Joan Fontcuberta

Joan Fontcuberta is a Spanish photographer, he was born in Barcelona on the 24th of February 1955. The majority of his work, or at least his most popular, questions the truthfulness of photography. Tom Gunning describes the belief that traditional photography all depicts fact and honesty rather than fiction and make believe, he calls this, the truth claim. Photographs were originally seen only as an accurate representation of reality, a copy if you like, of the real world. He is also a curator, writer, teacher and editor.

Until looking at an overview of all his work, this thought had never occurred to me, Joan Fontcuberta could have been made up, its like another figment of his imagination and I can just see him in years to come publishing a documentary piece on his life to find out at the end, that he’s not who we thought he was. He is testing and pushing the boundaries of photographic believability.

In many interviews he says that he is a terrible photographer because he has missing finger, which he explains he lost when a homemade bomb went off in his hand, he may think of himself like this, but the majority disagree as in 2013 he was awarded the Hasselblad International Award for photography.

He made his first photograph at the young age of 18, and even then it was precisely staged and thought out. Some of Fontcuberta’s early work corresponds with the lyrics of song writers and musicians of the Nova Canço Catalane, where what they sing, is a play on words, the lyrics can mean more than one thing.

His first major UK exhibition was in 2014 in the Science Museum in London. It featured six documentary narratives that mixed science and art, and plays with aspects of fact and fiction. He presents his fictions in a factual way, in a museum display case with descriptions and scientific explanations to make them seem believable

He believes that images are just constructions, like any other human product, and that photographs as evidence is just a belief. Pictures can now be made to tell a lie.

Joan Fontcuberta poses in the photos as character in the different series, he poses as the astronaut in Sputnik, as the explorer and scientists in Herbarium and Fauna. By doing this, he is placing inconsistencies in his work, purposely I believe. He puts himself inside these mad worlds that he thinks up.

I could imagine seeing his work as a child and not understanding the experimental photographic side of it but seeing it only as fact, just because how its presented, I’m sure I believed that if there’s a photo of something then there had to have been the physical thing to then photograph. I would have been amazed, I am now, but it is more now that I can see the humour to it and appreciate the amount of work and effort he’s put into making it come across as believable.

I recognised his work when it was shown in the lecture, I think I might subconsciously remember seeing it advertised for the science museum last year. I just like it because it’s a bit of fun. I get really bogged down sometimes when thinking about this huge clever reasoning behind a photograph, so it’s nice to see some with some humour, and I see it as him taking the mick of photography slightly. I don’t find that his work makes for particularly good photos, like a stand alone image in a gallery wouldn’t work, but they are not meant for that. They tell a story.


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