Spanish photographer Cristina Middel. Look at her CV on her website – MA in Fine Arts, MA in photography, Postgraduate Degree in Photojournalism, War correspondents training, worked Part-Time in the Photography section at the MNATEC (Museum of Science and Technique of Catalonia). Now look at the project below and it all begins to make sense – not that CVs have to make any sense at all.
Her exhibition at the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize, Photographer’s Gallery London. De Middel was chosen for the prize because of a self-published book Afronauts. It’s the visual story of the Zambian space program started when the country gained independence in 1964, with the vision of sending African astronauts to Mars. Comprising 10 men, 1 woman and two cats, the program collapsed when the woman got pregnant. The Afronauts show reproduces elements from the book: photos of imaginary/re-enacted situations, original documents retyped, collages. One of the many pleasures of the show are the rich visual textures, the location “design”, the different types of image-making.
There’s two. There’s one that Middel’s storytelling traverses, between fact and fiction. Like the Afronaut straddling the broken “rocket”, her storytelling is part-documentation, part-science fiction. It’s not the basic underlying story that sells this show – that’s a quirky bit of fun – it’s Middell’s visionary storytelling delivered in a variety of media, each enhancing the other.
The second moment is when the viewer switches from the curious to the enchanted, when you enter Middell’s world.
The trend in terms of the show is that there are two entries who have shot for Colors magazine – Middel, and Bloomberg and Chanarin who were also at Fabrica. And certainly in this exhibition, they express two very familiar trends in the history of the magazine: a kind of serious, arty photojournalism; and at the other end of the scale, the playful and a teasing, visual wit. If there’s a wider trend reflected in this, it’s the blending of fact and fiction that we often only get to see in the fabricated worlds of Fashion photography. In an interview Middell said she lost her romantic approach to photojournalism. Perhaps the pendulum is swinging back from the idea of ‘authenticity’, to artifice and fiction in the service of truthfulness.
Which Image? Which Room?
I would choose this image of the flag to be planted on Mars, and put it over my desk to inspire ambition and the impossible. Like the crazy pattern, it made me smile. It’s like the flag of imagination that drove the Zambian Afronauts, and Midel herself who took time out to commit herself to something so bizarre. In a lesson to anyone with a creative project, it was Cristina’s most personal project that became her most successful.
One question for the Image Maker?
Two questions. Why the square photos and curved corners? How did you get so good at collage?