From Yalálag: An Interview with Citlali Fabián

From Yalálag: An Interview with Citlali Fabián

How to represent oneself to the world is a fundamental question in the history of photography. By analyzing her own traditions and through her distinctive images, Citlali Fabián addresses issues of cultural identity using classic photographic techniques. She is part of a young generation of photographers exploring and pushing on the possibilities of the medium, willing to experiment and to produce pictures that are unique and original. I met the artist during her time living in Rochester, New York where she kindly invited me to write an introductory text for her solo exhibition Mestiza at Centro Cultural San Pablo in Oaxaca City this past March. This invitation initiated the following conversation pursuing my interest to learn more about her creative process and her ideas about identity and photography.

Citlali FabianClaudia Pretelin: During the past few years, there has been a revival of the daguerreotype and the production of wet-collodion plates among younger photographers interested in making artistic use of early photographic processes. What led to your interest in daguerreotypes, wet-collodion plates, and even Polaroids?

Citlali Fabián: Something vital for me is for my work to be distinctive. In the digital era I wanted to offer this alternative that, I believe, creates a closer and more intimate connection with it. This interest was born from a personal search, from experimentation, from using a digital camera, and from realizing that it was not part of my creative process. My creative process is slower and this kind of photography requires me to take the time to make it, to be a little more selective when you see behind the lens.


“I’m interested in documenting any cultural transformation, not only in Yalálag, but also in other places where Yalaltecos have migrated and replicated their traditions.”

CP: In the series I am from Yalálag, you photograph the everyday life of your community. In today’s globalized world, how do Yalaltecos keep their local traditions and how do you choose which traditions to document?

CF: These traditions are part of everyday life. It is impossible to be isolated from the outside world and changes are inevitable. However, I think we’ve assimilated these changes and transformed them within our community. For example, we have “The Dance of Santa Claus” and “The Dance of Superheroes” [Performative dances by Yalaltecos to celebrate patron saint days in which performers embrace the image of superheroes such as Captain America, Wolverine and Santa Claus] which are satirical enactments of American figures in a traditional celebration from Yalálag. I’m interested in documenting any cultural transformation, not only in Yalálag, but also in other places where Yalaltecos have migrated and replicated their traditions. This is a long-term project.
Yalálag, Oaxaca. Credit Citlali FabiánCP: Other photographs taken in Yalálag, such as Lola Álvarez Bravo’s come to mind when thinking about your community. Does this work have influenced you or do you think that you have an inside look that gives a different perspective of Yalálag?

CF: Lola Álvarez Bravo’s images are not so well know in my community. The most well know is “Burial in Yalálag”. While I was studying photography they became a reference for me. Perhaps what interested me the most about her trip to Yalálag were the small texts I read about her experience. In those texts she describes what she saw in Yalálag. Even with the time gap between our images, what she describes is completely familiar to what I remember from Yalálag. Perhaps the images by Julio de la Fuente are more familiar to Yalaltecos. These photographs were taken before Lola’s with a more anthropological point of view.

CP: How did you come up with the idea of Mestiza?

CF: I came up with the idea of Mestiza while I was living in Mexico City. At the time, I was enrolled in the Master’s program at UNAM and I was directing my research project towards the production of wet-collodion plates. I was interested in studying the technical and historical aspects of this process. Prior to this, I had worked with self-portraiture. However, due to technical difficulties it was not possible to continue with self-portraits. I had this idea to make representations of Zapotec deities, to represent elements that were part of my identity. I also began to make portraits that allowed me to develop a relationship with and an immediate reaction from the people that posed in front of my camera.From the series Mestiza

CP: How did the project evolve as you created the portraits of your subjects?

CF: This process allowed me to start a collaborative conversation. I talked to my models, close friends of mine, about how they felt seeing themselves in these pieces. I got similar responses. There was certain skepticism about these images. Some did not recognize themselves in those images but felt a certain echo from the past. Something from the past was connecting with us through these portraits. I remember the first time I asked someone to pose for this project; it was my close friend and also an artist, Gabriela Zubillaga. I had previously helped her to document some sculptural and performance pieces. We had established a close friendship and a photographic connection. In that session she appears like a goddess, wearing a peñacho de Totomostle [a headdress made out of corn]. It was like seeing Mayahuel [The Aztec Goddess of the Maguey] in front of me. The project was developing in front of my eyes, guiding me to continue. Then I started to work more with corn as a key element in my photographs. I called my close friends and family and together we developed these representations of our identity as a way of acknowledging and unifying our roots.

CP: What images have you lost along the way? Maybe something that you’ve witnessed but you didn’t have your camera to capture it?

CF: More than not having the camera in my hand, there are certain moments in which emotionally I can’t make an image. The moments that I remember the most are when my grandparents died. From those moments I only keep images and memories in my mind.

Citlali Fabián is a visual artist from Yalálag, a small town in Oaxaca, southern Mexico. She holds a B.A. in Photography from the Universidad Veracruzana and a Certificate in Photographic Preservation and Collection Management from the George Eastman Museum. Her ongoing work Mestiza was featured on The New York Times’ Lens blog and her most recent project addresses the image of the American flag in the landscape of residential neighborhoods in the United States.

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





Focus 45: Claudia Pretelin, From the Kodak Girl to the Kodak Snapshot: Kodak Advertising 1920–1940

Early Kodak advertising is mostly associated with the iconic image of the Kodak Girl. Then in the 1930s, Eastman Kodak Company turned their advertising campaigns over to the New York advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. How did this change affect the public image of Kodak? Claudia Pretelin, art historian, will explore this era of Kodak advertising and how it created the basis for the so-called snapshot aesthetic. GEM-2017-Focus45-July-Eflyer

Claudia Pretelin holds a BA in communications and received her MA and PhD in art history from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). For ten years, she worked as a personal assistant to the Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide. In 2011, she was awarded a fellowship from the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) in support of her continuing research in Kodak advertising at the George Eastman Museum. She has worked for different museums, foundations, and photo collections in Mexico City, including the Fotoseptiembre Festival in 1999 and the International Biennial of Photography in 2000. She is currently exhibitions associate at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center in Rochester, New York.

Event Details

Saturday, July 22, 2017
12 p.m.
Curtis Theatre
George Eastman Museum

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:

“When another hundred years have rolled around and the achievements of nineteenth century scientist have been sifted and weighed George Eastman will probably be place alongside of Daguerre. Daguerre is like the man who cut away the underbrush on the edge of the forest. Eastman swung his axe into the wood, made the clearing and tilled the soil and reaped the harvest.”

This fragment was taken from the first authorized newspaper biography of the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company, titled “George Eastman. The man behind the Kodak” published on November 3, 1912 by the New York Sun. The article accounts the many achievements of Eastman and draws a profile of one of the most notable men in Rochester describing him not only as an entrepreneur but a philanthropist.

On November 3, 1903, American photographer Walker Evans was born in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1926, Evans travelled to Paris as an aspiring writer and there he encountered the images of Eugène Atget and August Sander. In 1927, back in the United States, he pursued photography as his own way to tell stories. Commissioned by the Farm Security Administration, Evans captured with his 8x10in view camera some of the most representative images in the history of photography that document the effects of the Great Depression. By 1938, he had his first solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, becoming the first photographer to achieve this distinction. His documentary style inspired generations of photographers and his images have been widely exhibited and published around the world.

Walker Evans, Posters covering a building near Lynchburg to advertise a Downie Bros. circus, 1936. U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC 20540 USA.

Robert Mapplethorpe was born on November 4, 1946 in New York. In 1963, he enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where he studied drawing, painting and sculpture. Mapplethorpe first took up the camera in the early 1970s when a friend loaned him a Polaroid SX-70. As a photographer, he worked for Andy Warhol´s Interview magazine and had his first solo show exhibition in New York in 1976. His intentionally provocative work in portraiture and figure studies often explores nudity and sexuality in a highly stylized way and he remains as one of the most influential photographers of the late twentieth century.

On November 9, 1924 photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank was born in Zürich to a Swiss mother and a German father. In 1947 not long after the war ended, Frank departed to the United States. In New York, he landed a job as a photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. By 1955, after being awarded a Guggenheim grant, Frank travelled through the United States with his 35mm Leica. During this period, the photographer shoot around 27,000 pictures but only 83 of those images were published in The Americans, one of the most influential books in the history of photographyBy the 1960s Frank turned his interest into film and since then he has produced a significant amount of independent free essay films including Cocksucker Blues, a documentary about the Rolling Stones tour in the United States in the early 70s.

“Cycling around the world” Photographs by MM. William L. Satchleben and Thomas G. Allen. November 15, 1890.

On November 15, 1890, two years after the introduction of the Kodak Camera No.1, the Penny Illustrated Paper published an article titled “Cycling around the world” with photographs by the American Tourist Cyclists, M M. William L. Satchleben and Thomas G. Allen. Both photographers traveled to France and photographed the scenery of their trip. The Penny Illustrated published the letter sent by Satchleben and Allen in full-page narrating their adventures in the European country and illustrating them with some “Kodak Views.” It is not uncommon to find these kinds of articles in the early days of Kodak. The Eastman company invested part of their advertising campaigns into promoting their products among cyclists including cases to attach their camera to the bicycles.

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:

Annie Leibovitz nació el 2 de octubre de 1949 en Waterbury, Connecticut. En 1968 inició estudios de pintura en el Instituto de Arte de San Francisco en donde descubrió la fotografía, medio que la sedujo por su inmediatez. En 1973 se convirtió en la jefa del departamento de fotografía de la revista Rolling Stone y se ha dicho que su obra ayudó a definir el estilo y apariencia de la revista. En 1983 se unió a Vanity Fair y produjo algunas de las más memorables portadas para la revista. En 1991 su trabajo se exhibió en el International Center of Photography en Nueva York y de acuerdo a William Hartshorn entonces director del ICP, esta exposición fue designada como una de las más populares en la historia del lugar. Muchas de sus imágenes han sido llamadas íconos de nuestro tiempo, incluyendo la fotografía que tomó de John Lennon y Yoko Ono para la portada de Rolling Stone y la controversial imagen de Demi Moore para la portada de Vanity Fair.

Stephen Shore nació el 8 de octubre de 1947. Sus inicios en fotografía se remontan a la edad de seis años cuando un tío le regaló un set de fotografía Kodak. A la edad de nueve años adquirió su primer cámara 35 mm y para cuando cumplió once años ya estaba convencido de que se convertiría en fotógrafo. En 1960 cuando Shore tenía apenas 17 años, conoció a Andy Warhol. De acuerdo al fotógrafo, este encuentro fue un momento crucial en su vida el cual marcó algunos de los intereses estéticos de Shore. Para 1971, Shore contaba con una exposición en el Museo Metropolitano de Arte en Nueva York convirtiéndose en el fotógrafo vivo más joven en tener una muestra individual en el MET.


Dorothea Lange, Resettlement Administration photographer, in California. 1936. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC 20540

Dorothea Lange falleció el 11 de octubre de 1965 en San Francisco, California a la edad de 70 años. Cuando los doctores le informaron que sólo contaba con algunos meses de vida, la fotógrafa aún pensaba en fotografiar a su familia, realizar un documental con imágenes acerca de la Farm Security Administration y documentar la sindicalización de obreros migrantes en California. Ninguno de estos proyectos se verían completados. El último proyecto en el que colaboró fue para una retrospectiva de su obra en el Museo de Arte Moderno de Nueva York. Lange trabajó de cerca con John Szarkowsi, curador del departamento de fotografía del MoMa, en la toma decisiones sobre el contenido y organización de las fotografías. La exposición se inauguró el 15 de enero de 1966, después del fallecimiento de la fotógrafa.

En octubre 27 de 1972, la revista LIFE publicó en su portada una fotografía de Edwin Land en la cual demuestra su nuevo invento la SX-70. Una cámara que podía doblarse al tamaño de una cigarrera y la cual cabía en el bolsillo de un abrigo. La revista tituló el artículo “Un genio y su cámara mágica” y muestra a Land rodeado de niños sosteniendo el modelo SX-70. Esta cámara fue el primer aparato autofocus, motorizado, con sistema plegable y visor réflex que produjo impresiones instantáneas a color. Para 1973, el modelo SX-70 se vendió una proporción de cinco mil por día.

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:

Annie Leibovitz was born on October 2, 1949, in Waterbury, Connecticut. In 1968, she went to study painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. There she discovered photography and was seduced by the immediacy of the medium. In 1973, she became Rolling Stone’s chief photographer and it’s been said that her work helped to define the look and style of the magazine. In 1983, she joined Vanity Fair and created some of the most memorable covers for the magazine. In 1991, her work was exhibited at the International Center of Photography in New York and according to William Hartshorn, then Deputy Director of the ICP, this exhibition was designated as one of the most popular in the history of the venue. Many of her images have been called icons of our time, including the photograph she took of John Lennon and Yoko Ono for the cover of Rolling Stone and the controversial image of Demi Moore for the cover of Vanity Fair.

Stephen Shore was born on October 8, 1947. When he was six years old an uncle gave him a Kodak darkroom set and that initiated him into photography. At nine, he got his first 35mm camera and by the time he was 11 years old he was convinced that he would be a photographer. In the 1960s, he met Andy Warhol when Shore was only 17 years old. Shore has said that meeting Andy Warhol was a turning point in his life and surely marked some of the photographer’s aesthetic interests. By 1971, he had exhibited his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York becoming the youngest living photographer to have a solo exhibition at the MET.


Dorothea Lange, Resettlement Administration photographer, in California. 1936.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC 20540

Dorothea Lange died on October 11, 1965, in San Francisco, California, at age 70. When Lange’s doctors told her she only had months to live, the photographer was still thinking about photographing her family to make a documentary about the Farm Security Administration photographs and to document the unionization of migrants workers in California. None of those projects would be completed. The last project she was involved with was a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Lange and John Szarkowsi, head of the Museum’s Department of Photography, collaborated closely on the decisions of content and the organization of the photographs. The exhibition opened in January 15, 1966, after the death of the photographer.

On October 27, 1972, LIFE magazine published a photograph of Edwin Land where he demonstrates his new invention, the SX-70. A camera that could be folded down to the size if a cigar case and could fit in a coat pocket. The magazine titled the piece, “A Genius and his Magic Camera” and it shows Land surrounded by children holding the SX-70 model. This camera was the first automated, motorized, folding, single lens reflex camera to produce self-developing instant color prints. By 1973, the SX-70 model was sold at the rate of five thousand a day.

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.