Curators: Christian Caujolle & Rodrigo Gomez Rovira

In our globalised world, does it still make sense to talk about Swedish, Chilean, French, South American or Chinese photography? Comparable themes and aesthetics are being developed all over the world; frontiers are crossed by file re-processing, composition, references to cinematographic images, appropriation, quotation, and the redefinition of documentary and narrative styles. Is it legitimate to categorise photographs by the countries where they are produced?

It is in moments of crisis and in the wake of trauma that the national dimension of a photograph comes through. In recent years, we have seen that in countries like Argentina or Cambodia, or Chile which is our focus today, the worst periods of violence or dictatorship generated similar processes, both during and after the tragedy. Without comparing the degree of violence or repression, or the position of photographers who choosing between clandestine activity and the total impossibility of expression, we find that the subsequent period brings comparable reconstruction sequences. 

It is difficult in Chile, as in most Latin American countries, to talk of “Chilean” photography from the earliest days. Photography introduced by colonists or travellers established an imported model. Photography was not a way to affirm an identity, but a tool for exploring a territory, giving it form and sharing it.

Under the dictatorship, taking photos was an act of resistance by people anxious to testify that they understood, or were determined to document the oppression. When the dictator fell, photography, like the whole country, had to re-invent itself.

Photography was no longer characterised by its relationship to power. It once more became mainly an individual matter. But those who had chronicled the dictatorship felt lost, lacking a theme to serve as a reference point. The youngest, some of whom had gone into exile during the dark years, relied on international references unrelated to their “Chilean” identity. As in other countries with similar painful experiences, questions of identity and historical memory gravitated to the centre. But these concerns gave rise to widely differing aesthetics, leading photographers to make eclectic choices, to develop unique individual projects with none of the hallmarks of a national identity.

Chilean photography today is international in its aesthetic, radical according to the needs of individual photographers, rich in diversities which impose a yet greater need for internal coherence in every creation. The post-traumatic situation drives artists to re-create a community, envisaging and analysing our times in an attempt to manifest the challenges affecting everyone in the world. This universal process has taken shape in a particular country which still remembers its recent history.

Christian Caujolle and Rodrigo Gomez Rovira, 2018