Mexico Notebook: Q&A with Jorge Taboada

© Jorge Taboada

Hannah Frieser, Jaime Permuth and I have begun a collaboration 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 start the project by collaborating with photographer Alejandro Cartagena. Cartagena has overseen and executed a series of short interviews with photographers from Mexico that will be published over the coming weeks.

Alejandro lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico. His projects employ landscape and portraiture as a means to examine social, urban and environmental issues in Latin America. 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, the PHOTOIMAGEN festival in the Dominican Republic, Photoville in Dumbo, New York 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, Nowness, Domus, Domus Mexico, the Financial Times, View, The New York Times Lens Blog, Stern, PDN, The New Yorker, Monocle 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-Fotografía 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 Fotografía 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 including the San Francisco MOMA, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Portland Museum of Art, the Museo de Arte Moderno in Rio de Janeiro, the Fototeca de Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Mexico, the University of Maine collection and the Fototeca Nacional in Pachuca, Mexico. He is currently represented by Circuit Gallery in Toronto, Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles and Galería Patricia Conde in Mexico City.

Today's first interview is between Cartagena and Jorge Taboada.

© Jorge Taboada

© Jorge Taboada

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

Jorge Taboada: I live in Monterrey, Mexico. I am an architect by profession and I have an advertising agency specializing in architectural photography called Idea Cúbica.

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

Jorge Taboada: Vivo en Monterrey, México. Soy arquitecto de profesión y tengo una agencia de publicidad especializada en la fotografía arquitectónica llamada Idea Cúbica.

AC: How did you get started in photography?

JT: I started by taking some workshops developing and printing black and white in college, but I already liked photography much earlier. I decided to make my passion for photography and my career converge. I investigated and noticed that there was a sector of photography that demands service, impeccable technique, perspective correction, modeling through lighting and the trained eye of an architect.

AC: ¿Cómo te iniciaste en la fotografía?

JTPrimero inicié tomando algunos talleres de revelado e impresión de blanco y negro en la universidad, pero la foto ya me gustaba desde mucho antes. Me propuse a hacer de mi pasión por la fotografía convergiera con mi carrera. Investigué y noté que había un sector que demandaba el servicio, una técnica impecable, corrección de perspectiva, modelado de iluminación y el ojo entrenado de un arquitecto.

© Jorge Taboada

© Jorge Taboada

© Jorge Taboada

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

JT: The look is restless, the obsessions were always there. One documents with their camera that which they do not want to forget, what you want to take; like many photographers I'm a thief of moments.

Some of us began shooting without a purpose, without a theme. We discovered over time that there are messages encrypted in the images, patterns that repeat themselves. From there came recurrent themes that have much to do with form, geometry and rhythm. Later I found time to learn how to create a well-planned and justified photographic project. I was selected in Programa de Fotografía Contemporánea (PFC '11 ) and then a PhotoEspaña portfolio review in 2012, events that definitively determined my career as a visual producer.

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

JTLa mirada es inquieta, las obsesiones siempre estuvieron ahí. Uno documenta con la cámara lo que no quiere olvidar, lo que se quiere llevar, como muchos fotógrafos soy un ladrón de momentos.

Algunas personas empezamos a fotografiar sin tener un propósito, sin un tema. Pasando el tiempo descubrimos que hay mensajes cifrados en las imágenes, patrones que se repiten. De ahí salieron temas recurrentes que tienen mucho que ver con la forma, la geometría y el ritmo. Tiempo después me di el tiempo para aprender a crear un proyecto fotográfico planeado y justificado. Fui seleccionado en el Programa de Fotografía Contemporánea (PFC '11) y posteriormente en un visionado en PhotoEspaña 2012, eventos que me han determinado para la carrera de productor visual.

© Jorge Taboada

© Jorge Taboada

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

JT: "Alta Densidad" (High Density) is a project that subtly addresses the issue of social housing in Mexico. The proliferation of large complexes on the outskirts of the main industrial cities of the country and its non-sustainable model, non-sustainable for both the city and its users. Huge developed areas "disconnected" and far from the city center exacerbate the problems of the operation and traffic of the city.

My contribution to the subject is to approach it from an aesthetic and visual perspective. It is a denunciation, but implicit, silent and thoughtful. When I fly over these homes, they seem so attractive and tidy, it is like honey to my eyes, perfection and order. My distress starts when I think about people suffering the consequences of standardization, bad planning, lack of green areas and recreational areas: a quality of life diminished.

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

JT: "Alta Densidad" es un proyecto que aborda sutilmente la problemática de la vivienda de interés social en México. La proliferación de grandes complejos en las periferias de las principales ciudades industriales del país y su modelo no-sustentable, tanto para la ciudad como para sus usuarios. Enormes terrenos urbanizados “desconectados” y muy lejos del centro de la ciudad, agudizan la problemática de operación y transito de la urbe.

Mi aportación al tema es abordarlo desde una perspectiva estética y plástica. Es una denuncia pero implícita, silenciosa y reflexiva. Cuando vuelo sobre estas viviendas me parecen tan atractivas y ordenadas, es como miel para mis ojos, perfección y orden. Mi angustia comienza cuando pienso en las personas sufriendo las consecuencias de la estandarización, pésima planeación, ausencia de áreas verdes y espacios de esparcimiento: una calidad de vida disminuida.

© Jorge Taboada

© Jorge Taboada

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

JT: I grew up admiring the work based in social issues of Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Tina Modotti, their closeness to the people and their approach to the abstract, to rhythm and texture. My images are more urban archeology, but they share something anyways.

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

JTCrecí admirando el trabajo con temática social de Manuel Álvarez Bravo y Tina Modotti, su cercanía con la gente y su acercamiento a lo abstracto, al ritmo y la textura. Mis imágenes son mas de arqueología urbana, pero igual compartimos algo.

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?

JT: I think one of the main topics addressed in Latin America is the denunciation: of the situation of minorities, of ethnic groups segregated, on political and social themes, the environment, etc. Latin America is undergoing big changes that we are trying to understand and assimilate as development begins to reach us, democracies are perfected. Photographers know this and we approach it in different ways, but it is similar in Monterrey or Sao Paulo.

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

JTCreo que uno de las principales temáticas que se aborda en Latinoamérica, es la denuncia, a sea de minorías, de grupos étnicos segregados, de temas políticos y sociales, ambientales etc. America Latina esta sufriendo grandes cambios que esta intentando comprender y asimilar, el desarrollo nos empieza a llegar, las democracias se perfeccionan. Los fotógrafos lo sabemos y nos acercamos de distintas maneras, pero es similar en Monterrey o en Sao Paulo.

© Jorge Taboada

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

JT: In Mexico and elsewhere photographers are often engaging autobiographical and personal themes, I like it and I'm surprised at the results, but it’s not something that is in my plans to do. There is also a significant rise in work based on environmental issues. I think I'll continue to document spaces in various degrees of detail.

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

JTEn México y en otros lugares se están abordando frecuentemente temas autobiográficos e intimistas, me gusta y me sorprende el resultado, pero no es algo que este en mis planes hacer. También hay un auge importante de temas ambiéntales. Creo que seguiré documentado espacios, a diferentes grados de detalle.

© Jorge Taboada

© Jorge Taboada

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

JT: I feel that there isn't a good infrastructure for producers in Mexico, that the circuits are distant, protected and not connected to us here. They start to generate a lot of programs and activities to learn technique, but beyonod that finding space in which to display and validate your work is not easy.

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

JTSiento que no hay una buena infraestructura para los productores en México, los circuitos están lejanos, protegidos y no conectados. Empiezan a generarse una buena cantidad de programas y actividades para aprender la técnica, pero después de ahí encontrar espacios donde mostrar y que validen tu trabajo no es fácil.

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

JT: I think that photography and film are experiencing a worldwide boom. This is because of its democratization and mass propagation (accessible digital technology). This is bringing more and better producers to the cultural scene, and hopefully it will also provide new ways to access the circuits of Latin American art.

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

JT: Creo que la fotografía y el cine están viviendo un auge a nivel mundial. Esto debido a su democratización y propagación masiva (tecnología digital accesible). Esto esta promoviendo más y mejores productores a la escena cultural, esperamos que también se den nuevas condiciones para acceder a los circuitos de arte en Latinoamérica.

© Jorge Taboada

© Jorge Taboada