Nelson Ramírez de Arellano, Curator of La Fototeca de Cuba
by Adriana Teresa
Photo by Desiree Dolron
Nelson Ramírez de Arellano: Contemporary Latin-American photography could be defined as the contemporary photography either produced within the Latin-American cultural context or by a Latin-American native or descendent who communicates his culture to the art work he produces. I mean from my point of view some “foreigner” photographers have come to Latin-America and their work in the area has to be considered as part and sometimes an important part of what Latin-American photography is, and in the other hand also some Latin-American native or descendent have sometimes produced art works which are very important for Latin-American culture, even when they have life their lives out of the Latin-American environment. On the other hand I believe that most of the clichés about how Latin-American photography should look like are fading out for the best of it. I mean Latin-American photography is too rich and eclectic and “international” to reduce it to limited parameters which generally respond to the attempt to classify the “other” from the point of view of the dominant cultures, therefore the definition is not that simple because is mainly a definition about “what is Latin-American culture”.
AT: What do you look for in a photograph?
NRA: I look for the capacity to give, to communicate its ideas, the capacity to surprise and catch you into its world. For me photography as any form of art is a way to understand “reality and existence”. Nothing can be as inspiring as exploring new forms to acquire knowledge, both as information and as a form of aesthetical knowledge. What is unusual for me is that for some reason when I look a photo I could be looking for those things in an image of the past.
AT: What do you look for in an artist?
NRA: For me an artist has to show an honest commitment to his work and the ability to surprise even when he or she may have reached his or her higher level of quality.
AT: What is the goal of your Institution in regards to Latin American Photography? What is your focus?
NRA: The Fototeca de Cuba focuses in the development of Cuban photography. We show and collect international photographers as well, but we rarely make a distinction between international and Latin American photography, because it’s not functional for us.
AT: What parameters would you like to transcend?
NRA: Many prejudges and stereotypes are yet surviving regarding Latin American photography and it would be important to revisit many of the books about the “history of photography” in which Latin-American photography has a very limited space. In march of 1840 Pedro Tellez de Giron made the first Cuban Daguerreotype, the news was publish on Sunday 5 of April 1840 in the “Fine Arts” section of the newspaper “Noticioso y Lucero de La Habana”, that for me is very good example of an early response to the question “Is photography art or not!?” And the whole history of photography has found many of its more important answers in the Latin-American context.
Escuela Julio Mella G (2002-2003)
Photo by Desiree Dolron
Originally published on the New York Photo Festival blog