INTERVIEW WITH MANUEL GARCIA QUINTANA:
Latitudes 2012 International Photography Exhibition
THE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY began four years ago. A festival of the arts that has presented the work of Cartier-Bresson, Brassai, Morenatti, Gaumy, Catany, and many other leading photographers. This year, Manuel Garcia Quintana (elsur), a member of the Latitudes team, has succeeded in making a place for the work of 5 IPA artists in the festival including Carlein Van Der Beek, Helen Breznik, Cindy Patrick, Souichi Furusho, Alan Kastner, as well as Jordi V. Pou. The iPhoneographers will have their work on exhibition in Room 4 at the Museum of Huelva.
Latitudes is open from February 14 until April 1. It is an exciting moment for iPhoneography, and for IPA, to be displayed side by side with such leaders of the photography world.
Today, Elsur has taken a moment to sit down and answer some questions regarding the festival, the work, and how the inclusion of iPhoneography came to pass.
1. Please provide an overview of the International Latitudes Festival of Photography. What is it? What is its main purpose? When did it begin?
Well, to begin, here is a little background on “Latitudes.” Huelva is a small city in the South of Spain, at the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Huelva’s cultural life is scarce, thus we have very few artistic events. In 2008, Jose Luis Ruiz (founder of the Festival de Cine Iberoamericano / Ibero American Film Festival) gathered a group of friends with the objective of giving some new life to this city’s cultural life. From this group of people came “Latitudes 21” under the concept of Cultural Association. Thus this is an initiative brought by the people. Our idea was to fill the existing void regarding concerts, conferences, art shows, theater. Currently, Latitudes has only 80 members, out of a population of 200,000 Huelvans. So, you may imagine “Latitudes 21” does not count with the sufficient economic resources to match such an ambitious program. This is why we depend on help from institutions, government programs and private enterprises. And every year, we must always fight to keep our Photography Festival alive. Plus, this year the economic crisis has hit us hard. But, alas, we are a group of hopeless romantics and we keep moving forward. Our main focus as a cultural association relies on the Latitudes International Photography Festival. Is our most important event and we have become one of the most important photography festivals in the South of Spain.
2. Where does the festival take place?
As I said, Latitudes takes place in Huelva. It’s duration is one month and a half. And we have at our disposition all of our best show rooms in our small museum and all art galleries around the city. Latitud Cero: iPhoneography, will be in the Museum of Huelva. I have insisted very much in getting this to show at the museum, because this is a place of utmost importance. And I have done it!
3. Who are some of the notable artists who have taken part in the festival?
From the first year, we had only one objective in mind: only the best of the best. In three years we have had more than 90 photographers, all number one in their fields. Some showing on their own, other as collectives sharing a main topic. Our joint collaboration with the Magnum agency has been vital. Names? Well, how about, we’ve had with us Henri-Cartier Bresson, Robert Capa, Jean Gaumy, Tony Catany, Chema Madoz, Steve McCurry, Pierre Doisneau, Juan M. Castro Prieto, Yasumasa Morimura, Edward Steichen, Cecil Beaton, Gabriele Basilico, Alex Webb, Alexander Rodchenko, Man Ray, Horst P. Horst… A long list of photographers, that are already part of the history of photography.
As you can see, this festival is top of the line. Our city may be small, but out photography festival is very important.
4. In past years, what has your connection been to the festival?
I have been with Latitudes from the first day. I am one of the co-founders and I am responsible for Graphics in the festival. And I am also involved with the selection of photographers and shows.
5. What makes this photography festival stand out on the international art stage?
The names of the photographers we have had. Just imagine Steichen, Capa and McCurry reunited in one museum for 45 days. Our public was ecstatic just seeing all of this together. And from other nearby cities (Sevila, Cordoba, Cadiz) groups have come to see our shows. In 2011, we had 26,000 visitors. I think that makes for some good statistics.
6. What made you first want to find a place for iPhoneography in the festival, and when did you first have this idea?
This could be a long story. I’ve been a member of IPA since January 2011. My first photographs for IPA where simple works, using Hipstamatic as a starting point. Little by little, I started seeing the work of other IPA artists, making me more and more interested in the iPhone’s creative potential with some of it’s apps. It was a very creative period for me, every day I would take photos and process them through my iPhone or Pad. Communicating with people like Cindy Patrick, Marie (Kaphinga), Helen Breznik, Carlein, Karen Divine, Cloudy, Luxtra… was very stimulating for me. The idea of including the works of these artists in Latitudes was always risky and could always be rejected, since Latitudes only included photographers of high prestige and fame. And so the IPA artists are less known, or completely unknown in the official world of galleries and shows. This is a truth that we must accept. I knew that my colleagues at Latitudes would give a loud NO! to photographs made with an iPhone, and by unknown artists. But, I could not keep this idea out of my head. I presented the project to Latitude’s directing committee. The initial reaction was of surprise and hesitation, but one week later I received the approval of Latitude’s president and I can say that he has been supportive in every stage. And now it’s a reality.
As a photographer, I very well know the difficulties of showing in a museum or a gallery. I think with this show I have given a great opportunity to the people who will participate in this festival. In the case of Souichi Furusho, this is the first time in his life he sees his work in a show, in a museum, and next to giants like Magnum. It’s a great start for him and I hope he can make the most of this opportunity.
I also have to say that this is all possible thanks to IPA, who is a great supporter of emerging artist.
7. Having iPhoneography included in this year's festival is a remarkable achievement. What do you feel is the most significant aspect of this accomplishment?
A photo is a photo is a photo. And that’s all. No matter if you’ve taken it with an iPhone or a DSRL. Is the artist who makes the art. A machine does not do anything on it’s own. The creative spirit is everything.
8. Who are the iPhoneographers you have selected for the show, and how did you choose them?
I have made the selection myself. I have selected 5 photographers from IPA and one that publishes on Flickr. It hasn’t been easy. There are so many artists I like. It’s only six, because there is no space for more. The chosen are Souichi Furusho, Carlein, Helen Breznick, Alan Kastner, Cindy Patrick and Jordi Pou. Each represents one style, a distinct way of understanding photographic art.
9. In many ways, the artists whose work you have chosen to include in the festival will serve as representatives for this emerging medium. A way of introducing the world to what is going on in this area of contemporary art. What drew you to the work of these particular artists and what do you feel makes their work worthy of representing and introducing iPhoneography to the world?
In my opinion, Souichi’s work is magical, poetic, magnificent in B&W. Carlein’s photos reflect an internal world, dramatic. Helen is very picturesque and uses the self portrait as if she was diving inside herself. From Alan I like his architectural spaces and the exploration of forms. Cindy Patrick is light, joy of living, pure explosion of light and color. Jordi’s photos are dark, dense, and I believe include fears from childhood. These are the reasons behind my choices.
10. Did you encounter opposition when you first suggested including iPhoneography in the festival? And if so, how did you overcome that initial opposition?
As I said before, it wasn’t easy. But now that it is done, I haven’t found much opposition. And it’s the first time we’ve had this type of production. This collection (after Latitudes) will be donated to the Centro Andaluz de la Fotografía / Center of Photography of Andalucia and it will become part of their permanent collection. Maybe the collection could travel to other cities.
11. How does it feel seeing this work on the walls of a museum next to some very famous artists?
Happy, because for me this has been a personal triumph. I have worked on this show for a year now. And it’s bitter sweet too, because I would have loved to be showing my work next to these artists. But, because I am the organizer of the event, it does not seem ethical to select myself to be in it. And yes, I need a show for my own work.
12. What are your hopes for the future of iPhoneography on the contemporary art stage?
It’s hard to foresee the future of iPhonography. But, I hope it’s a great future and that’s our responsibility. Hundreds of photos are uploaded to Instagram, Flickr, IPA and other platforms, daily. There are many good photos and thousands of bad photos. It is necessary to pick and choose the good from the bad.
I see some suspicious works that look to have been altered in Photoshop and others don’t seem to be original iPhone files. That's why I am for making exif data public, in order to conserve the purity of iPhonegraphy.
But, the future of photography is splendid no matter what camera we use.
Thanks to IPA for your great response and support of Latitudes. And thanks to the 6 photographers that are participating.