An Interview with Cristina de Middel (2013)

“My work is more based on sequencing than in experiencing the aesthetics of the images so the book seems to be my perfect solution, plus, it is and object and the possibility of translating a concept or idea into something you can touch, smell, tear apart or archive makes it really interesting and complete.”

Brad Feuerhelm: I surmise you have had a whirlwind of a year since Arles last year when you dropped Afronauts into the world. To my knowledge all existing copies of The Afronauts have been hermetically sealed in deep freeze storage by the photobook community. The response has been issued on a near phenomenological level. Do you have any thoughts about its continued and sustaining success over the past twelve months?

Cristina de Middel: For me the whole phenomenon with this book is still a mystery. I can understand that it might look different and that the story is pleasant and enjoyable but honestly, I have the feeling that is far too big now. Many things happened since the book was launched and all this recognition (with the Infinity Award and the Deutsche Börse nomination) that has been happening regularly, I believe, has made the book to be constantly up there. I think I have been extremely lucky and that the right things happened at the right time but still now, even if I try to recognize a strategy or something I could repeat as a formula, I don´t think it would work. I have always been a terrible commercial person and having all this success with a book that had no initial aspirations other than experimenting with a different way of telling stories, is just overwhelming. BUT, I am not complaining at all, I guess I am just at this point when I start seeing things in perspective and trying to understand was really happened as a life-changing experience that is almost over.

BF: The Afronauts is a book that begs questions from the viewer. It is a completely (and obviously) fictionalized account of a Zambian Space program. It is a fictionalized and industrialized African endeavor shot in Spain. The fiction element gives it a charming and playful relationship throughout the book. There is no explicit colonial exploitation. In the current climate the neo-colonial pandering of Africa off to the east, notably China, it begs some questions of practice by Non-Africans working on projects within African Communities. Have you ever been worried about the interpretations that your audience may have on this particular issue the neo-colonial lens? Perhaps this sort of interpretation says more about the imagination of the “reader” than the author?

CdM: Obviously, when I started producing the images of the series I was aware that I was approaching a sensitive subject matter and that whatever I decided to do it could potentially offend others. I tried to work on the cliché and the icons to be, at least, honest with what I was documenting and not trying to state that things are like that in Africa. The dreamy and legendary ambience of the whole series, I think, is a good tool for that because I use a language that is closer to a tale than to a report. The images, in one hand do not pretend to be documents and in the other hand the poses and the action are respectful and emulate the images we already respect from the NASA space missions. If I had done a literal translation to the documents I found, the result would have been certainly more offensive, even if more accurate to what really happened.

From the feedback I have got so far I think it looks like most of the people understood my message and intention, but it is true that I received a couple of emails accusing me of racism… just a couple of them, which is not that bad. The funny thing is that the most enthusiast feedback always comes from African countries. I don’t think they see it offensive as it is as if we could be offended by movies as Bridget Jones´s Diary or Rambo. It is a fabulation of their lives and I understand that the Western world is the only one having trouble in understanding that Africans have aspirations and that they can pursue them.

In any case, I am very happy when the debate is finally on the table as it is the first step to a change in mentality.

BF: You have several current irons in the fire. There are several book projects and quite a few shows to contend with. Not to mention that you are also being nominated or have already won for both the Deutsche Börse and ICP Infinity Award. Can you shed some light on your future endeavors, work wise? Are you heading in a similar vein working with photography’s duplicitous role as both investigator and its inability to actually render any image within the frame as “real”?

CdM: This is going to be a really busy year for me indeed. With The Afronauts flying so high I actually had to stop other ongoing projects and this year my intention is to catch up with all these and produce again at the same rhythm.

I am publishing two books, one with Self Publish Be Happy as part of their Book Club collection and another one with RM at the end of the year. They are really different to one another and visually with little relation to the Afronauts, but they do have one thing in common: redefining what is documentary photography and playing with the potential of the photographic image in story-telling.

 

01_iko_iko_the_afronauts_cristina_de_middel

7-Press-Image-I-DBPP-2013-I-Cristina-de-Middel-I-The-Afronauts-2012-1 (Custom)

“…it depends on what kind of exhibition it is. If it is in a commercial gallery I obviously adapt my edit to the images that I think can stand on their own keeping in mind that they might be separated and isolated from the rest of the story.”

I also have plans for 2014 and two more projects should come to light. It is really funny because I am actually doing documentary but with complete freedom in terms of language and format. It is a very comfortable solution for me being, as I think I am, right in the border of documentary and art.

BF: Is the book the ideal format for you? I find many people are starting to think in terms of books rather than exhibitions these days. Its something Michael Mack noted recently in an interview for Le Journal de la photographie… that many images can work within the confines of a book, but not all images are suited to exhibition. It suggests that “support images” within the book narrative or non narrative are an equitable endeavor to telling a longer story over that of a collection of images. What are your thoughts on working towards books that lead into exhibitions?

CdM: Well, I see it as a continuation of your creative process. It is an adaptation than can be successful or not of course, but I think a story can be told in many different ways and is not exclusive to a platform. My work is more based on sequencing than in experiencing the aesthetics of the images so the book seems to be my perfect solution, plus, it is and object and the possibility of translating a concept or idea into something you can touch, smell, tear apart or archive makes it really interesting and complete. I personally like this translation (idea to object) that happens during the creative process and we are really fortunate to have now very interesting new platforms to experiment with, as the digital book. I really enjoyed working on The Afronauts again with all these possibilities, just as much as I am enjoying now the process of translating the book into the walls of exhibition spaces. As long as the story is understood it doesn´t really make a difference for me and I believe that in order to be successful in that complex translation you just need to go back to your original ideas when doing the book and work on that basis.

BF: Does it give the work more time to breathe, to understand what the commercial images should be? Do you print for exhibition all images that are in the book?

CdM: It is definitely a completely different approach and I normally reconsider the edit from the beginning. Also it depends on what kind of exhibition it is. If it is in a commercial gallery I obviously adapt my edit to the images that I think can stand on their own keeping in mind that they might be separated and isolated from the rest of the story. If it is an exhibition like the Deutsche Börse prize or even for Arles, that have no commercial intention, I just try to adapt the story-telling to a wall with all the images and documents I have available. I start over again and again depending on the floor plan and the space I have assigned, just like making a book with a closed budget, I guess.

I do not normally look at the edit I used in the book when I am working on the exhibition design, I really start from the beginning. But then again, this is something I am learning to do…these have been extremely instructive months for me and I might be making terrible decisions. We´ll see.

 

 

 

(All rights reserved. Text @ ASX and Brad Feuerhelm, images @ Cristina de Middel)

Posted in Interviews, Interviews 2000s and tagged , , , , , , , , .

515 Comments

  1. Pingback: Female Gaze Friday: Cristina de Middel’s “The Afronauts” | Melissa Huang

  2. I spent four years trying EVERYTHING in Online Dating, and through a huge amount of trial and error, I produced a system that I will share for you. This book will take you, step by step, through everything you need to know to double, triple or even quadruple the number of women you meet online.

  3. This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your fantastic post. Also, I ave shared your website in my social networks!

  4. What as Happening i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I ave found It absolutely helpful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & aid other users like its helped me. Good job.

  5. I will immediately grasp your rss feed as I can at to find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly allow me know in order that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

  6. Wow, wonderful weblog format! How long have you been blogging for? you make running a blog look easy. The total look of your website is wonderful, let alone the content material!

  7. Wow, fantastic weblog structure! How lengthy have you been running a blog for? you make running a blog glance easy. The total glance of your website is magnificent, let alone the content!

  8. Wow! This could be one particular of the most helpful blogs We ave ever arrive across on this subject. Actually Great. I am also an expert in this topic so I can understand your effort.

  9. We stumbled over here from a different web address and thought I might check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to looking over your web page repeatedly.

  10. Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all of us you really know what you are talking about! Bookmarked. Please also visit my web site =). We could have a link exchange contract between us!

  11. We at present do not very personal an automobile however anytime I purchase it in future it all definitely undoubtedly be a Ford style!

  12. This awesome blog is definitely interesting as well as factual. I have picked up a lot of interesting stuff out of this amazing blog. I ad love to go back again soon. Cheers!

  13. I’а†ve read a few excellent stuff here. Definitely price bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how so much effort you place to make this kind of magnificent informative web site.

  14. You made some good points there. I checked on the internet for more info about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this website.

  15. This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I ave joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post. Also, I ave shared your site in my social networks!

  16. Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you been running a blog for? you made running a blog look easy. The overall glance of your site is excellent, as well as the content material!

  17. You can certainly see your skills in the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.

  18. look at skies (look for chemtrail in google) fake clouds blocking sunlight UK and USA govt as put chemicals in tap water and food to dumb down population research everything mentioned

  19. This blog is obviously educating and also factual. I have discovered helluva useful stuff out of this blog. I ad love to go back every once in a while. Cheers!

  20. Wow! This could be one particular of the most helpful blogs We ave ever arrive across on this subject. Actually Great. I am also a specialist in this topic therefore I can understand your hard work.

  21. This is a very good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate info Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read post!

  22. I will immediately grab your rss as I can not find your email subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you ave any? Please let me know in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  23. This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your wonderful post. Also, I ave shared your web site in my social networks!

  24. This unique blog is definitely educating as well as diverting. I have chosen many interesting stuff out of this blog. I ad love to visit it every once in a while. Cheers!

  25. This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I ave joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I ave shared your site in my social networks!

  26. It as really very complicated in this active life to listen news on Television, therefore I simply use the web for that purpose, and get the most recent information.

  27. If you are free to watch humorous videos on the web then I suggest you to pay a visit this website, it consists of really thus funny not only videos but also extra information.

  28. You, my friend, ROCK! I found exactly the info I already searched all over the place and simply could not find it. What a great web site.

  29. I think other website proprietors should take this website as an model, very clean and magnificent user friendly style and design, let alone the content. You are an expert in this topic!

  30. Wow, superb blog structure! How lengthy have you ever been running a blog for? you make blogging look easy. The total glance of your website is great, let alone the content material!

  31. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I ave truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I all be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  32. I simply could not go away your website prior to suggesting that I actually loved the usual info a person provide on your visitors? Is gonna be again steadily in order to inspect new posts

  33. Nice blog about WALSH | ENDORA. I appreciate you taking the time to write about this insightful topic. Have a great day and when you have a few seconds, visit my blog about vin number decoder!

  34. Purple your website submit and loved it. Have you at any time considered about visitor publishing on other relevant blogs comparable to your weblog?

  35. I will right away grab your rss feed as I can at find your email subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly let me know in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  36. Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is fantastic, as well as the content!. Thanks For Your article about sex.

  37. This awesome blog is no doubt awesome additionally informative. I have chosen helluva helpful things out of this amazing blog. I ad love to go back again soon. Cheers!

  38. You could certainly see your skills within the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. At all times go after your heart.

  39. My brother suggested I might like this web site. He was entirely right. This post actually made my day. You cann at imagine just how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  40. This particular blog is without a doubt awesome and also diverting. I have chosen many useful stuff out of this amazing blog. I ad love to return again and again. Thanks!

  41. Wonderful blog! I found it while browsing on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I ave been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Many thanks

  42. Undoubtedly, It has multiple features which are useful for affiliate marketers. I am currently using Pretty Link to cloak the affiliate links. It also works fine for me. Thanks for showing an awesome alternative.

  43. I truly appreciate this post. I have been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thanks again

  44. It is in reality a nice and helpful piece of information. I am satisfied that you shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  45. Wonderful work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the net. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher! Come on over and visit my web site. Thanks =)

  46. You have made some really good points there. I checked on the net for additional information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this web site.

  47. This unique blog is obviously educating additionally informative. I have picked up a lot of handy advices out of this blog. I ad love to come back over and over again. Thanks!

  48. Usually I don at read article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to take a look at and do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thanks, very nice article.

  49. Truly appreciate the posting you made available.. Great thought processes you possess here.. sure, investigation is paying off. Enjoy the entry you offered..

  50. wonderful post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector don at notice this. You must continue your writing. I am confident, you ave a great readers a base already!

  51. It is truly a great and useful piece of information. I am satisfied that you just shared this useful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  52. This blog is definitely interesting additionally informative. I have picked up many useful tips out of this source. I ad love to come back again soon. Thanks a lot!

  53. Normally I really do not study post on blogs, but I must say until this write-up really forced me to try and do thus! Your creating style continues to be amazed us. Thanks, very wonderful post.

  54. My brother recommended I might like this web site. He was entirely right. This post truly made my day. You cann at imagine simply how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  55. It as not that I want to duplicate your web-site, but I really like the style and design. Could you let me know which style are you using? Or was it custom made?

  56. Whoa! This blog looks exactly like my old one! It as on a entirely different topic but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Excellent choice of colors!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.