Pages from the book Fotografías (Photographs). All pictures courtesy of publisher RM S.A DE C.V.
Pages from Bares cariocas (Bars of Rio de Janiero).
Pages from Doorway to Brasilia.
Pages from Chile o muerte (Chile or Death).
Pages from La última ciudad (The Last City).
The Great Adventure of Latin American Photography
One volume covers 150 of the best books of photography created from the 1920s to today in countries like Chile, Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina
El País: La gran aventura de la fotografía latinoamericana
Elsa Fernández-Santos reporting from Madrid November 4, 2011
Like a chain of precious jewels on paper, the volume El fotolibro latinoamericano (The Latin American Photo Book) unites 150 jewels of photographic bibliography created in the countries of Latin America. Unique books, many of them unknown, found in old bookstores and libraries, which shape a route beginning in the 20s and ending in the present day and including along the way some of the most beautiful and singular works of publication and photography realized in recent decades. Works of art in which literature, history, anthropology, and simple beauty meet on the page, pieces which have not only survived the passage of time but also have become authentically unique.
The adventure of El fotolibro latinoamericano began in 2007, after the first Latin American Photography Forum celebrated in Sao Paolo. There the concept of creating a research book was born, one to be headed by Horacio Fernández, a former committee adviser for Martin Parr, Marcelo Brodsky, and Ramón Reverté, among others. “It isn’t a mere bibliographic compendium. It’s a critical study that shows the enormous contribution of Latin America to the photo book,” write the authors. “It has been a detective search. As this had not been researched before, we had to do a lot on pure intuition,” Horacio Fernández explained.
His team traveled to each country, dove into bookstores and libraries, and got in contact with people who could give them tips on unique books. “The selection criteria were simple: they had to be authors who were born in or lived in Latin America, and they had to have participated decisively in the publication and realization of their books.” From the page setting to the proper photographic discourse, each detail was important to the selection of books for this compendium. “The photo book is a collective work in which the photography is as important as the design or the graphic edition. It’s a way of looking at photography that’s very different from the way one would at a showing. I like to compare it with film: it’s a movie on paper, a visual story with a certain order.”
The Latin American photo books created by literary figures especially capture one’s attention. “In the 30s, Neruda had already begun to include photographs in his poetry collections,” Fernández points out. In the same vein, there are editions of Último round (Last Round) by Julio Cortázar, designed in Mexico by Julio Silva; Versos de salón (Salon Verses) by the Chilean Nicanor Parra, with photographs by Daniel Vittet and design by Fernán Meza, next to España en el corazón (Spain in the Heart) by Neruda, with photographic compositions by Pedro Olmos. They surprising works like Bares cariocas (Bars of Rio de Janiero) by Luiz Alphonsus, Fallo fotográfico (Photographic Failure) by Eugenio Dittborn; Fotografías by Fernell Franco, and Letreros que se… (Signs That…) by El Grupo, created in Caracas, “the most photogenic (and photographed) city in Latin America”.