153: Interview with Lodoe Laura

153: Interview with Lodoe Laura

“The act of resistance has two faces. It is human and it is also the act of art.

Only the act of resistance resists death, either as a work of art or as human struggle.”

Gilles Deleuze

On February 27, 2009, the third day of Losar (the Tibetan word for New Year), a young monk by the name of Tapey set himself on fire. In an act of protest against China’s Tibet policies, Tapey ran into the streets and lit his gasoline-soaked robes. While in flames, he raised a Tibetan flag with a photograph of the Dalai Lama. Then he was shot by Chinese military police.

153, Lodoe Laura’s solo show at the Ryerson Artspace, addresses the events that occurred that day in February and the subsequent deaths of more than 150 Tibetans that have chosen the path of self-immolation, following the steps of Tapey. Collecting images of those who sacrificed their lives as desperate acts of protest against the Chinese violent rule in Tibet, Laura makes them visible to Western audiences through a series of hand printed in incense images. In this body of work the young Tibetan-Canadian daughter of a refugee prevents us from forgetting them and stresses the importance of art as an act of resistance.

I reached out to Lodoe Laura to learn more about her work and the process she followed to create 153. The following is a conversation that took place over email.

Claudia Pretelin: What got you into art? How did it all start?

Lodoe Laura: Initially, I was interested in documentary photography and photojournalism, but through my studies at the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University, my work has shifted to be more conceptually based. So in addition to photography, I also work in video, installation, and sculpture.

CP: How do you choose the topics you want to explore?

LL: I explore themes of cultural crossover, collective memory, and the intersection of cultural and political practice. At times my work is highly political and I am trying to work through the representation of conflict and of community. Then, other times it can be highly personal. For example, the last work I made was a two-channel video piece of my dad teaching me the Tibetan alphabet. I choose to make work about what I’m thinking about, and I use my artistic practice to communicate my thoughts and things that I feel are important.

Courtesy of artist Lodoe Laura

CP: What sort of processes do you use to create your work?

LL: It starts with an idea. Usually it comes from conversations, experiences, or from my reading. Then, I spend time researching whatever it is I’m interested in. I look at other artists of many media – poets, writers, visual artists, and performers – who may have responded to similar events or experiences. Then, the process develops and changes as the work starts to form. I work across many media, which allows me the freedom to experiment and to use the right method for the topic I am addressing. Oftentimes, I use unconventional materials or I use traditional materials unconventionally. 153 are photographs hand printed in incense, and I’ve worked before with colored sand and concrete as materials.

CP: How do you employ new technologies and social media for your work?

LL: For 153, the images are sourced from different activist and exile groups. It can be very difficult to find photographs or information on the Tibetan self-immolations in the West. This is due in large part to the Chinese government’s communications crackdown inside Tibet. Discussing or displaying images of the people that have set themselves on fire in protest of the sociopolitical climate inside Tibet is in direct opposition to the narrative authorities attempt to present – that is, as a Shangri-la paradise in the Himalayas; an idealized, mythical, utopian land. It is far from it, and the actions of the self-immolators are just one of many ways Tibetans inside Tibet are undermining that narrative. Therefore, activist and advocacy groups in exile collecting and publishing online the photographs, dates, and stories of the self-immolated, is an act of resistance to the presented narrative. I do want to recognize Woeser, who is an author, activist, and blogger inside Tibet. She bravely posts about the self-immolations and her blog and most recent book, Tibet on Fire, were primary sources for information – names, dates, and images.

CP: Can you tell us more specifically about the materials and the process to create 153?

LL: Charcoal is used in a Tibetan Buddhist prayer ritual called Sang – a smoke offering ritual similar to incense. The first part of my project involved going to several monasteries and homes of the exile community where I collected their charcoal and incense ash from the Sang offering. Because of its use in prayer ritual, collecting this was, for me, a way of

Courtesy of artist Lodoe Laura

collecting the prayers of the community. Then, with my father, I milled, dried, and sifted the mixture so that it was a fine powder. Once I amassed an archive of photographs of the self-immolators on my computer, I started going through and looking at them. Because of the lack of free flowing information from inside Tibet, this number varies depending on your source, but through my research 153 was the most complete list I could compile.

Courtesy of artist Lodoe Laura
Courtesy of artist Lodoe Laura

Most of the images the activists were able to recover were from cell phones, and were of a very low resolution. So I turned each image into Bitmap files – what this did was turn the images from full color photographs into an image made only up of black or white dots. Then, I printed them onto transparency film, which was used to print onto silk-screens in the darkroom.

Courtesy of artist Lodoe Laura

Once the silk-screens were made, I went back to the incense I collected from the exile community. I mixed the fine charcoal powder with traditional ink making gum medium to create handmade ink. Then, using the screen as a negative, the charcoal and gum were pushed through to make a positive image on paper. This created the final positive images of the self-immolated, which are displayed at the Artspace. If you look closely at each image, and especially one of the heavily black images, you can see the granules and texture of the charcoal and incense ash. Because of its use in prayer ritual it was, for me, a representation not only of the burning protest, it was also a representation of the prayers of the exile community. So for this reason it was important that the texture was still visible in the final prints.


Courtesy of artist Lodoe Laura

CP: And there is also a video along with the prints.

LL: I made a video, which is a database of the dates of the self-immolations. The hand printing of the prints was a very slow, labor-intensive process, and I wanted to make something that contrasted the slow repetition of the hand printed images. This video displays the dates of each self-immolation in rapid succession. It flips quickly between extreme light and extreme dark. Because it switches so quickly between the two, your eyes don’t have time to adjust to either. This is intended to create the unsettling effect of an after-image, so the dates are visible even after you’ve stopped looking. I first came across the idea of an after-image after viewing Alfredo Jaar’s Geometry of Conscience at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. Art about political protest will necessarily be insufficient. My work exists only as one thread in a larger, complex conversation that is being held in Tibetan society about self-­immolation, protest, and what it means when these actions are taken.

CP: I read that you are planning to graduate this year. What’s next for Lodoe Laura?

LL: One of my goals now that I’ll have more time is to improve my Tibetan language skills. I’m assisting one of my favorite professors, Clare Samuel, in some of her undergraduate classes, and am interested in teaching in the future. I’m looking into graduate programs in Canada and abroad. I’ve been in Toronto for seven years, and even though it’s starting to feel like home, I’m hoping for a change and new challenge.


Lodoe Laura

Exhibition Run: September 1st- 25th, 2016

Ryerson Artspace

Gladstone Hotel 1214 Queen Street West, Toronto.

Lodoe Laura is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Toronto, Canada. She was a recipient of a Magnum Photo scholarship in 2015, and is completing her BFA in Photography at Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts. Her work has been recognized with the AIMIA AGO Scholarship Prize, and most recently was a winner of The Magenta Foundation’s 2016 Flash Forward Award.

If you want to check out more of her work follow her on Tumblr and/or her website

Claudia Pretelin is a writer from Mexico City and currently resides in Rochester, New York. She holds a B.A. in Communications and received her M.A. and a Ph.D. in Art History from The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).


Este mes en la historia de la fotografía.

Este mes en la historia de la fotografía.

Los siguientes eventos tuvieron lugar este mes en la historia de la fotografía: [1]

De acuerdo a la historiadora Naomi Rosenblum, los primeros manuales para hacer daguerrotipos llegaron a los Estados Unidos desde Inglaterra en Septiembre 1839, muy poco después del anuncio por parte del gobierno francés sobre la adquisición del nuevo invento.

En Septiembre 1, 2015, el fotógrafo pionero de la fotografía moderna japonesa y co fundador de la revista fotográfica Provoke, murió a las 77 años. Nakahira nació en Tokio en 1938 y se graduó de la Universidad de Tokio en el Departamento de Español. En los años sesenta, se convirtió en fotógrafo de tiempo completo, pero también se desempeñó como escritor, crítico y activista político. En Provoke, propugnó por un estilo fotográfico conocido en su lengua como are, bure, boke, (granulado, borroso y fuera de foco), un estilo que cuestionó si el realismo en fotografía era posible. In 1969, el trabajo fotográfico de Nakahira recibió el Newcomer Award por parte de la Asociación Japonesa de Críticos de Fotografía.

Hace ciento veintiocho años, la marca Kodak nació en los Estados Unidos y pronto se convirtió en sinónimo de fotografía por más de un siglo. En Septiembre 4 de 1888, George Eastman registró formalmente la palabra “Kodak” como la marca de su compañía. Acerca del nombre tan peculiar, Eastman escribió a la oficina de patente británica: “Esta no es una palabra o nombre extranjero; fue inventada por mí para servir a un propósito definido. Como marca tiene los siguientes méritos: Primero. Es una palabra corta. Segundo. No puede ser pronunciada incorrectamente. Tercero. No se parece a nada en el arte y no puede ser asociada a nada en el arte, excepto a Kodak.”

El 5 de septiembre de 1933, Bruce Davidson nació en Chicago. Davidson es considerado uno de los fotógrafos más influyentes de Estados Unidos. Estudió fotografía en el Instituto de Tecnología de Rochester y en la Universidad de Yale. En 1961, recibió una beca Guggenheim para documentar el movimiento de derechos civiles estadounidense. En 1970, su obra más conocida East 100 Street fue exhibida en el Museo de Arte Moderno de Nueva York. Sus fotografías han sido expuestas en numerosas instituciones en los Estados Unidos y en el extranjero y desde 1958 ha sido miembro de la agencia fotográfica Magnum.

La fotógrafa estadounidense Nan Goldin nació el 12 de septiembre de 1953. Goldin es reconocida por las imágenes que componen su obra La balada de la dependencia sexual. Su trabajo ha sido objeto de numerosas exposiciones y dos grandes retrospectivas. La primera, organizada por el Museo Whitney de Arte Americano en Nueva York y la segunda por el Centro Pompidou de París. En 2007, recibió el Premio Internacional de la Fundación Hasselblad y en 2014 fue la galardonada en los Premios Lucie por su logro excepcional en retrato.

Joel-Peter Witkin nació el 13 de septiembre de 1939. Las fotografías de Witkin han sido descritas como grotescas y morbosas. Su visión oscura e imaginativa a menudo hace referencia a otros artistas en la historia del arte y de la historia de la fotografía. Desde Coubert hasta Etienne Jules Marey, Witkin explora diferentes elementos en las obras de otros artistas y los incorpora en su propia obra. Sus fotografías han sido expuestas internacionalmente en el Museo de Arte Moderno de Nueva York, la Galería Fraenkel en San Francisco, la Galería Baudoin Lebon de París y la Biblioteca Nacional de Francia, entre muchos otros.

El maestro de la fotografía norteamericana Lewis Hine nació el 26 septiembre, 1874 en Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Hine se graduó de la Universidad de Nueva York y comenzó estudios de postgrado en sociología en la Universidad de Columbia. Como fotógrafo, su carrera comenzó en 1905 con una serie de fotografías tomadas en la isla de Ellis. En 1908, Hine renunció a su trabajo como maestro escolar de la ciudad de Nueva York y se convirtió en fotógrafo de investigación de tiempo completo para el Comité Nacional de Trabajo Infantil, para el cual trabajó durante dieciséis años. Hine viajó por los Estados Unidos para fotografiar a niños empleados en fábricas, talleres y minas. Sus poderosas imágenes de niños trabajadores expusieron los devastadores efectos del trabajo infantil y agitaron la conciencia norteamericana. Hacia 1940, año en el que Hine murió, la fotografía social se había convertido no sólo en un método aceptado para documentar, sino que también fue apreciado como una forma de arte.

[1] Image Credit. 11:00 A.M. Monday, May 9th, 1910. Newsies at Skeeter’s Branch, Jefferson near Franklin. They were all smoking. Location: St. Louis, Missouri. Artist: Lewis Hine (American, 1874–1940) Date: ca. 1910 Medium: Gelatin Silver Print 1970.727.3

This Month in the History of Photography

This Month in the History of Photography

The following events occurred this month in the History of Photography: [1]

According to historian Naomi Rosenblum, the first instruction manuals to make daguerreotypes arrived in the United States from England in September 1839, shortly after the announcement of the French Government’s acquisition of the new invention.

On September 1, 2015, Takuma Nakahira, pioneer of modern Japanese photography and co-founder of the photography magazine Provoke, died at age 77. Nakahira was born in Tokyo in 1938. He graduated from the Spanish Department of Tokyo University. In the 1960s, he became a full-time photographer but he was also a writer, critic, and political activist. In Provoke he advocated for a style known as are, bure, boke, (grainy, blurry and out-of-focus), a style that questioned whether realism in photography was possible. In 1969, Nakahira’s photographic work received the Newcomer Award from the Japanese Photography Critics’ Association.

One hundred and twenty eight years ago, the Kodak brand was born in the United States and soon became synonym of photography for more than a century. On September 4, 1888, George Eastman formally registered the word “Kodak” as his company’s trademark. About the peculiar name, Eastman wrote to the British Patent Office: “This is not a foreign name or word; it was constructed by me to serve a definite purpose. It has following merits as a trademark word: First. It is short. Second. It is not capable of mispronunciation. Third. It does not resemble anything in the art and cannot be associated with anything in the art except the Kodak.”

On September 5, 1933, Bruce Davidson was born in Chicago. Davidson is considered one of America’s most influential photographers. He studied photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Yale University. In 1961, he received a Guggenheim fellowship to document the civil-rights movement. In 1970, his most well known work East 100 Street was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His photographs have been shown in numerous institutions in the United States and abroad. Since 1958 he has been a full member of Magnum Photos.

American Photographer Nan Goldin was born September 12, 1953. Goldin is most famous for her long-term visual diary The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. Her work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and two major retrospectives, one organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and by the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In 2007, she received the Hasselblad Foundation International Award and she was recipient of the Lucie Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Portrait in 2014.

Joel Peter Witkin was born September 13, 1939. Witkin’s photographs have been described as grotesque and morbid. His darkly imaginative vision often references other artists in the history of art and the history of photography. From Coubert to Etienne Jules Marey, Witkin explores different elements in other artist’s works and incorporates them in his own oeuvre. His photographs have been exhibited internationally at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, the Baudoin Lebon Gallery in Paris, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, among many others.

Master American Photographer Lewis Hine was born September 26, 1874 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Hine graduated from New York University and began graduate studies in sociology at Columbia University. As a photographer, his career began in 1905 with a series of pictures taken on Ellis Island. By 1908, Hine quit his job as a New York City school teacher and became a full-time investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee where he worked for sixteen years. Hine traveled around the United States photographing child workers in factories, mills, and mines. His powerful images of working children exposed the devastating effects of child labor and stirred America’s conscience. By the time of his death in 1940, social reform photography had become not only an accepted method of documenting but also was appreciated as an art form.

[1] Image Credit. 11:00 A.M. Monday, May 9th, 1910. Newsies at Skeeter’s Branch, Jefferson near Franklin. They were all smoking. Location: St. Louis, Missouri-Artist: Lewis Hine (American, 1874–1940)-Date: ca. 1910 -Medium: Gelatin Silver Print- 1970.727.3.

Five Masters of Photography that You Should Follow on Instagram

Five Masters of Photography that You Should Follow on Instagram

Instagram has quickly grown into a massive social network. With about 500 million active users taking photographs everyday and sharing them with so many different purposes, it is hard not to feel lost while looking for something interesting to see and think about.

I personally have two different accounts, one for my family and friends and the other one to follow and share with people interested in photography and visual culture. So when it comes to my @INSTRUMENTSOFMEMORY account, I am looking for a more selective version of my interests. That is why I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that some of my favorite photographers in the world are using Instagram as well. Here are five masters of photography that you can find on Instagram and some of the many reasons why you should definitely follow them.


Indian artist Dayanita Singh has described herself as a bookmaker that uses photography “to reflect and expand on the ways on which we relate to photographic images.”[1] She graduated in photojournalism from New York’s International Center of Photography. She shoots on traditional film, usually in black and white, but color has become part of her photographic language as well. Dayanita’s mother was an amateur photographer and has said that family albums were her first introduction to photography. When asked about Instagram, she responded, “What I love the most about photography is its dissemination.”[2] Her images on Instagram –a mix of building structures, flowers, quotes, ordinary objects, portraits, self-portraits, and even a video of a little girl criticizing how slowly Singh photographs—have garnered her 11.8k followers so far.


 Stephen Shore is a celebrated American photographer. Alongside William Eggleston, he is one of the central figures of 1970s color photography. His images have captured the quotidian as a form or visual diary and have been widely exhibited and published in the United States and abroad. Shore joined Instagram in 2014 and loves it! He even lectured about the use of this app at the Photo London Festival in 2015. Shore has said that he is always open to technological development because it represents a new challenge.[3] In his case, before he learned that there was a way to post a rectangular image on Instagram, he was “challenged” to make square images, something that he had not done in fifty years. The immediacy of Instagram is something that Shore enjoys as much as his 7.5k followers who can see on his daily posts how he perceives the world. As you can imagine, his world is full of color with that particular style that shaped what has been defined as the snapshot aesthetic.


Britain’s best-known photographer, Martin Parr claims to enjoy the banal. His iconic work has gained international recognition for his motifs and his very particular aesthetic, sometimes considered grotesque. Parr has published more than 90 books, and leisure and consumption are two of the main photographer’s interests. He shoots most of his photographs in color and his use of flash adds a hyper real quality to his images. Unlike Singh and Shore, Parr’s Studio uses Instagram as a platform to showcase past and new work and representative images of his work that have been taken with a camera and not with a mobile device. About Instagram and Flickr the photographer has said, “I welcome all of the different platforms for photography and their proliferation.” Martin Parr Studio joined Instagram in 2015 and now has 89k followers.


Zoe Strauss is a self-taught American photographer. She acquired her first camera at the age of thirty and started taking photographs of Philadelphia’s residents and neighborhoods where she lives and works. Her first photographic project, “I-95”, consisted of hanging photographs under the I-95 freeway for an exhibition free and open to the public. Since then, different institutions in the United States have recognized her work and her photographs have been included in the Whitney Biennial in 2006 and exhibited at the Philadelphia Art Museum and the International Center of Photography in New York. Strauss claims that she has no idea how to use Instagram. However, the diaristic images that she shares with more than 3000 followers focus on the distinctive features that the photographer has captured in her professional work: the struggles and beauty of everyday life.


German photographer, Wolfgang Tillmans is an expert in using saturated snapshots with a lo-fi aesthetic in his photographs. In the 1990s, the now London based photographer started documenting youth clubs and the LBGTQ scene in Germany. Self- documentation is the core of his work. Considered one of the most influential contemporary photographers, his ouvre has been awarded the Turner Prize in 2000 and the Hasselblad Award in 2015. About Instagram and selfies, Tillmans has said, “Pictures are replacing words as messages.”[4] As you can see, the photographer uses this platform to raise his voice in visual statements about political and social issues. Before the EU referendum, Tillmans publicly endorsed the “stay in” campaign and created a series of posters for this cause that he shared with his 2.2k followers on Instagram.

[1] http://www.frithstreetgallery.com/artists/bio/dayanita_singh


[3] http://purple.fr/article/stephen-shore/


Celebrating 177 Years of Photography

Do you know why is World Photo Day?

On August 19, 1839, the French government acquired the patent of the daguerreotype and announced that the new process would be donated as a gift to the world.

The daguerreotype was a revolutionary photographic process developed and named after its inventor Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre. It is a unique image on a silvered copper plate, sensitized with iodine vapors, exposed in a camera obscura, developed in mercury fumes and fixed with salt water or sodium thiosulphate. It has a mirror-like surface and it’s very fragile.

The invention of the daguerreotype was revealed in an announcement published in January, 1839, in the official bulletin of the French Academy of Sciences. Shortly after the public announcement, Daguerre published a manual on daguerreotyping and, despite the difficulty of transporting the equipment, the process immediately attracted devotees who rushed to purchase cameras, plates, and chemicals. The French press characterized the phenomenon as a craze or “dagueréotypomanie.”

The daguerreotype marked a breakthrough in photographic history and an opportunity for ordinary people to capture their own memories.

Celebrando el legado de George Eastman

Celebrando el legado de George Eastman

Este lunes el museo que lleva el nombre de George Eastman ubicado en Rochester, Nueva York, anunció el insólito hallazgo y adquisición (vía eBay) de los únicos ejemplos de rollos de película utilizados para las primeras cámaras Kodak. Una caja con un rollo idéntico al empleado en el aparato introducido al mercado fotográfico en 1888 y tres rollos de película transparente, la cual salió a la venta un año después. Este importante descubrimiento para historiadores, coleccionistas e interesados en la fotografía, resulta motivo doble de celebración si consideramos que un día como hoy se conmemora el nacimiento de Eastman, creador de la marca comercial Kodak. Así que para celebrar ambos eventos, qué mejor que reconocer la importancia de este nombre en la historia de la fotografía recordando tan sólo una pequeña parte de sus amplias contribuciones a la imagen moderna.

George Eastman (1854-1932) se interesó por la fotografía en 1878 después de adquirir un equipo fotográfico para un viaje que nunca realizó. Al darse cuenta de lo complicado, laborioso y tardado que significaba capturar imágenes en esa época, decidió buscar un procedimiento que facilitara la toma de fotografías. Obsesionado con esta nueva empresa, Eastman trabajó como empleado de un banco durante el día y después regresaba a casa a experimentar con una técnica que según sabía, ya se estaba desarrollando en Inglaterra: la placa seca de gelatina bromuro (una placa de vidrio con una emulsión sensible que expuesta a la luz capturaba la imagen que aparecía después del revelado). Pronto y con la ayuda financiera de Henry Strong con quien formó la compañía Eastman Dry Plate, el joven empresario comercializó su propia versión de estas placas. Sin embargo, decidido a cambiar el curso de la fotografía, el primer intento de diversificación de su empresa se dio en 1884, al comercializar un rollo fotográfico que eventualmente sustituiría a la placa de vidrio, reemplazando el nombre de su empresa a Eastman Dry and Film.

Aunque es común referirse a la Kodak No. 1 como la primera cámara desarrollada por Eastman, en 1886 el empresario de Rochester, trató de sacar al mercado la cámara Eastman Detective. Sin embargo, problemas con el costo de producción impidieron que este aparato pudiera comercializarse como se tenía pensado. Fue gracias a la ayuda de Frank A. Brownell, un fabricante local de cámaras, que Eastman diseñó un nuevo y mejorado aparato fotográfico al cual registró en Estados Unidos con el número de patente 388,850. De esta manera, en septiembre de 1888 se dio a conocer públicamente la cámara Kodak (nombre fácil de recordar y pronunciar en cualquier idioma), cargada con un rollo fotográfico de 100 tomas en sucesión. Esta cámara salió a la venta a un precio de 25 dólares, alto costo para la época y el cual pocos podían pagar.

La innovación de este aparato, vino ligada a la capacidad de la empresa de ofrecer el servicio de revelado a sus clientes, quienes podían enviar la cámara a la compañía para obtener las impresiones de sus imágenes y un nuevo rollo cargado en la cámara por el costo de 10 dólares adicionales. Para aquellos que podían cubrir este servicio, la práctica fotográfica se convirtió en una nueva y divertida forma de registrar el acontecer del día a día y la publicidad fungió como una estrategia importante para la compañía de Eastman. Con un eslogan directo como You press the button we do the rest/ Usted aprieta el botón, nosotros hacemos el resto, la empresa de Rochester mercantilizó la vida cotidiana moderna y este momento histórico vio el inicio de una nueva concepción de la práctica: la fotografía simplificada, liberada y paulatinamente, al alcance de las masas.

Esta importante adquisición contribuye de manera histórica a la más representativa colección de aparatos y productos producidos por la compañía Kodak la cual se encuentra alojada en uno de los museos más importantes a nivel mundial dedicados a preservar la historia de la fotografía y el cine. “La pieza que faltaba” según señala Todd Gustavson—curador del Eastman Museum—en la exhibición cronológica de la historia tecnológica de la fotografía en esa institución y una merecida celebración al legado de George Eastman.

El libro de cocina de los fotógrafos: recetas e imágenes para la vista y el gusto.

El libro de cocina de los fotógrafos: recetas e imágenes para la vista y el gusto.

“A taste for superb cuisine is fundamental to a full, authentic, and varied life. An artist, critic, or historian who lacks an appreciation of good food and drink has only a negligible chance or revealing in his work any significant interpretation of human understanding. The culinary arts themselves are a lesson in the pure elegance of aesthetic creation.” Peter Bunnell

The Photographer’s Cookbook editado por el George Eastman Museum en colaboración con Aperture incluye un breve ensayo escrito por la curadora Lisa Hostetler titulado, Food for Thought. Este libro compila más de cuarenta recetas con una variedad de platillos en un menú que reúne ideas para el desayuno, appetizers, sopas, platos principales, platos hechos con vegetales, panes, postres y bebidas. Esta colección a la que contribuyen fotógrafos en su gran mayoría norteamericanos, incluye una receta de George Eastman, fundador de la empresa Kodak, y un par de ideas propuestas por los curadores e historiadores de la fotografía Beaumont Newhall y Peter Bunnell. Una compilación que nos acerca al interior de los gustos culinarios y la mirada de aquellos que sólo conocemos por sus datos biográficos o sus cautivadoras imágenes, algunas de ellas reunidas en esta publicación.

El origen de esta apetecible colección –según se describe en el ensayo de Hostetler—surge cuando Deborah Barsel, quien trabajara en la entonces conocida George Eastman House, sugirió como un proyecto extra curricular, reunir recetas de cocina provenientes de la comunidad fotográfica en los años setenta. Para esto, Barsel contactó por correspondencia a algunos fotógrafos, además de publicar en Image (la revista publicada por el museo de Rochester), un llamado a otros fotógrafos solicitando algunas de sus recetas favoritas e imágenes relacionadas con comida. Dos años después, el resultado acumuló 120 respuestas a su convocatoria, sin embargo, esta publicación quedó en el olvido al no completarse el proyecto antes de que Barsel dejara el museo para continuar con sus estudios de posgrado. Años después, treinta y cinco para ser exactos, como parte del rescate de archivo propiciado por Hostetler, la idea de Barsel finalmente sale a la luz con una serie de documentos que dan cuenta de los gustos culinarios de artistas como Ansel Adams, Ed Ruscha, William Eggleston, Richard Avedon, Wynn Bullock, Stephen Shore, Linda Connor, Imogen Cunningham, entre muchos otros.

Desde lo visual, resulta interesante repensar este proyecto y su pertinencia en un presente saturado de imágenes de comida (tan sólo basta con dar click al #foodporn). Desde esta perspectiva, pareciera que la idea de solicitar imágenes fotográficas con este tema sugiere una necesidad de ilustrar el contenido de la recetas. Sin embargo, en el contexto temporal e histórico de la fotografía en la que Barsel planteó este proyecto, las imágenes de comida y las cámaras para registrarlas no eran presencia totalitaria de nuestra cotidianidad y sólo nos enterábamos de lo que otros comían en la privacidad de su hogar o de lo que eran capaces de producir en la cocina cuando éramos invitados a compartir ese momento grupalmente.

Los años setenta fue el tiempo en que el registro de lo “ordinario” se consolida como tema recurrente en el lenguaje de fotógrafos como William Eggleston o Stephen Shore, quienes cautivados por la estética de la snapshot, utilizaron película a color para capturar lo cotidiano en una aproximación muy distinta a la foto de producto ligada a estas imágenes. Ambos fotógrafos apuntaron la cámara a escenas cotidianas en la que no es inusual encontrar imágenes que capturan platos con alimentos, e interiores que retratan refrigeradores, comedores o restaurantes con una composición que al poco observador le parecería cándida e incluso trivial. Estas imágenes registraron en su tiempo la esencia de un cambio en la composición, los sujetos y temas a fotografiar de una manera distinta al uso repetitivo de imágenes que proliferan en las redes sociales de la actualidad. En este sentido, la visión de Barsel no sólo refleja la idea de documentar esta parte privada de la fotografía, sino que predice –quizá de manera fortuita—la tendencia de un imaginario en ocasiones terriblemente popular en nuestra contemporaneidad.

Respecto a los apuntes culinarios, leer las breves notas que acompañan las instrucciones ofrecidas por los fotógrafos, nos permite entrar al hogar y dar un vistazo a los afectos y memorias familiares, a la camaradería del medio, a los hábitos alimenticios, o incluso imaginarnos compartiendo con sus autores, no sólo la sazón en lo cálido de la cocina, sino como asegura Hostetler comprender su lado alquimista e incluso su sentido del humor, como se aprecia en la sarcástica colaboración del fotógrafo conceptual Leslie Robert (Les) Krimes:

Les Krim’s Formalist Stew

I’ve got a great recipe for “Formalist Stew”

It has 185 ingredients and takes 31 days to prepare. The only problem is, you die of hunger and boredom before it’s ever finished.

Les Krimes, The Photographer’s Playbook

The Photographer’s Cookbook es un libro que por su calidad de documento visual e histórico representa una invitación a los sentidos, pero es también un pretexto para reunir a los amigos y a la familia a la mesa y compartir una cena con un delicioso espagueti con salsa italiana a la Wynn Bullock, seguida de una ensalada de pepino a la Horst P. Horst, saboreando un martini a la Robert Heinecken y de postre el famoso pie de limón con merengue de George Eastman, acompañado de un café estilo Puerto Rico de Jack Delano. ¡Buen provecho!