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5 questions for Cristina de Middel

1. What kind of works would you like to see in the context of this year’s theme of the OV open call “New Citizens”?

I would like to see works that challenge the idea of citizenship itself, specially now when borders and fences come back to headlines. I would totally go for an utopia and try to imagine a world with no borders and no passports. I believe photography has proven capacities in explaining the literal world we live in but also has a yet to be explored potential in imagining solutions and dystopian predictions. Photography can bring evidence, but it can also visualize predictions.


2. Can you identify points of reference to this theme in your own work?

I spend most of my life traveling from one place to the other and all these security controls become an absurd routine that constantly need to digest. Also I have myself a personal history that makes me position myself constantly as a non-citizen. I do not like the idea of belonging to a country and having to praise it and defend it…it is something I never understood and still makes me very nervous. So I guess it reflects in my work because citizenship or the idea of nationality is not included in it. This does not mean I am denying my background. I speak from a middle aged white Western woman perspective, but I try hard to build messages that could be universal or at least, understood by a vast majority.


3. Your book “Afronauts” was a great success and it made you into one of the most acclaimed photographers in the world. How do you deal with such a rapid success, what has changed for you?

Everything changed for me after The Afronauts and I agree with people who believe it was too much. After 5 years I can only say that I understand parts of what happened, the rest remains a mystery… But in any case I decided to take advantage of all these doors opening in front of me. I basically took the run forward strategy and tried to avoid looking back and facing the new context. That is why I was so productive in the years after the phenomenon. I didn´t want to stop and think too much.
It was maybe not the best thing to do but it helped me build a more consistent portfolio 🙂


4. You are working on multiple projects at the same time and publish most of them in photobooks. Why is a photobook such an important medium for you?

I have collected books since I was a child and it is simply an object I love. My books are almost notebooks. They are all marked and underlined and sketched because they really belong to my personal history. When I discovered the photobooks I managed to put together my 2 passions and I am still experimenting on the possibilities. Fortunately I am not the only one and the production is amazing in quantity and quality at the moment. I guess it has become one of the best platforms there is to share your photographic project.


5. You started your career as a photojournalist and later turn to more conceptual approach. How do you choose the themes you are working on now when they are not dictated by newspapers editors?

The themes are many times the same. I just use a language that is more free and allows me to play with the subject and explain the story from many angles if necessary. I get very frustrated when I see newspapers using the same type of images to explain over and over the same things with no real reaction from the audience and I believe it is not a problem of the audience being apathetic or uninterested, the problem is that the story has been told million times using the same words. For me the crisis in the media comes partly from the language that is almost exhausted. And this does not mean that one language will take the place of the other, I believe there is room for everyone. I believe documentary photography and approach is not enough to understand the extremely complex world we live in.
So now, I assign myself with themes on prostitution, working conditions in India, racism, violence in the favelas, environmental issues, etc… but I use a language that should bring back some interest from the audience and try also to open a debate about the subject rather than stating a certain truth.