Erika Teichert checks out Fototeca Latinoamericana, a new permanent space dedicated to Latin American photography in Palermo.
Since 2005, co-organiser of Buenos Aires Photo, Gastón Deleau, has had the vision to open a permanent space dedicated to Latin American photography. FoLa (Fototeca Latinoamericana) finally opened in 2015 in Buenos Aires and it’s the first space in the continent to be dedicated exclusively to thinking and exhibiting contemporary Latin American photography, with the aim of understanding “what has become of Latin American photography and what its place is today”.
So, what is contemporary Latin American photography and what does it consist of? It’s a good question. No less because award-winning photographers from the region have often remarked how little they really know about photographic practices in other Latin American countries.
The history of Latin American photography though is slightly easier to map out. By and large since the 1900s, Latin American photographs have focused on using the camera as a recording device to document reality, starting off particularly during the Mexican revolution.
The first Colloquium of Latin American Photography was held in Mexico in 1978. Indeed, it established that the identity of Latin American photography rested upon recording the socio-political circumstances of Latin American countries in their condition as anti-imperialist revolutionary societies. Thus, photography was then declared to be a denouncing and liberating tool for the region.
Today, photographic practices have experimented their way to a rich diversity of images that far surpasses the notion of the camera as a recording device. Factors like globalisation and an unprecedented democratic stability in the region have perhaps contributed to photographers in Latin American to branch out more and more towards other uses of the medium. How exactly the agenda of documentary photography ceased to be central to artists in the continent is a history that FOLA should no doubt debate and narrate.
Between art and popular culture, reality and distortion, document and fragment – nowadays there’s always a debate to be had about the status and potential of photography. It has become a very complex medium of singular self-awareness that investigates its position through all these categories often producing ambiguous and complex images. Then again, the sheer ubiquity of photography today through mobile recording devices and into social media bear inevitable questions about changes in our perception and practice of the medium. The discussion about photography is current and relevant as ever practically everywhere.
It’s both a privilege and a necessity to now have based in Buenos Aires a true hub for viewing and thinking photography in all its forms. There’s no doubt that we must know more about how photography is being imagined by our artists and graphic journalists, show it and enable a dialogue between them to further this important practice in the years to come.
FoLa is set in the middle of the trendy open-air shopping mall, Distrito Los Arcos, in Palermo. Going up a set of staircases, we are led onto the warehouse-style space where the collection unfolds. The space is continuous but envisioned as three sections: the first (main) one is destined to prominent local and international exhibitions; the second one to smaller thematic exhibits; and the third one highlights works from the permanent collection in focussed rotating displays. The space also counts with a bookshop and an auditorium for talks and presentations.
Currently, the main room is showing works by Latin American and international “Vintage Masters,” displaying the skill and development of fine-art photographers between the 1850s and the 1890s. The second room is showcasing an exhibit on young emerging artists selected by Marcos López, Juan Travnik, Gabriel Valansi, and Luis González Palma. And the third room is displaying an amazing selection of Oscar Pintor’s works.
As every new institution, FoLa will have to carve out its identity and pertinence with every single exhibition and debate they decide to host. But this is already a good start: a great space with a great idea.
You can visit FoLa daily from 12-8pm. Closed on Wednesdays. Godoy Cruz 2626, Distrito Arcos, Palermo. For more information visit fola.com.ar
Lead image ‘Los Arcos’, Guadelajara, Spain by Marcelo Brodsky.