16 March 2015
16 March 2015 - Written by Luján Agusti
“I think Ecuadorian photography is slowly looking for a space and contributing to the Latin American photography landscape. It is a process that will grow over the coming years; a process that should be supported not only by photographers, but by the public and private institutions.” Santiago Serrano discusses his country’s photography framework.
From the series Piélago by © Santiago Serrano
Tell us about your beginnings inphotography.
As a child I wanted to be a soccerplayer or torero until I was twelve years old. I regularly tookphotos without any pretense of studying or devoting myself to thatprofession. When I reached the age of twenty-two, I again had acamera and I started to think about becoming a photographer. It wasthen that I traveled to Argentina and Mexico to study photography. Ihave been part of two photography collectives and I havepredominantly focused on documentary photography.
Are you currently working on anyphotographic projects?
From October 2014 to February 2015I collaborated with Midia Ninja in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo,working on the different coverages and activities they carry out: itwas a very enriching experience both personally and photographically.I learnt alot about how they manage their structure and collectivecreation – both in a photographic sense and in terms of theirco-ordination of social movements. It was a period of much activityand growth. A couple of weeks ago I returned to Quito and I amcurrently investigating some subjects with two friends – both ofwhom are photographers – in order to begin a long-term collectiveproject.
You are part of the photographiccollective Paradocs. How do you view collective work?
It is a cooperative formed bydocumentary photographers Paula Parrini, Juan Antonio Serrano,Francois Laso, and myself. Paradocs promotes and spreads contemporaryphotographic creation. It is a platform for debate and discussionbased on constant group reflection in the quest for new ways oflooking at reality. We have also published the “Taller de LaRetina” collection, which currently consists of six books onEcuadorian photographers and we hope to edit three more books thisyear. In total, we have published eight books on Ecuadorianphotography.
From Paradocs you give theFotoperiodismo Por La Paz “Juan Antonio Serrano” Award. Can youtell us more about this prize?
The prize was created followingthe death of Juan Antonio, a member of Paradocs, in September 2012 asan initiative of his family, Francois Laso, and myself. It is a$5,000 cash award given annually to an Ecuadorian photographer tohelp him/her develop a photographic project in progress that focuseson a topic related to the concept of peace. Additionally, since lastyear, we have created a category for students in which a reportage orcompleted essay is presented and the winner receives $1,000 as areward.
There have been two editions so far andour jury is always comprised of international photographers,including such names as Stephen Ferry, Tony Valdez, Mike Davis, andthis year Claudi Carreras. On 15th March we will launch the 2015edition on the website: fotoperiodismoporlapaz.com.
In addition to your work as aphotographer, you are dabbling in other areas (as an editor andcurator). What led you to broaden your horizons?
I am a photographer: it’s what Ilike the most. I do not feel in any way a curator. I have worked withfellow photographers in the past, editing together the books of the“Taller de la Retina” collection, and some print and digitalmagazines.
Contemporary photography is in atransitional period with photographers questioning both the mediumand the way stories are told. What are your thoughts in relation tothis? What role do you think Ecuadorian photography – and morebroadly Latin American photography – plays in this context?
I think that for some years nowphotography has been in a period of transition and finding new waysto tell stories – finding new ways to explore limits or whattraditionally has been done. At this point perhaps it is important toemphasize a concept that I like entitled “expanded photography,”which is basically focused on going beyond the limits of traditionalmindset photography as a record of what is “real”: a break andconfluence of different tools and media to show or tell stories in aholistic manner.
Similarly, I think Ecuadorianphotography is slowly looking for a space and contributing to theLatin American photography landscape. It is a process that will growover the coming years; a process that should be supported not only byphotographers, but by the public and private institutions as hashappened for example with Peruvian photography, which has had a bigincrease in exposure across the continent in the last decade.
So, how do you view the currentcondition of Ecuadorian contemporary photography?
I think that photographyproduction has grown immensely throughout the last few years, notonly in the documentary field, but also in other genres ofphotography. There are many authors working with their own voice inthe local community that are aware of what is occurring and beingdone abroad.
I feel that there has been a permanentconcern of the photographers about growing and learning.Photographers have either formed careers outside the country due tothe lack of training centers and the lack of importance placed onphotography, or stayed inside the country and sought ways to carryout initiatives and projects of high quality and depth.
One of the major shortcomings of bothpublic and private institutions is the almost nonexistent support tophotographic creation or financing of individual and collectiveprojects.
And in relation to this, in whatway do the photographers you have chosen represent this Ecuadorianphotography landscape?
The decision of choosing theseauthors and not others starts with the fact that all of them aredocumentary photographers. In no way does it seek to believe thatthis view is unquestionable and final. It was not an easy task topick just five names to be exhibited.
What the group of photographers ondisplay have in common is that they know how to tell stories in agenuine and meaningful way. Their works communicate, motivate, andare approached with great sensitivity. They are photographers focusedon venturing honestly in the story they are developing, and who lookto get to the essence in a respectful and sincere manner.
What would you like the public totake from this Ecuadorian Photography exhibition?
I think it is a partial panoramaof current Ecuadorian photography. I would like this exhibition to bean invitation to foreign audiences to enjoy these authors and providemotivation to search for further Ecuadorian photographers.
Santiago Serrano is a freelance photographer from Quito, Ecuador. He is a member and one of the founders of photography collective Paradocs, a platform that promotes contemporary photography productions and aims to help photographers realize their ideas. They also develop personal and collective projects, and publish books on Ecuadorian photographers. Serrano has received numerous grants and scholarships, including a a workshop in Mexico on narratives and new media organized by Pedro Meyer Foundation and sponsored by World Press Photo. His works have been featured in many international festivals, most notably PhotoEspaña.