Mexico Notebook: Q&A with Eduardo Jiménez Román

From the series "Violenta incertidumbre" ("Violent Uncertainty") © Eduardo Jiménez Román

Hannah FrieserJaime 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.

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 that will be published over the coming weeks.

Today we continue this series with an interview of  Eduardo Jiménez Román by Cartagena. A statement on the work presented written by Jiménez Román and a biography of Cartagena follow the interview.

Other posts in this series include:
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 "Violenta incertidumbre" ("Violent Uncertainty") © Eduardo Jiménez Román

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

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

Eduardo Jiménez Román
: I have lived for 10 years in the city of Monterrey, Mexico, working as an industrial engineer in a small company that produces beverage concentrates for industrial dining and franchises.

AC: How did you get started in photography?

EJR: I think that because I am curious, my story is very simple. For many years I was taking pictures with a Minolta camera that a family member gave me as a gift, using it only to record family events or summer vacations, producing beautiful images that my grandmother loved. I had no intention beyond preserving the moment. My images were the same as those produced today by the thousands. I did my share of: sunsets, shadows, people living on the streets, indigenous people, objects, pets, etc., etc.

In late 2008, I decided to take my love of photography to another level, a level beyond the simple recording of things (I think that many photographers start like this). I started my formal photographic education in the city of Monterrey, in a modest school called Marcar Foto. I unwittingly stumbled into more than just technique there. They showed me photography as a language of infinite possibilities, as simple or complex as the images that are generated from an idea.

From the series "Violenta incertidumbre" ("Violent Uncertainty") © Eduardo Jiménez Román

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

EJR: When I realized that photography gave me the opportunity to express my fears, things I like and cannot stand, I understood that I could say something, give a point of view, from my ideas or reflections. I began by questioning who I am and I used my life story to build images that reflected some concerns that we all have, or at least that I had at that time of my life (the famous midlife crisis), such as death, violence, family or work.

Everyone can create an image in an environment with suitable technology, but I believe that contemporary photography is much more than that. The world is full of images, which circulate everywhere in our daily lives, in our homes, workplaces, bus stops, magazine covers, newspapers, internet, etc., etc. We live in a world that moves and is transformed through images. 

From the series "Espacios de Control" ("Spaces of Control") © Eduardo Jiménez Román

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

EJR: As I mentioned, I initially addressed topics such as death or violence which unfortunately was everywhere in the city where I live, and which seems a situation replicated in many cities in Latin America. For several years I explored these issues, and once I got them out of my system, I started to take a different direction in my artistic production.

The images that I present are the result of questioning the workplace environment in which I have worked for over 15 years. The project "Espacios de Control" ("Spaces of Control") is a reflection of the strategies used in assembly plants to ensure that their employees remain in the workplace, intending to make sure that their production programs are not affected.

At this point, my intention is to reveal a typical workplace environment of systems of production on a grand scale.

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

EJR: Mexico is a country with a very strong photographic history. For me it was very helpful to consult the archives of Alberto Flores Varela, a longtime photographer from Monterrey who documented the transformation of the city for over eight decades. His photographs of industrial environments made it possible for me to form a clearer opinion about the work culture and industrial development in the northern region of Mexico.

From the series "Espacios de Control" ("Spaces of Control") © Eduardo Jiménez Román

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?

EJR: I think there are many similarities between the issues and concerns that are being addressed as we live in similar conditions in an increasingly globalized society. The differences lie in each individual photographer's intentions, how they approach their work and how far they want to take it.

To produce images that arise from reflection takes time, it requires a different approach, not images seeking quick success via social networks, but instead images that create a type of interest in the work itself that the viewer will take the necessary time to discover different levels of interpretation, and that arouses the curiosity to know more about the subject or the author that created it. 

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

EJR: I am interested in the development and transformation of contemporary society, with new work patterns as my entry point, and issues arising from the development of economic models such as capitalism, question of power, work environments and experiences of consumption

From the series "Espacios de Control" ("Spaces of Control") © Eduardo Jiménez Román

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

EJR: The topics that are of interest to me have as a starting point the region where I live. Nevertheless, I think they are issues of global interest. Other countries have similar concerns and in them exist photographers who are working with issues of power and money, the treatment employees receive or conditions of the workplace.

It is essential for all types of authors and creators to know where they are standing, what their context is and to take responsibility of the moment in which he or she lives. 

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

EJR: It is important that photographers come together to talk about their projects, sharing enriches the possibilities to bring to fruition a good project. As in any business or profession it is important to break paradigms.

It is not enough to have all the tools available to create an image, you have to know to use them in a precise way and that takes time. It is necessary to know the history of photography, review authors, read about topics that interest us, watch movies, television, theater, look at things on the Internet, be concerned about what happens in the field of photography and especially to not be afraid to say things. There is nothing worse than self-censorship of our own work.

From my point of view, I think we should take advantage of what the internet and new technologies offer us for publicizing our work. There are projects whose natural outlet could be a book, an exhibition, but it could also be through a website, a virtual gallery, or a specialized blog.

From the series "Espacios de Control" ("Spaces of Control") © Eduardo Jiménez Román

Spanish original / Texto original en español

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

Eduardo Jiménez Román: Vivo desde hace 10 años en la Cd. de Monterrey, México, trabajo como ingeniero industrial en una pequeña compañía que produce concentrados de bebidas para comedores industriales y franquicias.

AC: ¿Cómo te iniciaste en la fotografía?

EJR: Creo que por curioso, mi historia es muy sencilla,  durante años tome fotografías con una cámara Minolta que un familiar me obsequio, por largo tiempo solo la use para registrar eventos familiares o las vacaciones de verano, producía imágenes bonitas que a mi abuela le encantaban, no tenia mayor intención que conservar  el momento, mis imágenes eran  iguales a las que hoy día se producen por miles, cumplí con mi cuota de:  puestas de sol, sombras, personas en condición de calle, indígenas, objetos, mascotas, etc. , etc.,  etc.

A finales del 2008, decidí  llevar mi gusto por la fotografía a otro nivel,  un nivel mas allá del simple  registro de las cosas (creo que así comenzamos  muchos fotógrafos),inicie mi educación fotográfica de manera formal en la Ciudad de Monterrey,  en una modesta escuela llamada Marcar foto, sin saberlo encontré en este lugar algo mas que técnica,  me mostraron la  fotografía como un lenguaje de infinitas posibilidades, tan sencillo o complejo como las imágenes  que  se generan  a partir  de una  idea.

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

EJR: Cuando comprendí que  la fotografía me daba la oportunidad  de   expresar mis miedos, las cosas que me gustan y las que no soporto, entendí que podía decir algo, emitir un punto de vista,  a partir  de ideas o reflexiones.  Inicie por cuestionarme quien soy , use mi historia para construir escenas que reflejaran ciertas  preocupaciones  como las que todos tenemos o por lo menos yo en ese momento de la vida (la famosa crisis de los 40), como la muerte, la violencia, la familia o el trabajo.

Todos podemos crear una imagen a partir de un medio tecnológicamente apto, sin embargo creo  que la fotografía actual es mucho mas que eso. El mundo esta lleno de imágenes,  que circulan por todas partes en nuestra  vida cotidiana, en  nuestros hogares , en los centros de trabajo,  paradas de camión, portadas de revista, periódicos, internet, etc., etc.  Vivimos en un mundo que se mueve y se trasforma por  medio de imágenes.

From the series "Un mal sueño" ("A Bad Dream") © Eduardo Jiménez Román

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

EJR: Como lo mencione, en un inicio aborde temas como la muerte o la violencia que por desgracia se desbordo  en la ciudad en la que vivo,  tal parece que esta condición se replica en muchas ciudades  de  américa latina, por varios años exploré estos temas, una vez que logré sacarlos de  mi sistema,  comencé a darle un giro diferente a mi producción.

Las imágenes  que presento son el resultado  de cuestionar el ámbito  laboral en el que me desempeño desde hace mas de 15 años, el proyecto "Espacios de Control" es una reflexión sobre las estrategias que emplean las maquiladoras para garantizar que sus trabajadores permanezcan en el centro laboral con la intención de no ver afectado sus programas de producción.

En este punto, mi  intención es develar un ámbito laboral característico de los sistemas de producción a gran escala.

From the series "Un mal sueño" ("A Bad Dream") © Eduardo Jiménez Román

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

EJR: México es un país con una historia fotográfica muy basta, para mi fue de gran ayuda  poder consultar el acervo  de Alberto Flores Varela, fotógrafo regiomontano de larga trayectoria quien registro la transformación de la Ciudad de Monterrey  por mas de 8 décadas, sus fotografías de ambientes industriales me dieron la posibilidad de formar una opinión mas clara sobre la cultura del trabajo y el desarrollo industrial de la región Norte de México.

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

EJR: Considero que existe mucha similitud entre  los temas y preocupaciones  que se abordan actualmente ya que vivimos condiciones similares en una sociedad cada vez mas globalizada, la diferencia radica en la intención del fotógrafo, como los aborda y a que profundidad los quiere llevar.

Producir imágenes que surjan de una reflexión toman tiempo, requieren de un planteamiento diferente, no buscan el éxito exprés de una red social, por el contrario pretenden crear cierto interés, a grado tal, que el espectador se tome el tiempo necesario  para descubrir diferentes niveles de interpretación, que despierten la curiosidad por  saber mas  del tema o del autor que las genera.

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

EJR: Me interesa el desarrollo y la transformación de la sociedad contemporánea, a partir de nuevos modelos de trabajo. Temas que se desprenden de la evolución de modelos económicos como el capitalismo, cuestiones de poder, ambientes de trabajo, experiencias de consumo.

From the series "Un mal sueño" ("A Bad Dream") © Eduardo Jiménez Román

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

EJR: Los temas que son de mi interés tienen como punto de partida la región en la que vivo, sin embargo creo que son temas de interés global, en otros países tienen preocupaciones similares existen fotógrafos que están trabajando con cuestiones de poder y dinero , el trato que reciben los empleados o las condiciones de los centros de trabajo.

Es fundamental para todo autor saber en donde esta parado, cual es su contexto y asumir la responsabilidad del momento que le toca vivir.

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

EJR: Es importante que los fotógrafos se reúnan hablar de sus proyectos, compartir enriquece las posibilidades de llevar a buen termino un proyecto. Como en toda actividad o profesión es importante romper paradigmas.

No basta tener todas las herramientas disponibles para crear una imagen,  hay que saber usarlas de manera precisa y eso lleva tiempo, es necesario conocer la historia de fotografía, revisar  autores , leer sobre temas que nos interesen , ver cine, televisión, teatro, navegar en internet, preocuparnos por lo que acontece en el ámbito fotográfico  y sobre todo no tener miedo a decir cosas , no hay nada peor que la autocensura de nuestro trabajo.

Desde mi punto de vista creo que debemos aprovechar lo que el internet y las nuevas tecnologías nos ofrecen para dar a conocer nuestro trabajo. Existen proyectos que su salida natural pudiera ser un libro, una exposición  pero también podría  ser a través de una pagina web, alguna galería virtual, o un blog especializado.

From the series "Un mal sueño" ("A Bad Dream") © Eduardo Jiménez Román

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.