8.28.2014

Mexico Notebook: Q&A with Ray Govea

From the series "Los Jales" © Ray Govea

Hannah FrieserJaime Permuth and I are collaborating to explore contemporary photography in Mexico. We're looking at trends and how they relate to traditions; events, institutions and venues; as well as pursuing conversations with curators, academics, gallerists and photographers on what's happening currently. This collaborative project will feature a variety of types of posts including interviews, book reviews, published letters, portfolios of images and more.

Hannah Frieser is a curator, photographer and book artist and former Executive Director of Light Work. Jaime Permuth is a Guatemalan photographer living and working in New York City and a Faculty Member at the School of Visual Arts.

We have been collaborating with the photographer Alejandro Cartagena as part of this project. Cartagena has overseen and executed a series of short interviews with photographers from Mexico and today we continue this series with an interview of Ray Govea by Cartagena. A statement by Govea on the work follows the interview.

Other posts in this series include:
Interview with Ramón Jiménez Cuén
Interview with Laurence Salzmann
Interview with Diego Berruecos
Interview with Mariela Sancari
Q&A with Eduardo Jiménez Román
Q&A with Claudia Arechiga
Q&A with Nahatan Navarro
Contemporary Photography in Oaxaca
Q&A with Aglae Cortés
Q&A with Maria José Sesma
Interview with César Rodríguez
Q&A with Nora Gómez
Q&A with Melba Arellano
Q&A with Jorge Taboada
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From the series "Los Jales" © Ray Govea  

This interview is presented first in an English translation by Nataly Castaño, then followed by the Spanish original.

Alejandro Cartagena: Where do you live and what you do?

Ray Govea
: I live in Pachuca Hidalgo. I am a photographer.

AC: How did you get started in photography?

RG: Since I was 18-years-old I was interested in learning how to use the camera. Since then I;ve been practicing and studying with local teachers, in workshops, certificate programs and most recently in the Programa de Fotografía Contemporánea (Contemporary Photography Program) and now in the Seminario of the Centro de la Imagen.

AC: When and what made you start considering producing photographic work to explore your personal concerns?

RG: The necessity to photograph, the impulse to keep making and making made me have a strong interest in finding my own style. In this search we find that there are things that interest you more, themes that you don't think can be made into an image, but this changes when you are able to find what it means, what drives you. When I found this, I understood that it was time to start producing.

From the series "Los Jales" © Ray Govea

AC: Tell us about some of your projects and the themes you approach through the images we are presenting.

RG: I was interested in the photographic practice, in the walking and exploring of spaces with a camera on my shoulder, meditating and thinking of the place I live in, relating and adapting myself to these spaces.

In "Los Jales," a creative project that I have not finished, my interest lies in the conjectures derived from these spaces of large extension covered by toxic waste in the center of the city that I live in.

AC: How do you think about the history of Mexican photography in your work?

RG: It is very important to know about all these photographers that take on themes with images that signify us to the rest of the world. In particular, knowing about photographers that work with the landscape has helped me to create a character and style of my own for approaching the making of photographs.

From the series "Los Jales" © Ray Govea

AC: Do you believe that there is any relationship in subject matter, form or any other aspect between photography in Mexico and the rest of Latin America?

RG: They are very similar and relate in the themes that they take on. Our countries suffer and enjoy the same situations, share a language and the problem of migration to the north concerns everyone. Globalization without a doubt leaves a mark in our photographic production but the style and form of the Latin authors is very defined.

AC: What are the issues being addressed both in contemporary photography in Mexico and outside of Mexico that interest you?

RG: I'm very interested in themes that have to do with space. The array of themes that Mexican artists are taking on is very diverse. Besides landscape, recurrent themes include identity, diversity, migration and women, just to mention some.

From the series "Los Jales" © Ray Govea

AC: What do you feel benefits you or is a problem with being based in Mexico?

RG: In Mexico there are a lot of people interested in supporting photography, pushing production and disseminating artwork. Personally I've received a lot support from professors and institutions but the main support has come from my family.

I think that we have many of the best photographers in history alive. They are professors in every sense of the word and have taken into their hands any and all photographic tasks. They are also creating and pushing educative systems that allow for new and different expressions from which international referencesx in contemporary art are emerging.

AC: Anything you'd like to say about contemporary photography in general?

RG: For me photography is a way of rooting myself as an individual from a defined place with a stance of what I know and what I want to say from this place that I exist, to confront the conscious of the collective and to project part of my subjectivity in each photograph.
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From the series "Los Jales" © Ray Govea

Spanish original / Texto original en español

Alejandro Cartagena: ¿Dónde vives y a qué te dedicas?

Ray Govea: Vivo en Pachuca Hidalgo. Hago fotografía.

AC: ¿Cómo te iniciaste en la fotografía?

RG: Desde los 18 años me interesó aprender a usar la cámara. Desde entonces he estado practicando y estudiando la imagen con maestros locales, en talleres, diplomados, recién en el Programa de Fotografía Contemporánea y ahora el Seminario del Centro de la Imagen.

AC: ¿Cuándo y que te hizo empezar a considerar producir trabajo fotográfico que explorara tus inquietudes personales?

RG: La necesidad de fotografiar, el impulso de estar haciendo y haciendo me fue llevando a tomar un interés total por encontrar un estilo propio. En esta búsqueda encontramos que hay cosas que te interesan más, temas que no piensas puedan llevarse a una imagen, pero esto cambia cuando logras encontrar lo que te significa, lo que te pulsa. Cuando encontré esto entendí que era tiempo de empezar a producir.

From the series "Los Jales" © Ray Govea

AC: Platícanos un poco de tus proyectos y los temas que abordas en las imágenes que estamos presentando.

RG: Me intereso por la práctica fotográfica, este andar y recorrer el espacio con la cámara al hombro, meditar y pensar el lugar que habito, relacionarme y apropiarme de estos espacios.

En "Los Jales" que es un proceso creativo, que aún no culmina, mi interés radica en las conjeturas derivadas de estos espacios de grandes extensiones de campo cubierto de materiales y desechos tóxicos que existen en el centro de la ciudad en la que vivo.

AC: ¿De qué manera consideras la historia de la fotografía Mexicana en tu obra?

RG: Es de mucha importancia el conocer a todos estos autores, ya que abordan los temas con imágenes que nos significan del resto del mundo, en lo particular tratar y conocer a autores que trabajan con el paisaje me ha generado un carácter y estilo propio para abordar la imagen.

From the series "Los Jales" © Ray Govea

AC: ¿Encuentras alguna relación de temas, forma o cualquier otro aspecto entre la fotografía en México y la del resto de America Latina?

RG: Es muy parecido y se relacionan en cuanto a los temas que se abordan, nuestros países sufren y gozan de las mismas situaciones, el idioma y el problema de la migración al norte nos concierne a todos. La globalización sin duda deja huella en la producción fotográfica pero aun así el estilo y forma de los autores latinos es muy definida.

AC: ¿Cuáles son los temas qué están siendo tratados en la fotografía contemporánea en México y también afuera de México que te interesen?

RG: Me interesan los temas que tienen que ver con el espacio. Y es muy diverso el abanico de temas que están tratando los artistas mexicanos, encuentro recurrente además de el paisaje, temas sobre identidad, diversidad, migración, mujeres, solo por mencionar algunos.

From the series "Los Jales" © Ray Govea

AC: ¿Qué sientes te beneficia o problematiza producir desde México?

RG: En México hay mucha gente interesada en apoyar a la fotografía impulsando producción y difusión de obra. En lo personal he recibido mucho apoyo de maestros e instituciones pero el mayor esfuerzo lo ha llevado mi familia.

Pienso que tenemos a muchos de los mejores autores vivos de la historia, maestros en todos los sentidos que han tomado en sus manos el rumbo del quehacer fotográfico, también creando e impulsando sistemas educativos de dónde están emergiendo nuevas y diferentes expresiones, referentes internacionales del arte contemporáneo mundial.

AC: ¿Algo que quisieras comentar sobre la fotografía contemporánea en general?

RG: Para mi la fotografía es un medio de plantarme como individuo desde un lugar y con una postura definida de lo que sé y quiero decir de el lugar en el que existo, hacer frente a el consciente del colectivo y ante mi mismo proyectando parte de mi subjetividad en cada foto.

From the series "Los Jales" © Ray Govea
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Statement on "Los Jales" (Mining Tailings) by Ray Govea
"That toxic light
comes from Spain, goes to Canada;
shone over a million beggars in England;
will shine over ten million beggars in China,
shines on thousands of beggars in Mexico. "

Unstable dams of fine sludge are the foundation of the future and the present of the city that moves away from its past and the traces of the nineteenth century.

The analysis, comparison and rethinking of the relationship between these dams and a mining town, the meeting/re-counting of this area in the shadow of its valleys, in contrast to the lights of the city, and the conjecture of permeability, the coating. One senses the possible relationship and risks of cyanide from mining tailings, their presence in the air and water of the city.

They are like "Lights of Cyanide" that illuminate the valleys, that point to the future of a subject that must be eradicated, to the management of mining waste, to the obligatory but involuntary transformation of this space and to the assimilation and development of the population exposed to the venom.

Escrito sobre "Los Jales" por Ray Govea
"Esa luz toxica
viene desde España, va hacia Canadá;
brilló sobre un millón de mendigos en Inglaterra;
brillará sobre diez millones de mendigos en China,
brilla sobre miles de mendigos en México."

Presas inestables de lodos finos son el cimiento del futuro y presente de la ciudad que parten del pasado, las huellas de siglo XIX.

El análisis, comparación y repensamiento de la relación entre estas presas y una ciudad minera, el encuentro-recuento de la zona en la penumbra de sus valles, en contraste con las luces de la ciudad, y la conjetura de la permeabilidad, el revestimiento. Intuye la posible relación y riesgos del cianuro de los Jales, su presencia en el aire y agua de la ciudad.

Son como “Luces de Cianuro” que los iluminan, apuntan y así en lo sucesivo al sujeto que debe erradicarse, el manejo de los desechos de las minas, la obligada pero involuntaria transformación de este espacio y la asimilación y desarrollo de la población expuesta al veneno.
______________________________

Alejandro Cartagena lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico. His projects employ landscape and portraiture as a means to examine social, urban and environmental issues in the Latin-American region.

His work has been exhibited internationally in festivals like CONTACT in Toronto, The FIF in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, GuatePhoto festival in Guatemala City, FOTOFEST in Houston and UNSEEN by FOAM in Amsterdam among others. Alejandro's work has been published internationally in magazines and newspapers such as Newsweek, Le Monde, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times Lens Blog, PDN, The New Yorker, and Wallpaper among others. His book Suburbia Mexicana was published by Photolucida and Daylight books in 2011.

He has received the Photolucida Critical Mass book award, the SNCA-CONACULTA grant for Mexican artists, the Premio IILA-Fotografia 2012 award in Rome, the Street Photography Award in London and a POYi reportage award of excellence, the Lente Latino award in Chile, the award Salon de la Fotografia from the Fototeca de Nuevo Leon in Mexico among other awards. He has been named a FOAM magazine Talent and one of PDN Magazine's 30 emerging photographers. He has also been a finalist for the Aperture Portfolio award, the Photoespaña Descubrimientos award, the FOAM Paul Huff award and has been nominated for the CENTER Santa Fe photography prize.

His work is in many private and public collections. He is currently represented by Circuit Gallery in Toronto, Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles and Galería Patricia Conde in Mexico City.

8.26.2014

Yoav Horesh Selects

© Justyna Mielnikiewicz

The premise here is simple: to ask a curator, blogger, editor, photographer or other person involved in contemporary photography to select five portfolios of work that they are currently excited about to recommend to the rest of us, placing emphasis - ideally - on work that hasn't seen heavy rotation online. The portfolios are not presented in any sort of order.

The series comes from a belief that the Internet has a tendency to briefly cohere around certain projects and, longer-term, establish its own canon of photographers, distinct and separate from the gallery and museum canons.

While these dynamics have advantages, they also have the expense of promoting a limited number of projects on a large scale, frequently overshadowing other projects equal in quality. This series, then, seeks in particular to look for great photography that counterbalances heavily distributed projects. It also is part of a general interest I have for this site to go behind the limits of my single vision, personal knowledge and time.

Today's guest is Yoav Horesh who has added an introductory text below. His biography follows at the end of the post. For previous posts in this series, please see the site links page.

Nataly Castaño helped organize this post.
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During Typhoon (#2), Hong Kong 2012 © Yoav Horesh

Yoav Horesh: I started photographing at an early age, but not until I received formal photography instruction in high school and college did I hear from my teachers about the "importance of choosing a project or a style" to distinguish myself as an artist/photographer from others.

I was taught about "street photographers" and landscape photographers, about those who work very close to their subject matter vs. those who prefer to stay in a distance. I met people who make their own cameras, their own chemicals and create prints with a certain "look" in order to distinguish their work from others whether it is a technical difference, a matter of approach or a decision about a conceptual frame work they have adopted.  For years I struggled to define my own "style" knowing that I love and have been making photographs of many different subject matters (from people to buildings, from landscape to seascape to underwater, etc.) in different "styles" and approaches as I was influenced by many excellent photographers I met and learned about. Ten years ago, realizing that this struggle undermines my work and sometimes prevents me from photographing, I stopped trying to control what I photograph (subject matter), how I photograph (style) and with what type of camera I work with.  Since then, I have been working constantly with several formats in B/W and color, depending on the specific project I am working on. Any technical restrictions I have such as access, light or time will be considered in deciding on the camera or approach, as well as other considerations that are out of my control like film format availability or broken equipment.

For the "fototazo Selects" I chose five photographers from different backgrounds and interests who created five projects in Europe, Israel and Central Asia concerning history, conflict, the landscape and humanity. These selections are fine examples of in-depth research and well made photographs that utilize photography in different ways to discuss and present personal points of view, though consistent with my pluralistic interests in contemporary photography.
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© Galit Julia Aloni 

© Galit Julia Aloni 

© Galit Julia Aloni 

© Galit Julia Aloni 

© Galit Julia Aloni 

Galit Julia Aloni is an Israeli photographer living and working in Tel Aviv, Israel. In her series "Rereading the Land," she is striving to photograph landscapes with fresh eyes that are not tinted with political turmoil, border shifts and definitions. She is looking at them just "as a place" until the familiar and the unfamiliar entangle.
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© Doron Altaratz

© Doron Altaratz

© Doron Altaratz

© Doron Altaratz

© Doron Altaratz

Doron Altaratz is a visual artist, photographer and new media researcher based in Jerusalem. In his series "Visions of Heaven and Hell," using video and still images, Doron explores the relationship between the holy and the mundane in what he refers to as  "apocalyptic images." These were created around Israel and specifically in the small triangular area in Jerusalem of the Military Cemetery, "The Nation's Greatest Leaders Cemetery" and The Holocaust Museum that commemorate the Zionist ethos.
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© Dr. Dana Arieli 

© Dr. Dana Arieli 

© Dr. Dana Arieli 

© Dr. Dana Arieli 

© Dr. Dana Arieli 

Dr. Dana Arieli is an academic researcher, a photographer and a scholar of many talents and topics. In her recent book "The Nazi Phantom: A Journey Following the Relics of the Third Reich" Arieli is on a scholarly and personal journey through the Nazi landscape, architecture and product design.  Arieli's deep interests in European history, Israeli art, the psychology of trauma and how they all are connected are essentially rooted in her own family history and identity between Europe and Israel.
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© Dean C.K. Cox

© Dean C.K. Cox

© Dean C.K. Cox


© Dean C.K. Cox

Dean C.K. Cox is a Hong Kong- and Sweden-based editorial photojournalist and documentary photographer. In the Series "Diktat: Living Under Lukashenko" Dean is telling a visual story of the devastating conditions and the hardship of millions who have lived under the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994. Lukashenko is serving One of the longest continuous leaderships of a post-Soviet nation, labeled by many western politicians as "Europe's last dictator."
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© Justyna Mielnikiewicz

© Justyna Mielnikiewicz

© Justyna Mielnikiewicz

© Justyna Mielnikiewicz

Justyna Mielnikiewicz is a freelance photographer based in Tbilisi, Georgia. Widely published, she has been working mainly in the countries of the former Soviet Union. I was recently asked to write a review of her latest book "A Woman With a Monkey - Caucasus in Short Notes and Photographs" which introduced me to her work. Justyna impressed me with her book and her ways of weaving her personal experiences with the events and people's stories of wherever she photographed.
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Born in Jerusalem, Israel, Yoav Horesh has exhibited internationally in galleries and museums including in Germany, Italy, Israel, the United States, Hong Kong, Myanmar and also with Amnesty International. Yoav's work was featured, written on and published in magazines, art journals and websites across three continents and he has given public lectures/artists talks in art schools, universities and galleries in The United States and Europe.

Yoav's work is included in many private and public collections including The Addison Gallery for American Art and The Museum of New Art in Michigan. Horesh has received various awards, commissions and grants including the Agnes Martin Award, The Projektraum-Bahnhof25 residency award and the Mortimer Frank Grant.

Since completing his MFA from Columbia University in 2005, Yoav has been teaching and photographing in the United States, Hong Kong, Europe and in Israel.

8.21.2014

Mexico Notebook: Interview with Ramón Jiménez Cuén

From the series "Migrando en el Espejo" © Ramón Jiménez Cuén

Post by Jessica Hubbard Marr

Hannah FrieserJaime Permuth and I are collaborating to explore contemporary photography in Mexico. We're looking at trends and how they relate to traditions; events, institutions and venues; as well as pursuing conversations with curators, academics, gallerists and photographers on what's happening currently. This collaborative project will feature a variety of types of posts including interviews, book reviews, published letters, portfolios of images and more.

Hannah Frieser is a curator, photographer and book artist and former Executive Director of Light Work. Jaime Permuth is a Guatemalan photographer living and working in New York City and a Faculty Member at the School of Visual Arts.

Today we continue this series with an interview with Ramón Jiménez Cuén by Jessica Hubbard Marr.

Other posts in this series include:
Interview with Laurence Salzmann
Interview with Diego Berruecos
Interview with Mariela Sancari
Q&A with Eduardo Jiménez Román
Q&A with Claudia Arechiga
Q&A with Nahatan Navarro
Contemporary Photography in Oaxaca
Q&A with Aglae Cortés
Q&A with Maria José Sesma
Interview with César Rodríguez
Q&A with Nora Gómez
Q&A with Melba Arellano
Q&A with Jorge Taboada
______________________________

From the series "Migrando en el Espejo" © Ramón Jiménez Cuén

Jessica Hubbard Marr: To start, what do you do? Where are you based?

Ramón Jiménez Cuén: I'm currently based between New York and Oaxaca. I have been involved with the arts since I was child thanks to family in Seattle, Washington, where I became interested in music, photography and also skateboarding. My uncle Federico, a jewelry designer based in Venice, California, has also been a strong influence.

Now I am working as a museum consultant, in a green project down the Oaxacan coast and developing personal projects and studies.

JHM: What was your earliest experience with photography? What was your early photographic education like?

RJC: My father was a doctor; an oncologist, who used to take slides of his diagrams to present them in his medical classes. It was a Canon FTb. I started using this camera until I appropriated it. Then I lent it to a friend and it never came back.

Four months ago, I was walking around Mercado de Abastos in Oaxaca and I found the same camera in the Friday's flea market. I love to think it is the same camera. I started taking pictures with it. It's like recovering the main source of energy that pushes you to take pictures.

As a child, I also met Ralph Bayles, a photographer from Seattle. The figure of a photographer has always been near the family. Anthropologists, musicians and artists have been always part of Christmas dinner as long as I can remember.

I studied medicine in school for about a year, but then I quit and started to do music at Escuela de Bellas Artes de la Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca; at the same time, I was doing media studies at a private university here in Oaxaca.

© Ramón Jiménez Cuén

By the end of my university program, I spent most of my time in the Manuel Alvarez Bravo Photography Center (now Francisco Toledo's home on Murguia Street). I did every workshop, from platinum and heliograph printing techniques to personal essay exercises with photographers such as Joan Liftin, Mary Ellen Mark and Allen Frame. All this began around 1998.

With Mary Ellen Mark, I start working in a project called "Carnales Bajo el Puente" ["Brothers Under the Bridge"]. Allen Frame encouraged me to show my portfolio at ICP, they accepted me and offered me a grant. I had a great year in New York; ICP used to be located on 96th Street, Uptown, a beautiful space. Amazing friends and photographers came from all over the world - all with fascinating stories and different visions.

Just before I graduated, I won a grant from the Alexia Foundation who also offered me a chance to study photography at Syracuse University, an offer that I refused in order to go back and work on my marriage. I was 24 at that time.

Thanks to the Alexia Foundation, my work got published in a book call "Eyes On the World" (2006) and was part of a great exhibit which traveled around the world starting at the United Nations, and then New York, China and a few other countries.

Upon returning to Oaxaca, I founded dRamedia (2002), a studio house focused on multimedia. I also started a new rock band call Elinor, and began working for galleries, museums and other artists composing music, designing and photographing art for multimedia platforms and web sites.

At that time, I got a call from Kathy Ryan, the photo editor of The New York Times Magazine. It was an assignment to photograph an international convention in Merida. I still have the voice mail recorded.

I wasn't really motivated. I decided to quit photography for a while. Something that never really happens, my archive is full of photographs, most I considered visual notes.

Going back to ICP for a minute, it was also quite confusing, because it was the year (1999-2000) when everything started to change quite dramatically in photography. Now I am really happy to be part of that generation.

© Ramón Jiménez Cuén

JHM: So you were in the generation that was on the cusp of analog and digital.

RJC: It was kind of hard to deal with that, it's still hard. Since then, I am always mixing all kinds of media, from analog to digital and vice-versa: scanning slides and then printing them in the dark room, for instance.

Now I'm quite happy, but at the time it was quite confusing because it was like I had to re-learn everything and not forget about analog in a way. Anyway, now it’s been almost about 15 years and I think the world is more about mixed-media; everything is an image.

After ICP, I was part of Pixel Press founded by Fred Ritchin. I learned so much during this period. He helped me to see further into the new age of post-photography, I felt released.

In 2009, I finished an MA in Media Art and Film at The New School in New York. This was a great opportunity to re-define myself as an artist. I loved it because I always had to struggle with this conflict of liking different mediums, so that made it easy to understand how everything is related in a new media world order.

I was very happy to accept myself as someone that liked to work with different media. I got the chance to understand the work of artists like Huma Bhabha and Wangechi Mutu. They were working with digital or analog and creating sculptures out of photography, mixing all kinds of elements and sources -- visual collections in all different kinds of formats.

I was very pleased to see this work at the ICP museum [in 2013] because it made me see that my path wasn't that wrong, I was playing with ideas like sound, sculpture and light. That inspired me a lot to create things with multiple types of media; unresolved projects that I still working on.

© Ramón Jiménez Cuén

JHM: I would like to look a bit closer at your first major photographic project, "Brothers Under the Bridge" (1999-2002). Can you provide a general explanation the series before I ask more detailed questions?

RJC: This project is about street children addicted to drugs living in Oaxaca, Mexico. They are in poverty, extremely hard human conditions and ignored by their own community.

In Oaxaca, I found a group of kids running without direction, living as outcasts under the city. Their families sent them to work on the streets. They cleaned the windows of cars when the red light stopped them. They used almost all the money to buy drugs. They sniffed different kinds of solvents and glue. Sometimes they used marijuana.

They were between 12 and 22 years old. Almost all have been in jail. The police were always looking for them, even when they were clean. I wanted to capture a complete vision of their situation, follow their lives until they showed me the end. I wanted to capture the essence of their lives which has been forgotten.

JHM: What camera were you shooting with?

RJC: At first, I was shooting with a Canon Rebel but the one I worked with most of the project is a Nikon F5. It's a really heavy camera, but really fast.

But, I also liked to use a Nikon FM2, Leica m6, a Hasselblad, Mamiya, everything I could experiment and learn from; I also used cameras from different cell phones.

From the series "Brothers Under the Bridge" (1999) © Ramón Jiménez Cuén

JHM: What was your initiation process [into the "Brothers"]? I remember you told me that bonded with the leader over beers? More specifically, how did you become one of them?

RJC: "El Mitra," who is the leader of this group of kids, I kind of knew because we used to play together in our childhood in the same river, now sadly polluted. The most important thing was that I used to be part of a rock band, so I had had long hair and I was accepted right away. One of them used to play the harmonica, so I would take my guitar and play a bit with him.

That first day with "El Mitra," we connected, went to a bar, had a couple beers, and that was the beginning. That was great because he was the leader and my protector at the same time. Of course I didn’t need it, cause I was one of them after a couple of weeks, and for the next two years. Every time Mary Ellen Mark was in Oaxaca, I was shooting intensely for 10–15 days. Pretty much all of it [the series] was edited by Mary Ellen Mark.

JHM: Edited in what sense?

RJC: The deal was that I was allowed to take the workshop for free but I needed to process and develop my film and then print the selection that she decided.

JHM: Did the camera ever become a problem in any situation? Did anyone object to having his or her photo taken?

RJC: No.

JHM: Never, wow.

RJC: I was under the impression that they were happy with me because taking their photo made them feel important, a certain kind of recognition; society in general is blind to these scenarios. The camera was there to testify for them. It wasn't a problem.

At the beginning, I took portraits of them and gave them all copies. I was the official photographer for everything at the beginning so I was capturing things that were intimate and important. Then I became essentially invisible and I was taking photographs freely. I became banda, a carnal; a real brother.

No Hay Cihiivon, From the series "Brothers Under the Bridge" (1999) © Ramón Jiménez Cuén

JHM: Can you tell me about this one image, No Hay Chiivion (1999)? What is the context of the photograph?

RJC: This guy, his name is "Takanga," that’s his nickname, and he was beaten by another kid, "El Chango," and they were fighting over a bottle of glue. The attitude was very much, "It’s all okay, we are still friends." After being beaten up pretty hard, he wanted to get across that he was fine and things were cool and that they were together as friends again. That happened like the fifth day after I started photographing them. Everything worked out fine with them and I wanted to testify to the importance of that moment. That was the story behind that photograph.

JHM: You previously mentioned to me that this project had both a political and social message but was also very personal, at a pivotal point in your life.

RJC: Yes. At that moment, I felt that my feelings were projected onto this story. I was going through a separation at the time, and these kids and going under the bridge was my refuge. In a way, I projected my feelings through these kids' stories. They became like my brothers in that sense and helped me through that emotional moment.

JHMThe series also went on to win several awards and as an exhibition, it travelled the world. Was this rewarding? How did you feel?

RJC: Well, there is no better feeling than holding a silver gelatin print on your hands, after that nothing really matters.

JHM: What did you do after this project? Where did you go?

RJC: After this I went to ICP and I did a lot of things. In terms of documentary photography essays, I did a project about the migration of Oaxacans in New York, "Migrando en el Espejo" (2000).

It was like a mirror exercise, looking both at the migrants and the family that they left behind. I did that in 2000, it's in color - Kodachrome. It has a totally different feeling to "Brothers Under the Bridge."

I also did a lot of fictional photo essays, and I of course was still working on my process of divorce and separation so I did a lot of personal work where you can really feel a little bit of loneliness. A lot of that features the streets of New York and is in black and white. I was very inspired by the work of a photographer called Michael Ackerman.

From the series "Brothers Under the Bridge" © Ramón Jiménez Cuén

JHM: You showed me his work, I remember.

RJC: I love his style and was really inspired by his work. So, that’s what I was doing in New York back in 2000. I presented this work in Galeria Manuel Garcia [in Oaxaca] with Alejandro Echeverría. We did like a multi-media presentation of that. Nice exhibit.

Then the exhibition "Brothers Under the Bridge" was presented LSE where it became part of their collection. Manuel Garcia published my fist book, "Carnales bajo el Puente." (2002).

JHM: Where does your Marianna Yampolsky research and essay"'La Memoria de una Lente, Miradas sobre Mariana Yampolsk"' (May 2012) fit into this timeline?

RJC: Then as you know, I was selected to be director of MACO (Museum of Contemporary Art, Oaxaca) an amazing experience. I don't know why they selected me but I am so grateful. By being there, I had all these connections with various artists. It was a great experience and I learned a lot of things.

I was invited to celebrate the anniversary of Yampolsky and be part of the panel discussion. I decided to write this essay that I really love. Some of the works that I included in the essay were photographs that she made in Oaxaca and surrounding areas that I'm really familiar with because my family is from Tututepec, Juquila, Oaxaca. So I was very pleased and very inspired by that.

For example, Mariana's photograph, Huipil de tapar, was taken around Pinotepa Nacional and takes me to my grandmother's memory. She used to look exactly like the woman in the photograph.

JHM: As director of MACO, did you see any fusion between contemporary art and photography in Oaxaca? Or is it still rooted in the strong tradition of social documentary, straight photography? What changes do you see in Oaxaca in using photography in a different way?

RJC: Oaxaca has a strong tradition in surrealist moments influenced by Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Graciela Iturbide and more photographers coming to Oaxaca for it's exotic and tropical imaginaries. Fortunately now that is changing, new visions, especially from local artists are taking an important place in the contemporary art scenario, the work of Edgardo Aragon is a good example.

Installation of "Tropical Sur" © Ramón Jiménez Cuén


Installation of "Tropical Sur" © Ramón Jiménez Cuén

JHM: Tell me a bit more about your piece "Tropical Sur" in the Galeria Quetzalli exhibition, "Dreams and Memories."

RJC: It's a personal piece that resembles an encounter between my father and a woman called Leslie Grace. She's an anthropologist who owned a folk art gallery call La Tienda in Seattle, Washington for the last fifty years. She's a very important person in our family story, I must say, my second mother. She met my father in the 60s. Since then, we have built our life surrounded with beautiful people and life experiences. I try to manifest this in the piece throughout different elements. It's like a reconstruction of the past.

It isn't hard to represent the past, because it's still so present. The main element is a fruit from a Huanacastle (in Zapotec: "the ear tree" / "el arbol que todo lo escuha"). It is a common tree of the Oaxacan coast that is frequently used to build furniture; by taking it down, erosion has changed all kinds of life forms. This is the type of tree I'm trying to cultivate on the coast of Oaxaca. My father and I began working on that project. He passed away six years a go.

Going back to the piece, there are mirrors printed with the fruit and three lines that I took from a book called, "I Chin," a trigram that represents the celestial father figure. Most of the piece is inspired by the lecture of a book call "The Radicant" (2009) by Nicolas Bourriad.

From "Tropical Sur" 2014 © Ramón Jiménez Cuén

JHM: How long did it take you to put together?

RJC: It took a while; it was more like a re-collection of thoughts, fruits, seeds, and ideas. I have this peculiar seed that allowed me to photograph his shape in seven different manners held by it own structure. It is very particular because you can move it around and find different angles in it.

There are seven different photographs. On the mirror, I added all of these elements like the original fruit, a stone, and then some drawn lines that kind of represent the labyrinth of life but that at the end everything is connected.

JHM: Going back to going through all of your old contact sheets, are you finding images that before you didn't really know were there?

RJC: I like to archive pretty much everything, so I've found a lot of material about my personal life as well. I used to just save a lot of images for the sake of archiving, but now I think that a lot of them have a lot of meaning. I'm definitely going to include that at some point in some project. I've reprinted a lot of these images or printed them for the first time.

© Ramón Jiménez Cuén

JHM: Who are some other photographers who have influenced you or inspired you?

RJC: Michael Akerman. Larry Clark, he created one of the best documentary series that I have ever seen. ["Tulsa"] influenced me quite heavily when I was working on "Brothers Under the Bridge."

Koudelka, Sugimoto, there are so many. I love Bruce Davison. I love the book of the subway that he did in the 80;s. I like Mary Ellen Mark, especially "Falkland Road." I love Ralph Gibson, his stuff is still so provocative.

Mapplethorpe, Gursky. Uma Bhabha, Elliot Hundley and now I love the work of anonymous photographers, photos from family albums, so honest.

Library Is Suicide, New York, 1999© Ramón Jiménez Cuen

JHM: What is next for you?

RJC: I'm very involved right now with the museum, the Museo Belber Jimenez, so I'm trying just now to curate exhibitions involving local artists, to breathe life into this beautiful space. I'm looking forward to continuing to work mixing all kinds of media.

A month ago, it was George Moore's birthday and he invited me to play and we played some blues. It had been a long time since I played in a band so I was excited to pick up an old thing. Being in New York is not just about studying, it’s also about plugging into new coordinates and other things.

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Jessica Hubbard Marr is a specialist in photographic imagery with a focus on Latin America, an interest that developed thanks to many nights in the Manuel Alvarez Bravo/IAGO library in Oaxaca over the years. As a result, she subsequently received her M.A. in The History and Theory of Photography at Sotheby's Institute of Art/University of Manchester in London in 2011; Marr previously earned her B.A. in English from Kenyon College in 2005. Prior to working in the photography field, Marr worked with the non-profit, 'Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art' from 2008-2010, as both a photographer and cultural liaison. 

Since 2010, she has worked for TransGlobe Publishing in London, researching and writing about contemporary art and photography in locations ranging from Brazil to the Middle East. In 2012, Marr was appointed to the Global Nominations Panel for the Prix Pictect Photography Prize as a specialist in Latin American Photography. Her original essay, "A Glimpse into Enduring Moments" was featured in the catalogue of photographer Nadja Massun's solo exhibition, Alice in the Land of Zapata, at the Hungarian House of Photography in Budapest in 2012.

Marr resides in the US after spending the past 6 years studying and working abroad in Oaxaca, Quito, London and Mexico City. She credits these experiences to both expanding and deepening her appreciation for and knowledge about the photographic medium across cultures. 

She works as an independent photography consultant, researcher, writer, editor, and art advisor for both art/photography professionals and practitioners between Mexico, New York and London. 

Marr's photographic work has been published internationally in a variety of art and literary journals. Her first published photograph was taken in Oaxaca in 2008. 


Coney Island, 2012 © Ramón Jiménez Cuén