The Latin American Photobook charts a history that begins in the 1920s and ends with a selection from the last dozen years, including Pop Latino by Argentinean photographer Marcos Lopez.
If The Photobook: A History, Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s two-volume text published by Phaidon, resulted in an important reassessment of the medium and its legacy within a more global context, it’s now having a secondary effect in the form of a series of like-minded scholarly texts focused on particular regions. So, we’ve already had Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and 70s (Aperture) and Swiss Photobooks from 1927 to the Present (Lars Müller), and texts on Dutch and Chinese photobooks will follow in the coming months. But the most recent arrival, The Latin American Photobook (Aperture) is the result of a real labour of love, because so little was known about the subject, even on the continent itself.
It began as a discussion at the first Latin American Photography Forum, held in São Paolo in 2007, where it soon became apparent that any survey of the continent would require an enormous amount of primary research, digging into the personal libraries of the photographers who’ve collected their own treasures over the years, as well as what little national institutions and private bookshops had to offer. A committee was formed, including Parr and fellow photographers Marcelo Brodsky, Iatã Cannabrava and Ramón Reverté, led by Horacio Fernández, the Spanish curator and photo-historian Parr credits with setting the visual standard for such chronologies with his book, Fotografia Pública, published in 1999, which featured photographs of spreads from the books he collected.
The Latin American Photobook follows the same format, split into nine main chapters, including one titled Word and Image, which comments on the continent’s affiliation with a literary culture that draws on a very visual sense of imagination, and another called The City and the Book, in recognition that precious little work has been made about the rural wilderness, tending to focus purely on the urban. Further chapters focus on protest and the political turmoil that has left most of the continent impoverished, or the plight of “the forgotten ones”, Latin America’s native peoples so often left out of the picture. And there’s another dedicated entirely to artists books, such as Eduardo Terrazas (best known for his logo for the 1968 Mexico Olympics) and Arnaldo Coen’s extraordinary looking Without Knowing You Existed and Without Being Able to Explain. And the book finishes with a short selection of contemporary publications that bear witness to the continued fascination with urban and political themes, the most recent of which, Archivo Porcontacto, comes from one of Latin America’s most celebrated artists, Oscar Muñoz.
Most, of course, are virtually unknown outside small, local cliques, and so The Latin American Photobook serves as an important reassessment of the region’s largely hidden contribution to the medium. What’s more, just as The Photobook: A History encouraged a further journey of discovery, this latest, beautifully presented addition to a burgeoning new genre inspires the thought that the photobook can be so much more than the staid and steady formats we’ve come to expect from mainstream publishers – never mind the print and repro are not always up to the highest standards, which seems to be one of the main reasons no-one thought to collect these books from Latin America in the first place.
For more details, visit www.aperture.org.
Pop Latino by Marcos Lopez.
Only 115 copies of Manuel Alvarez Bravo's Fotografias were ever published, and they came with three prints and an essay by Diego Rivera, who described his work as "photopoetry".
Fotografias by Manuel Alvarez Bravo.
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