Cristina de Middel is a photographer whose work investigates photography’s ambiguous relationship to truth. Blending documentary and conceptual photographic practices, she plays with reconstructions and archetypes that blur the border between reality and fiction. After a successful career as a photojournalist, de Middel stepped outside of the photojournalistic gaze and produced the critically acclaimed series The Afronauts in 2012. Cristina De Middel has exhibited extensively internationally and has received numerous awards and nominations, including PhotoFolio Arles 2012, the Deutsche Börse Prize, POPCAP’ 13, and the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography in New York. Cristina de Middel lives and works in Mexico.
19-28 August 2016
Zambia 1964, the rather eccentric school teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso single-handedly started a space program to put the first African on the moon, thereby joining the space race between the Sovjet Union and the United States. Due to a lack of funding, both by the Zambian Government and the United Nations, and because one of the astronauts, a teenage girl, became pregnant, the short-lived program came to an early end. It is a lesser known part of the African history. The story of Africa that is primarily told is the one that unfortunately is dominated by war, violence and hunger.
Half a century later Spanish photographer Christina de Middel used this story as the basis for her work Afronauts in which she rebuilds the story and adapts it to her personal imagery. De Middel shows us surreal pictures of a space program situated in Africa. De Middel sequences colour photography with manipulated documents, drawings and reproductions of letters, presenting them as almost folkloric inlays alongside fashion illustrations and technical sketches.
The result of this fictional documentation is funny, striking and even thought provoking. “The images are beautiful and the story is pleasant at a first level,” De Middle says. “But it is built on the fact that nobody believes that Africa will ever reach the moon. It hides a very subtle critique to our position towards the whole continent and our prejudices.”