Some ideas manage to survive in the gene pool of creativity, be it that they are continuously reissued to another form. Meanwhile, our vision thrives on a certain kind of ‘logical progression’. We see, we process, we learn, and we see again - with new eyes. To acknowledge this cultural form of evolution - so vividly present in contemporary photography - we prominently salute the Catalan artist Joan Fontcuberta (1955) on the cover of GUP #45 and discuss his work within a contemporary context in our long-read article, 'So What Can We Believe in Now?!'
Fontcuberta made his mark in the early 1980s with the series Herbarium: a collection of sexually charged and delicately composed 'pseudoplants'. These deceptively simple black and white images slowly reveal themselves to be not actual plants, but rather, composites made from actual plants, feathers and paper, among other materials, to have the work function as a postmodern appropriation of the school of New Objectivity: an art movement that arose in Germany in the early 1920s as an outgrowth of, and an opposition to, Expressionism.
In all his later works he continued to address, in principle, the misleading aspects of the photographic image in relation to our faith in the concept of ‘objectivity’. In this issue's Backstory article (our long-read feature), we feature a selection of images from the Herbarium series, and link Fontcuberta’s general artist statement to the plead for a wider angle on visual storytelling – an argument that has been given new fuel when a relatively high number of finalists were disqualified in the jury process of the World Press Photo Awards, earlier this year.
People working within the ideology of New Objectivity (Karl Blosfeldt and Albert Renger-Patzsch, for example) were convinced that a photograph should capture the "essence of the object" – rather than to function as a mere subjective expression of the person behind the camera. By contrast, Fontcuberta's postmodern concern is to put the stress on the impossibility of those ambitions.
Despite this shift of paradigm, ‘objectivity’ somehow continued to define a style of photojournalism. But considering all the creative interventions made possible in the process of post-production, should we not acknowledge that we already evolved to a next level, somehow? If so, this also leaves the viewer with one simple task: to question everything.
To read the full text of our Backstory article 'So What Can We Believe in Now?!', check out GUP #45 - the Evolution issue.