Escobar-Jaramillo & Panchoaga on Colombian photography

Santiago Escobar-Jaramillo and Jorge Panchoaga analyze the current photography landscape in their country and Latin America, and shed light on their future plans on photography development.

What are your thoughts on the current Latin American photography landscape?

It is difficult to propose a single glance on Latin American photography. The closest we can get, is its diversity of accents in creation, in themes, working methods, and research interests. Even if we share many stories and episodes, the fact is that each region and country develops different ways to tell its own history in pictures. This has generated a gradual growth and interest from various regions into what is happening in this part of the world, and also how Latin America re-thinks, re-observes and recapitulates itself.

We know that this is not new, this valorization of what is ours started four decades from now, however, the way we interact is changing. New networks are being created and strengthened. Mainly because of the boom of the Internet and the creation of spaces where these interests converge. Anyway, we must say that there is greater visibility in some countries, such as Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina. These are places where photography has historically had a bigger role, not only because they have photo libraries, museums, scholarships, research, theory, schools, festivals, publishing houses, specialized publications, fairs, and a host of scenarios that can be considered as a more consolidated photographic industry in other venues in the region, but also because their educational and creative tradition is stronger than elsewhere. Cases such as Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Guatemala are focused on openness and strengthening of those spaces, to articulate the regional dynamics and to contribute to the discussion, both in a theoretical level but also in the fields of research and development.

It is with this new attitude, where these scenarios as Photographic Museum of Humanity and research work, become a key to share ideas, build ties of trade, build networks of knowledge, production and growth.

And talking in particular about Colombian photography?

Photography in Colombia has been growing steadily during the last few years. That is something that makes us very happy, because it is currently being seen with interest from different places. We have talked with many curators, researchers and friends from other countries that have repeatedly mentioned the lack of a Colombian photography when people talk about Latin America. As if there was a cloud over this territory that hides the internal dynamics related to photography. For a long time, and perhaps erroneously, we have related this isolation to the long armed conflict that prevails in the country. However, we have gradually understood that, in an equal or worse way, the lack of a collective interest to build and consolidate pluralistic and dynamic networks to favor the whole union has been one of the historical gaps that has left in the shadows the processes happening in the country. That is why there is a renewed and collective interest in articulating the internal processes to the regional dynamics of exchange.

However, in the field of the phenomenological we can talk about various aspects such as the types of creation, the classic and new themes or the main characters. We believe that the best thermometer to measure what is currently happening in Colombia is the diversity of scenarios where the idea of working together is beginning to bloom. That we can make the country’s photography evolve without a centralized hegemony that controls everything. In that sense, the interest in the processes of creation, researches, and diffusion of photographic works has been consolidated in various scenarios and efforts, often isolated, but gradually looking for the local and national consolidation. Such is the case, of meetings, schools, publications, collectives, and researches that encourage work around the image in a constant and plural way (to name a few academic spaces: The specialization in photography at the National University, Zona Cinco School, LaBloom School, Chroma visual workshop, Yurupari, Mario Ponce School; meetings and festivals: Encuentro de Nuevas Narrativas by Fujifilm, Fotográfica Bogotá, Santafe de Antioquia Photography Festival, the cycles of Conferencias de las Artes; Encuentros Urbanos de Fotografía y Diseño del Festival Internacional de la Imagen, magazines, blogs, and media: Fotomeraki, Fotografía Colombiana website, Enfoque Visual magazine, Cartel Urbano, Vice or El Malpensante; the collectives: +1, Calidoscopio, Sin filtro, La Media Vida; and the newly opened hostel for photographers and photography: Fernweh).

All these spaces, in a particular or intuitive way, devote efforts to the exploration and construction of dynamics where the image occupies a backbone or essential part. In that way, this dynamic growth has enabled networks for the dissemination and exchange of Colombian artists with other scenarios.

Photo by © Andrés Orjuela

In what ways do you think the photographers you have chosen refer to Colombian photography?

We have chosen the work of these photographers for different reasons that represent or summarize the overall photography landscape in Colombia, as there are many photographers working in different areas and themes. However, these projects are betting on new ways to develop and address research and photographic creation in the country. They review and oxygenate the classic documentary and photojournalism that has dominated much of the photographic production in Colombia. Every photographer presents a way of research that is a benchmark for others in the country, both for its quality and acceptance in the local context and because many of them act as creators and teachers in the field of photography.

Photo by © Santiago Forero

You are both members of the photography collective +1. How did the collective come to fruition and what are your aims with this project?

The Collective +1 is formed of Jorge Panchoaga, Santiago Escobar-Jaramillo, and Federico Rios. It was born of a question we asked the three of us, how to join forces to open new venues for photography, create spaces for new discourses, and debate about photography, create opportunities, and contribute to the work in a collective way. Our objectives are related to these questions: working to build spaces for reflection and discussion on the image, build networks that allow the flow of Colombian photographers elsewhere, support educational processes, and develop research and creative projects.

The collective work in photography is increasingly growing. What are your thoughts in relation to this?

In this regard, we have been working for about 3 years on many projects, especially in management and in the development of conferences and workshops. By the end of November we will be putting together a big group of photographers that come from many parts of Colombia, and Latin America, including Mexico, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and other places like Germany, the United States and Italy, to develop a photo camp in Puerto Nariño, Amazonas where we do authorial projects, academic activities and recreational games. We have called it “20 Fotógrafos Amazonas” (20 Photographers Amazonia) and we hope you can see good results in the future.

Apart from your work as photographers, you are now working in the development of the photography festival FEFEST, that will be held in February 2016. Tell us what this new initiative holds in store.

FEFEST – is a desire that we have been developing for months. We seek to build a fair and a photography festival in the city of Cartagena, Colombia. We want to offer the Colombian public and the region a space where we can meet to share, reflect, show, and plan around the Colombian, Latin American and worldwide photography; our interest is the exchange of experiences between Colombian photographers and photographers from other countries, allowing the encounter to turn into an experience to remember.

Also, we want the photographic experience to come out of the museum, off the white cube and to into the city, to become an experience not only for the specialized public interested in photography but to the public in general, the tourists, the locals, students from other disciplines. The festival will be held in February 2016 in its first version. This time we hope to meet many friends from different countries to start slowly building this scenario and consolidate it as part of the regional circuit upon the image and photography. We know it’s a process that takes time and dedication, but as a team we are willing to take that path to consolidate the proposal and have this space each year.

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