“Looking infinitely”. Some food for thought by Ana Bolívar

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A few days away from the official launching of mobile eyephoneography, here is the contribution that Ana Bolívar from Fnac contributed to the eyephoneography #2 catalog. Her reflections represent both a provocative and realistic take on the current status of photography in general and mobile photography in particular. Enjoy!

“Looking infinitely” by Ana Bolívar *

A world saturated with images

Nowadays, both professionals and the general public can know via Internet the work of any author without necessarily getting it through an agency, a curator or an editor; and without any barrier preventing them from knowing his production. We can access an image regardless of its provenance and the way in which it has been created. While this can be very positive, it can also result in hasty and uncritical reviews in which everything goes and where specific coordinates that the viewer can use or ignore are missing.

Fortunately blogs and specialized online magazines have appeared, in most cases run by knowledgeable people, where works are recommended and reviewed according to a criterion and a very specific point of view. These pages publish interviews and in-depth articles, thereby bringing analysis and reflection back into photographic art.

The larger the production that is available to everybody, the more necessary it becomes to count on the expertise of those individuals who can name things by their name, so then others can form an opinion about what they see. “I like it or I don’t” should be something that originates from knowledge, experience and intuition (and as Luis González Palma said “intuition has to be deserved”), not from an impulse (or compulsion) in which viewers vote an image even before it has been fully downloaded.

Being open to everything without condition can be as negative as being closed. Not everything deserves to be exhibited in a room, not everything has to be published. The apparent easy chance for “anyone to be a photographer” exposes us to such an avalanche of images that, unfortunately, good work and interesting authors can be quickly forgotten or simply overlooked.

To make photography with a telephone

It is very difficult for me to do portraits with a camera without a viewfinder. I feel uncomfortable because I lack the closeness to the person being portrayed that I can only attain if I do not see anything else. I am lost, exposed and vulnerable in front of an open field. Joseph Koudelka stated that after many years taking photographs, he does not need to look through the viewfinder. He has internalized the process so much that he no longer needs it. But most photographers who today shoot without looking or thinking have not gone through what Koudelka went through. Are we not trying to skip a large part of the process?

Walker Evans said that no one should use a Polaroid until he reached 60. This type of camera came into his hands after he had already produced a great body of work and the photos that he took with it represent a vibrant and full of poetry experiment. Obviously there are not and there will not be many Walker Evans, but any camera in the hands of a talented and experienced photographer can become a magical and wonderful instrument.

Hate using hair dryer, Ana Bolívar

The mobile photographer usually acts first and then decides, so he has to train his sensitivity in a special way. To be acquainted with the work of other authors, to dive into the work of some of them, to open himself to other disciplines and to learn about various subjects become even more important in the era of digital photography and editing.

I have been very surprised by some works included in eyephoneography #2. So far I had seen images generally in color, around highly superficial themes, single loose images without a coherent discourse, making mobile photography a mere hobby rather than an expression form. But I have found that complete productions have been generated with a specific personality and a meaning. Is it possible that someday someone like, for example, Enrique Mentinides, arises within mobile photography? Now it seems somewhat unethical to focus your work on photographing terrible events with the phone. But there are many documentary photographers, some of them covering war conflicts, who are already using digital compact cameras and mobile phones. And maybe a global documentary photographer will emerge in the form of many users who create a great collective story that portrays the world using their once in a lifetime great shot. There are already projects as well.

Work in progress

There is something that particularly worries me and that I do not know how to solve. Easy access to the work of an infinitive number of artists almost right when it is being generated can create a self-censorship effect. I have seen photographers quit a project or a given research after finding by chance another photographer doing something similar or with a similar eye. This was not the case before. Artists usually continued down their own roads, usually unaware to the work of others, and then experts found similarities between the two, much later and with no negative connotations. Today you could be accused of plagiarism or lack of originality.

Back to Koudelka and to the title of this text. In an interesting interview with Frank Horvat he stated that “a good photograph is one with which you can coexist.” When setting down for a long period in one place (something quite rare), he printed some of his pictures and put them on the wall. If after some time he was not tired, if he could coexist with it hanging there all the time, it was a good photo.

It is a good exercise to have the scroll bar moving faster than the eye. Rocío Nogales, organizer of eyephoneography, highlights the importance of the paper in the era of the pixel to explain this exhibition and this catalog. At least for some time we will be able to grant these photographs and our eyes the rest they deserve.

“Photography is the most simple yet most complicated, and that is what makes it interesting,” says Martin Parr. And now that it is easier than ever, it may also be more complicated than ever. Interesting.

Of Colombian fathers, Ana Bolívar was born in Madrid in 1976. In 1997 she began her career as a photographer in the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo and in 1998 in the Diario de Soria. She holds a BA in journalism (Complutense University, Madrid) and she worked over three years in the communication agency Burson-Marsteller. Since 2003 she works in ClubCultura.com, the cultural portal of Fnac España, and up to early 2008 she was image editor and photographer of its printed magazine ClubCultura. Her portraits have been published among others in Playboy Mexico, La Mano (Argentina), Dominical, Rockdelux, Go, Spanorama. In 2007 she participated in the group show Estupor y temblores’, a homage to the Belgian writer Amelié Notomb, and in ‘Yo soy La Juani’, another group exhibit of the shooting of the film by Bigas Luna. She is currently the Exhibitions Coordinator at Fnac España, in addition to image editor and photographer in the international collective Goodfellas Network.

* From the eyephoneography #2 catalog (Madrid 2011, ISBN: 978-84-614-9696-9, available at eyephoneography.com)

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