mexican Folkways. He also worked for the muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Álvarez Bravo is an emblematic figure from the period following the Mexican Revolution—often called the Mexican Renaissance. It was a time of a creative fertility, owing to the happy—though not always tranquil—marriage between a desire for modernization and the search for an identity with Mexican roots, in which archaeology, history and ethnology played an important role, parallel to the arts. Álvarez Bravo embodied both tendencies in the field of visual arts.

Between 1943 and 1959, he worked in the film industry doing still shots, which inspired him to realize some of his own experiments with cinema.

While he was alive, he held over 150 individual exhibitions and participated in over 200 collective exhibitions. According to several critics, the work of this “poet of the lens” expresses the essence of Mexico. However, the humanist regard reflected in his work, the aesthetic, literary and musical references it contains, likewise endow with a truly universal dimension.

He died on October 19, 2002, at the age of one hundred.

My wife, Rachel, with María Fernanda Cardoso’s “Woven Water: Submarine Landscape,” 1994. The piece is part of the new Latin American Art exhibition, Contingent Beauty, which Rachel co-curated.  

Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Nov. 19, 2015

Woven Water: Submarine Landscape, by María Fernanda Cardoso, 1994. Contingent Beauty exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Nov. 28, 2015