Santiago Serrano on Ecuadorian Photography
“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 in
As a child I wanted to be a soccer player or torero until I was twelve years old. I regularly took photos without any pretense of studying or devoting myself to that profession. When I reached the age of twenty-two, I again had a camera and I started to think about becoming a photographer. It was then that I traveled to Argentina and Mexico to study photography. I have been part of two photography collectives and I have predominantly focused on documentary photography.
Are you currently working on any photographic projects?
From October 2014 to February 2015 I collaborated with Midia Ninja in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, working on the different coverages and activities they carry out: it was a very enriching experience both personally and photographically. I learnt alot about how they manage their structure and collective creation – both in a photographic sense and in terms of their co-ordination of social movements. It was a period of much activity and growth. A couple of weeks ago I returned to Quito and I am currently investigating some subjects with two friends – both of whom are photographers – in order to begin a long-term collective project.
You are part of the photographic collective Paradocs. How do you view collective work?
It is a cooperative formed by documentary photographers Paula Parrini, Juan Antonio Serrano, Francois Laso, and myself. Paradocs promotes and spreads contemporary photographic creation. It is a platform for debate and discussion based on constant group reflection in the quest for new ways of looking at reality. We have also published the “Taller de La Retina” collection, which currently consists of six books on Ecuadorian photographers and we hope to edit three more books this year. In total, we have published eight books on Ecuadorian photography.
From Paradocs you give the Fotoperiodismo Por La Paz “Juan Antonio Serrano” Award. Can you tell us more about this prize?
The prize was created following the death of Juan Antonio, a member of Paradocs, in September 2012 as an initiative of his family, Francois Laso, and myself. It is a $5,000 cash award given annually to an Ecuadorian photographer to help him/her develop a photographic project in progress that focuses on a topic related to the concept of peace. Additionally, since last year, we have created a category for students in which a reportage or completed essay is presented and the winner receives $1,000 as a reward.
There have been two editions so far and our jury is always comprised of international photographers, including such names as Stephen Ferry, Tony Valdez, Mike Davis, and this year Claudi Carreras. On 15th March we will launch the 2015 edition on the website: fotoperiodismoporlapaz.com.
In addition to your work as a photographer, you are dabbling in other areas (as an editor and curator). What led you to broaden your horizons?
I am a photographer: it’s what I like the most. I do not feel in any way a curator. I have worked with fellow photographers in the past, editing together the books of the “Taller de la Retina” collection, and some print and digital magazines.
Contemporary photography is in a transitional period with photographers questioning both the medium and the way stories are told. What are your thoughts in relation to this? What role do you think Ecuadorian photography – and more broadly Latin American photography – plays in this context?
I think that for some years now photography has been in a period of transition and finding new ways to tell stories – finding new ways to explore limits or what traditionally has been done. At this point perhaps it is important to emphasize a concept that I like entitled “expanded photography,” which is basically focused on going beyond the limits of traditional mindset photography as a record of what is “real”: a break and confluence of different tools and media to show or tell stories in a holistic manner.
Similarly, 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 as has happened for example with Peruvian photography, which has had a big increase in exposure across the continent in the last decade.
So, how do you view the current condition of Ecuadorian contemporary photography?
I think that photography production has grown immensely throughout the last few years, not only in the documentary field, but also in other genres of photography. There are many authors working with their own voice in the local community that are aware of what is occurring and being done abroad.
I feel that there has been a permanent concern of the photographers about growing and learning. Photographers have either formed careers outside the country due to the lack of training centers and the lack of importance placed on photography, or stayed inside the country and sought ways to carry out initiatives and projects of high quality and depth.
One of the major shortcomings of both public and private institutions is the almost nonexistent support to photographic creation or financing of individual and collective projects.
And in relation to this, in what
way do the photographers you have chosen represent this Ecuadorian
The decision of choosing these authors and not others starts with the fact that all of them are documentary photographers. In no way does it seek to believe that this view is unquestionable and final. It was not an easy task to pick just five names to be exhibited.
What the group of photographers on display have in common is that they know how to tell stories in a genuine and meaningful way. Their works communicate, motivate, and are approached with great sensitivity. They are photographers focused on venturing honestly in the story they are developing, and who look to get to the essence in a respectful and sincere manner.
What would you like the public to take from this Ecuadorian Photography exhibition?
I think it is a partial panorama of current Ecuadorian photography. I would like this exhibition to be an invitation to foreign audiences to enjoy these authors and provide motivation 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.